The Ahmedabad-based side will be the first team from Gujarat to participate in the league's history.
Luck smiled upon football in Gujarat a few days ago as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) confirmed ARA FC's inclusion in the forthcoming season of the 2nd Division I-League. Following the announcement, Khel Now caught up with the club's Director Vikram Patel, director of football cum manager Vivek Nagul Kumar and Phillip Job, the Honorary Treasurer of the Gujarat State Football Association.
The Director spoke about ARA's inclusion in the 2nd Division I-League briefly as he started, "We just got the license for the I-League Second Division and it is the first time in the history of Gujarat football that the I-League licensing has been happening and some teams have taken the initiative to build its own team."
Regarding the venue, he revealed that the Ahmedabad-based side will play at the Adani Shantigram Stadium in the city.
When questioned about why Adani Shantigram was chosen ahead of Transstadia, Patel said that due to Minerva Punjab's AFC Cup commitments, which will be played out in the Arena, the stadium could not be finalized as the home for his side.
Nagul Kumar, the manager cum Director of Football of the club has prior experience of being associated with ISL giants Chennaiyin FC back in 2014. When asked about ARA's team in the upcoming season he said, "We have scouted about 20 local players and 10 players from the outside states." He also revealed that they will be no foreign signings this year as the club wants to give exposure to the local players.
The state association's treasurer, Job was asked about what ARA's inclusion in the 2nd Division I-League means for Gujarat Football. "It's a moment of great pride for Gujarat football. The local players ageing 18-24 will get the taste of real football. Earlier the teams of Gujarat used to play for only youth leagues, but now the players have the chance to represent in the senior division"
Patel was again questioned about why Kumar was chosen as the coach, "We wanted a person who is knowledgeable about Indian football, someone who can handle the men's team and he's been doing that for many years with Azam FC, in Africa for three years and also a stint with Mahindra United," the director stated.
Kumar was then asked what attracted him to join ARA. "I am the person who likes challenges. As a player I was a challenger, as a coach I am the challenger. When everybody said I cannot get success I challenged myself."
"I worked with Pune FC and from Pune FC I went to Mahindra United in the then 2nd Division team. We got promoted to the Frst Division league. Then, I went abroad to Africa. They didn't believe that an Indian can lead the team. I went there and succeeded," he added.
When reminded of how newly-formed clubs nowadays get into the I-League and the ISL through corporate entry and asked why they decided to start from scratch the director replied, "We wanted to give chance to our local academy players. If we had applied through corporate entry we wouldn't be able to give chances to youngsters and secondly, it would require more money."
"We are the first team from Gujarat to qualify for the senior division and this is the beginning. In the first two years, the main aim is to give local players exposure and gradually improve," he further explained.
When asked about what was the expectations from the GSFA Patel said, "The Association has helped us to a large extent and they'll surely help in the future as well and we believe the club and the association moves hand-in-hand," he concluded.