Young Indian talents, long-term planning, passion for the game and the vision to revive football in the city – all this and a lot more went into making this season a success for Hyderabad Football Club (HFC). While the last season for was not very impressive for the club and they finished last, it has been quite a success for the HFC so far as the Nizams sit pretty at the fourth place and also recently announced the extension of the contract of coach Manuel Manolo Marquez for another two seasons. HFC has been about touching upon the need to develop local talent in Hyderabad and provide the young players a platform to showcase their skills. Varun Tripuraneni, Co-Founder, HFC, has worked closely with at the local level and this has helped him understand and overcome the challenges that came along. In conversation with License India, Varun Tripuraneni talks about the partnerships, collaborations that worked for the club and his plans for HFC going forward.
Elucidate on the recent sponsorships, collaborations and partnerships of the club.
This season has been sort of a new start for the club. A new logo, new outlook, new look team and management and a refreshed administration. Newer technologies are being introduced; new partnerships are being put in place. It's a whole new ball game. Currently, we have two partnerships in place at Hyderabad FC – a club partnership with German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund, which focuses on Youth Development and Fan Engagement and a strategic tie-up with Marbella FC which will help us in the first team.
Elaborate on the partnership between Borussia Dortmund and HFC. What does it entail for the club?
Our intention is to build the partnership year on year. Dortmund is known for its youth development program and the ‘Yellow Wall’ which is the support they have. For us, being a new club, we will focus on the grassroots level. We will be launching a Grassroots Calendar which will have all stakeholders like students, parents, coaches, football associations, school principals involved. The football culture in Hyderabad is very similar to the football market in Bangalore where every street has a turf and the school teams are strong. We felt we just needed to put good structures in place right at the beginning which is why a club like Dortmund will help us put things in place for Hyderabad. We will be focusing a lot on coach education programmes initially and we will start rolling out with Dortmund soon. The travel restrictions due to the pandemic aren’t helping a lot but it will be an engaging partnership. The results will take time but the idea is to get more coaches involved and draw more people to the sport and I’m confident that we will be able to achieve that with the partnership.
What was the impact of covid on the functioning and revenue generation aspect of the club?
We had tremendous support from the league and all we had to do was pick the right options. By right options, I mean our training facilities, team hotel, dates for player arrivals and more. Another important point we had to focus on was getting visas for foreign players because this was a concern for all clubs. Some clubs were able to bring in the foreign players earlier but it was mainly dependent on the nationalities of the players. Luckily, we had a lot of Spanish players and support staff as they got their visas earlier. When it comes to adjusting to the bio bubble, I think players, coaching staff and others understood very quickly the situation we are in and how lucky we are that we get to participate in a league that is going to start. They knew what they were getting into before coming to Goa and all of them took it positively. Credit goes to our senior management as well for ensuring that the players are made aware of the situation and are mentally prepared to face the same.
How do you see the current status of the game/league in Hyderabad? What are your plans to revive the game again back to its glory?
We want to develop the game in Hyderabad which has a rich history of football. Whatever best talent is available in the state, we want them to be part of HFC. We will give them the best coaching and exposure possible.
For us in Hyderabad, the first thing we noticed is that we need to work with the federation to ensure that the (local) league is professional and how it can be made better. It is important for a club like us that there is a really good state league. It’s important that there are competitive matches for these players to be part of. Once the opportunities are there, then we’ll know how good these players are.
In the next couple of months or maybe before the ISL season finishes, we are hopeful of announcing our yearly grassroots calendar which would also include our academy plans.
What are your grassroot plans for 2021?
It’s important to have competitive exposure for academy boys which could be in the form of friendly matches, participation in regional leagues or even a partnership with an existing I-league or ISL franchise in that region. The most important thing is getting good match exposure for an academy team. I’ve seen academies that invest in good infrastructure and coaches but there are not enough teams to compete with or test the players against.
I’ve seen this in Hyderabad as well which is why we felt it was necessary to work closely with the state federation and improve the state league. Without that, it would be tough to give the youth teams more competitive games. If the approach is to develop young players, there should be a plan to give a minimum number of matches in a year.