NEIGHBOUR HOOD

Kick-starting an FC in their backyard

In the league: BTM Layout football club members training in earnest at the IAS Colony ground.

In the league: BTM Layout football club members training in earnest at the IAS Colony ground.  

A close look at the FC Barcelona jersey will reveal, in tiny lettering on the inside of the collar, the words mes que un club. The term, which has always elicited accusations of hubris, is the club's motto: ‘more than a club'. Supporters will tell you that Futbol Club Barcelona is, indeed, not just a club but an expression of the city's unique cultural identity, a symbol of Catalan nationalism, a bulwark for rights and freedoms, and so on; you will never hear the end of it.

In contrast, the crest on the BTM FC jersey is rather simple: ‘Forever United'. This football club isslated to feature in the Karnataka State Football Association C Division — the lowest tier of professional football in the State — this season.

Though the BTM Football Club officially came into existence last year, the idea for it took shape a while ago.

“We were all kids playing football in BTM Layout in the late nineties,” recalls Prashant Agarwal, president of BTM FC, about the ‘founders' of the club.

“Many of us who went away on work or for higher education began returning home a few years ago.” It was in 2007 that the ‘core group' of 25-odd people put their heads together, and the once-informal plan of starting a club someday evolved into a serious endeavour.

Today, the club has 150 registered members and the demographic is hardly surprising. “Yes, many of us are techies,” Prashant admits, “but the split is roughly 50:50 between working professionals and students.” BTM FC has won 11 unofficial tournaments in its short history, according to Manjunath Naik, the vice-president.

“There were nearly 14 grounds in BTM when we were kids,” recalls Prashant. But the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike had a fetish of building parks in the city, leaving youths of the locality with only three spaces to play football in — the Mass Grounds, the Blue Tulips Ground and the IAS Ground. The last of these, so called owing to its location near the IAS Officers' colony, has enjoyed the patronage of bureaucrats. This is where the team plays now.

Ambition

Underlying the club's desire to improve its own lot, there is, however, a deeper ambition to raise the standards of football in the country and heighten the game's profile. The club, in association with the KSFA, organised live screenings of the semi-finals and the final of the World Cup last month at the Kanteerava Stadium. “There were those who discouraged us saying no one would turn up,” says Prashant. “But there were 26,000 who attended the final right up to the end of the match at 3 a.m.”

Using the impressive human resources at its disposal, BTM FC is also helping the KSFA with its marketing. “We are building a website for them and helping them find sponsors,” he adds. “If we don't take this step, football will not go far.”

This philosophy only goes to show that though BTM FC may not have as presumptuous a motto as Barcelona FC, it is hard to deny that they are mes que un club. For more information, call 9886564121.

Shreedutta Chidananda

Professionals of BTM Layout accomplish their goal of starting a club

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