Delhi, a city so chaotic yet charming. People have different notions about Delhi. Well, to be honest, Delhi is not liked by many residing in other parts of India, yet who want to come to the city and experience it once in a lifetime. People say Delhi doesn’t foray beyond Politics and Power and because of that Sports is not conspicuous at all in India’s capital. And because of the two prominent P’s mentioned above, the only sport in limelight is Cricket. It’s true to a certain extent. But, there is a catch. It is not possible to believe, that a city so big and known can’t expand its bandwidth in sports. How can something so important for mental and physical development be lacking? Sports have positive effects in our life and it nurtures us. We Curious Hounds love sports and were extremely curious, so we did some digging about the current sports scenario in Delhi and came across The Sports Company founded and mentored by Varun Chopra. And it was as easy touching base with them on Instagram to fix this interview. The Sports Company is not just a typical firm, it’s like a family, it’s not an office but a warm home with family members who are passionate about sports, each knowing their role and responsibility. I didn’t feel formal at all sitting with them because they welcomed me too, like family. Albeit, I had some imperative questions to ask, so keep your eyes intact and don’t even move for a second.
Q-) How did the idea of starting The Sports Company and Football being its core come to you?
The Sports Company was founded in 2014, as just a sports advisory company. Football connects you unlike any other sport. It brings across communities, states and the nation altogether. The sheer beauty of the sports business is People. I have been so lucky and blessed to meet such incredible people from the sports fraternity. I have always been grateful to the almighty and my elders for supporting me and invariably guiding me. The idea came to me after It all happened after I saw a small Football tournament called “DIFL”- Delhi International Football League. It gave me confidence to take the next step which was founding The Sports Company identifying, managing and training Indian athletes so they bring home the trophies that India has always dreamed of.
Q-) We understand you are also a UEFA Licensed coach. How did you take the plunge to become a professional coach?
Varun looks at the ceiling for a split second, looks back at me with an adamant gaze and replies; Well, I come from a stereotypical North Indian patriarchal family. I told my dad I want to become a professional football coach and the response from him wasn’t good at all, and I was kicked out of the house by him. Because of studying in a school like Mount St. Mary’s with hardcore Christian education where sports are incorporated heavily, I have had the best exposure. We used to play a lot of good, hard old-fashioned football. My coach was Mr. Ranjit Thapa who represented Services team- Gorkha Brigade and Indian Football Team. An old soul with a stick in his hand. You make mistakes and get that stick bashing on your bum. I still remember his words which now are engraved in my soul. The discipline of playing those 90 minutes comes from training 180 minutes every day, and that is stuck by me. I train all my kids with that thought. My thought process will never change and I am perhaps old school in many ways. Back in my college days I was working for an export house and we had a team called Aurva FC. Aurva was the name after Rishi Aurva and we wanted to connect the history of land to the sentiment of today’s youth for them to be role models of the future. I played at Hari Nagar district centre and coached kids who were 16 and above and also played with them. DIFL gave me an opportunity to coach 5 to 6 year old’s. I remember vividly shifting to Noida back then. I had to get up at 4 am and drive all the way to Hari Nagar. It was a pain but I was dedicated, there were obstacles but I somehow managed it and the kids played a crucial role in my journey. And when their parents liked my coaching, my journey began there. I knew this was what I had to do. I have the best time with kids coaching them. I wanted to become a Licensed Coach but with the right method and all seriousness. When I made the inquiry on the phone, the gentleman on the other side somehow got agitated and yelled at me; if you really want to become a coach then go abroad. I wrote to the County of Manchester and they accepted me and since then, there has been no stopping.
Q-) Do you think people in Delhi don’t understand Football?
I think there is a big disparity here, because the Football scene in Delhi till 90’s was superb. Delhi was once known as a hub of football in India. Footballers were admired, loved and appreciated from this region. Football in Delhi in 1960 was extraordinary. With teams playing in the Delhi League with crowds of about 7000 to 10,000 came to support their favourite teams, and in the famous Old Delhi rivalry; Indian Nationals Vs City Club (Old Delhi derby) witnessed a crowd of 15, 000 to 18, 000 at Ambedkar Stadium; then known as Delhi Gate Stadium. Ambedkar Stadium still has a very loyal group of people who have been there always. But just because of not capitalizing and poor administration we lost the local flavor and foreign football has taken over the city. With teams like Manchester United and Real Madrid having a large fan base here.
