FC Basel acquires 26 per cent shares in I-League leaders Chennai City FC

In a landmark development for Indian football, Swiss giants FC Basel has become a stakeholder in Hero I-League club Chennai City FC.

The announcement of the deal was made in New Delhi on Wednesday in the presence of All India Football Federation (AIFF) General Secretary Kushal Das, Chennai City co-owners Rohit Ramesh and R Krishnakumar along with FC Basel President Bernhard Burgener and chief executive Roland Heri.

According to the deal, FC Basel Holding AG will acquire a 26 per cent stake in the I-League club and will see the Swiss club lend it technical expertise and knowledge to their Indian counterparts.

The partnership will see the rolling out of soccer schools all across Tamil Nadu in the first phase with a state-of-the-art residential youth academy to be set up in Coimbatore in the near future.

FC Basel have been Swiss national champions a record 20 times and have gone on to produce players like Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Xherdan Shaquiri along with Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona. Chennai City, meanwhile, have been playing in the top-flight of the I-League since 2016 and are leading the points table in the ongoing season.

Welcoming the entry of the Swiss club to Indian football, Rohit Ramesh said, “Football is a passion, a movement and you need to deliver to the fans’ aspirations. It is with this thought in mind that we ventured to make this move, so that our fans get what they deserve – a world class football club.”

“It is a deal based on mutual co-operation and trust and keeps the original identity of Chennai City and its fans paramount. Key parts of the deal entail Transfer of Knowledge in all departments including sporting, infra and legal areas to support Chennai City to improve sustainably as one of the best football clubs in the country.

What else we want from a top European club with such a rich winning heritage and record of producing world class players. We think it is a slightly belated New Year’s gift to our fans and our tremendously hard-working players, coaches and support staff.”

FC Basel President Bernhard Burgener described India as the ‘sleeping giants’ of football on his club’s maiden foray into the country.

“India is the sleeping giant of world football. This is not only a historic moment for Indian football and Chennai City but also a historic moment for FC Basel as we becoming strategical, supportive and financially active for the first time in Asia to grow this truly global sport,” Burgener stated.

“India has shown growing football interest in general but also the recently concluded AFC Asian Cup has showcased that there is immense footballing potential to be tapped and we want to be partners in helping them do so. Partnering with Chennai City, whose tremendously passionate and hard-working owners left us with no doubt on the move, is a step in the right direction,” he added.

AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das too described the deal as a historic moment for Indian football and welcomed the entry of the Swiss club.

“It is an old cliché but this is truly a historic moment for Indian football,” said Das.

“Indian football has made some substantial progress over the last five-six years and it has reflected in our most recent showing in the Asian Cup and the rise in the team’s FIFA rankings.

“FC Basel are a club who are close to my heart since it is the hometown club of one of my favourite sportsperson – Roger Federer. On behalf of the AIFF, I welcome the deal between the two clubs and promise all possible support from the governing body to ensure that this is a successful venture.”

The AIFF General Secretary was also asked about the vacant India National Team head coach’s position following the resignation of Stephen Constantine. Das stated that the AIFF has begun the process of searching for a replacement but stressed that the position will not filled until April-May at least.