Friday, June 6, 2014

The Launch of the LFC International Football Academy –DSK Shivajians & Jamie Carragher

October 15, 2013 was one of my proudest professional moments. It was the day that we were able to officially announce the collaboration between DSK Group and Liverpool FC to establish India’s first international club branded residential football academy, a partnership that my team and I had spent about a year working hard to get done.

Now, I have to say that June 3, 2014 ranks slightly above this date.  It is the day that we officially launched the Academy with Liverpool FC legend Jamie Carragher there to grace the occasion. For me, being a part of the launch is much more endearing than being a part of the announcement. Now I understand that the two go hand in hand but after almost five years in India, I’m sad to say that I’ve experienced a number of glamorous, star-studded announcements full of promise and possibility, however I’ve rarely seen many noteworthy launches.

Why does this happen? For many reasons, but the main one is that most organizations or individuals who choose to invest in football get so focused on making waves through the announcement that they rarely spend time planning the many details which goes into actually making the program, partnership, etc... a success.  There are coaches to be identified and re-located to India, staff to be hired, marketing to be done, parents to be spoken with, pitches to be booked, equipment to be bought, kits to be ordered and water to be secured. More importantly, a certain level of patience has to be achieved so the investor can comfortably swim in a sea of financial losses without knowing when the tide will turn.

It’s the above which makes me so happy to be associated with yesterday’s launch of the LFC International Football Academy-DSK Shivajians.  Proud that in October of last year we made some promises to the media and Indian football community and now seven and a half months later we re-surfaced to publically announce that we have started to make due on those promises. Two great coaches from Liverpool FC moved to India in February, a nationwide scouting program has already taken place which saw over 2,000 players come out to trial, most of the 64 Academy spots have been filled, branding has gone up and one of the two full-sized pitches has been put in and the other is just a few months away. Millions of dollars have already been spent on this project and our client DSK Group is ready to invest more to make this a successful and impactful venture.  What I love is that to them there is no looking back or down when confronting the hard realities of operationalizing an international technical partnership, they only look one way….up towards the sky.    

The launch was brilliant. Liverpool FC legend Jamie Carragher flew down to Pune for the day and completely elevated the profile of the whole event.  He was a class act, enduring extreme heat, hours of traditional Indian greetings, press interviews,  hundreds of supporters and, of course, picture after picture after picture with everyone in attendance, including me. Supporters came in droves from places like Goa, Bengal, Bhopal and Mumbai just to get a glimpse of one of their heroes on Indian soil.

The whole day was electric. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to emcee the press conference which gave me the platform to share my gratitude to DSK Group and Liverpool FC for embarking on such an important project. The eventful ended with a private dinner at the JW Marriott with Jamie and the rest of the Liverpool FC and DSK staff as well as special guests. 

A big shout out goes to Shirish, AJ, Amit, Ray, Mike, Karan, Nikhil and the rest of the LIFA-DSK team for their tremendous efforts to turn this brilliant concept into reality and for allowing Libero Sports to be a part of their group.  It’s been a tremendous journey so far and I’m looking forward to continuing to contribute to the Indian football growth story through this fantastic Academy. 

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