Q -) After doing extensive research, we found out you also own a Football Club called “The Dream Team FC”. Please tell us about it?
He smiles wittily and answers- there is an extremely funny story behind this. Raaghav Sood, backbone of The Sports Company was in a really bad mood one day in December 2016 and comes dejected to the office after getting brushed up by an I-League club over a player deal. I asked him if he was alright. He said; I so wish Agar mera bhi club hota na, toh main in logo ko batata ki club kaise chalta hai.(I wish I had a Football Club of my own and I would have taught them, how it is managed) I thought for a while and replied- chal beta aaj teri yeh khwaish bhi poori kar dete hain. (Cool, I will let you fulfill this dream as well). After a whole lot of mysterious and quaint business deals we bought a Football Club after analyzing the history of club with transfers and statistics. We renamed the club to The Dream Team because everyone has a right to Dream and The Sports Company now owns the club that plays in the A Division Delhi Soccer League. The Dream team FC now has set its sight firmly on establishing itself among the elite clubs of India in the top tier of Indian Football and we dedicate every single moment to achieve our dream.
Q-) Why is the Football Agent business so haywire in India? Because a country with almost 1.4 Billion people, there are only 4 Indian players plying their trade in abroad, men & women both.
Agency work in India is supposedly a laughable profession. Everyone is a Football agent now, but they do not have the foresight or methodology to work as an agent. Agency work doesn’t only mean only hunting for players and coaches by end of the season. It is much much more. Football Clubs have a meticulous mandate which we have to adhere to. Poaching players and giving them false hopes is very common in India. There are only a few agencies in India who are morally correct. Football agents are supposed to be like the player’s family, and that is what we do, we treat our players like family. We are in the midst of finding appropriate deals for our players. We will get where we aspire to be. Indian players are not going abroad because they are too comfortable with the pay packages here and additional perks. Clubs in Europe scout players from other countries usually at a very young age with less money. No player is willing to take that risk except for one who we represent.
Q-) Finally, we come to brightest star of the moment; Lallianzuala Chhangte. What about him? Will he go to Norway again and get a trial again with Viking FK?
Now as we started speaking about Zuala, just after ten to fifteen minutes I saw Zuala in the office. Man it was my lucky day because I was mesmerized by the recent goal he scored against North Korea in the Intercontinental Cup. The CEO of the club Viking FK loves Lallianzuala Chhangte, loves his dedication and loyalty. We are doing our best for him to be in Norway because we think he deserves to be in Europe where there is a proper structure that will help him move forward in top league football and play exceptionally for the national team and inspire a thousand more Zuala’s. According to us he is done with his time well in India, now he needs to go play high quality and competitive football abroad.
I was lucky to speak to the Mizo Magician and this is what he had to say:
I am willing to leave the comfort zone and take high risks because I know it will pay off in future. For the past three years playing in the Indian Super league when I started with Northeast United FC, I never got the chance to play and I was disappointed. For a footballer it’s important to play as much. But then I went back to DSK Shivajians in Pune, my academy and I was signed for the senior team where the coach trusted my ability. I got a lot of game time and everyone supported me out there. I got all the confidence and in 2017 at the Indian Super League draft, Delhi Dynamos picked me and signed me for two years, I was surprised because I got selected in the third pick, which meant they were interested in me. I told myself, I will do everything in my power to perform for the club. I have scored 8 goals and appeared 36 times in two seasons. I couldn’t be happier, though both the seasons were not good for the club but for my personal growth it was fantastic. I learnt so much from the coach and my team mates, I wish to play here but I have bigger dreams and I want to chase them. Let’s see, I have faith in god and am banking on my courage. Delhi Dynamos always supported me and gave me a lot of love, made me feel like family and that’s why I wanted to do so much for the club. I would like to say always have goals, without having goals in life you won’t go much further and always have faith in your family, always listen to them, trust them. And HARDWORK is very important. Just dreaming about what you want and not working hard for it won’t get you anywhere. Work hard, be disciplined and these basics will make you into a fine footballer and also a fine human being.
We wish all the best to The Sports Company and Lallianzuala Chhangte for their future and hope they achieve all of their dreams. Always stay curious. Woof woof!