Sreenidhi founder believes investing in infrastructure is a primary requirement to play in a professional league…
Sreenidhi FC will be plying their trade in I-League from the 2021-22 season from Visakhapatnam after they were handed a direct corporate entry by the AIFF (All India Football Federation) after a Request for Proposal (RFP) process.
The club & academy is owned by the region’s well known Sreenidhi Educational Group, whose Chairman is Dr. Katikaneni Taher Mahhe. An avid football fan, he is also the Chairman of the Telangana Football Association (TFA).
Service to the society through education remains the driving force of Sreenidhi Group and its foray into football is fueled by the same principle. Being the Chairperson of TFA, Dr Mahhe is not oblivious to the fact that one is bound to fall flat on the face if he invests in football with the motif of making profits right from day one.
The group has already invested crores in creating a state-of-the-art sports village and within the next couple of years, they want to complete an ambitious project of building one of the best private sports facilities in India.
“We are primarily educators. Sports is one of the finest forms of providing education to the youth. When you want to educate, your aim is to serve and not make profits. We are creating facilities with a long term vision. We have 10,000 students in our educational institutions and we are interested in developing their personality. It will take at least 10 years to produce a top-quality player who can go on to represent India. So you must have a long-term vision.
“We have already acquired the land for the facilities. We aim to have four FIFA standard pitches. One is completely ready. Hyderabad FC uses that one to practice as well. One of them will have an artificial turf and it will take some time as things got delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It will have floodlights as well. And the third ground will be ready in the next two months,” stated Dr Mahhe to Goal .
At the age of 21, he began his entrepreneurial journey and at 32, he established the Sreenidhi Institute of Science and Technology that would eventually become a leader in the field of technical education. Under his leadership, Sreenidhi became the only private institution among 120 institutions from the region to be selected by the World Bank for assistance.
But he soon realised the significance of imparting quality education to younger minds and inaugurated the Sreenidhi International School. He incorporated this philosophy of moulding young characters into football as well and hence, started investing in the grassroots.
As a result in 2016, a football academy was set up and a UEFA B-Licensed coach in Fabio Ferreira was roped in as the Technical Director.
A travel-enthusiast and an explorer. Dr Mahhe has visited some of the best facilities in European club football which has forged his belief that before a club steps foot in a professional league, one must have its own infrastructure. He believes in the philosophy of promoting young local talents. He says to help them realise their true potential, they must train in the best facilities.
“Except for a couple of ISL (Indian Super League) outfits, there are no clubs in India which has a good infrastructure. It is important to strengthen the roots and we are doing just that. If you visit any European club, their facilities are top-notch, even if the club is not playing at the top (division).
“To do that in India it may cost up to 100 crores. But after 10-15 years even if two players from Sreenidhi play for the national team, we will think our project is a success.”
Sreenidhi has already finalised a head coach and Dr Mahhe asserted that the club was initially keen to join the I-League from the upcoming season. But then decided to take the year’s time to adequately prepare themselves. With more than a year in hand, he believes that their preparations will only get better.
He also quashed reports of fielding an all-Indian squad and assured that the club will rope in quality foreign players to ensemble a competitive squad. Since the team will be playing from Visakhapatnam, the officials will be looking to scout players from Andhra Pradesh as well.
“We hope to get 50 per cent of our players from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The rest of the players say 30 per cent will be scouted across the country and the remaining 20 per cent will be filled by foreign players. We will bring top players from abroad. And since will be in I-League from Vizag, we have to procure players from that catchment area as well,” commented Mahhe.
‘Kindle the light within’ is the motto of Sreenidhi International School. With the football club set to operate from a football-blind-spot like Visakhapatnam, one can hope that the port city’s fortunes in football will be kindled with an undying flame.