IndianFootball.Com Founder & Editor-in-Chief Arunava Chaudhuri had the chance to speak to Neville Tuli, the founder and Chairman of Delhi-based Osianís. Osian's is sponsoring the 120th Durand Cup, which is the world's third-oldest football tournament.
You were into writing and an art connoisseur before founding Osian's. How did it come about that you founded India's first art auction house?
I returned to India after 25 years in the West, choosing to devote my endeavors towards the fulfillment of my vision to build a holistic educational infrastructure for the arts and culture which would not only be financially self-sufficient and rooted in merit but become a major force in national development. Osian's was established with this vision in 2000, as a pioneering arts institution in India.
Now coming from the arts to football. Anyone who's got sponsorship money to spend in India these days spends it on Cricket or on posh sports like Golf and Tennis. Why did you and your company get involved with Indian football?
Football became the obvious choice owing to the absolute passion with which so many of our youngsters, including me once upon a time, wish to pursue this sport and yet have such little support or opportunity to excel therein. Also, there is a definite link between art and football. It hit me that most Indians do not have the physical strength to absorb the energy a great art work has to communicate. If one truly wishes creativity and its values to seep into the life and mindsets of our people, then it is imperative that we also take on the task of strengthening the body, linking the progress of body and mind in many new ways, through many new platforms.
Have you played football in your life? Have you had an interest in the game of football over the years?
Yes, I have been very passionate about football and played it in my college days.
How did it come about that Osian's got heavily involved with the Durand Cup last year?
The collaboration with the Durand Cup was the ideal starting point in this developmental journey for building sports infrastructure. It is a tournament rooted in history, tradition and a deep seated passion and commitment for the sport. Our Armed forces have nurtured the love and discipline for the sport with a rare idealism and innocence, much needed in today's growingly market driven era.
After the successful staging of the 119th Durand Cup last year, this summer Osian's took over the New Delhi Heroes and is working to turn the club into a professional outfit. What is your long-term aim with the club?
Any club owner would love their football team to play great football, exciting and technically advanced along with a great sense of fair play and sportsmanship. ONDH can become a wonderful national symbol for the youth and naturally get more and more people involved with football, developing a fan base is also a priority in the coming months. Establishing various training programmes (maybe with international collaboration) is the next step to developing the squad at New Delhi Heroes. Chima Okorie naturally has a vision for the players and his commitment and love for the sport will definitely see ONDH in the premier national league very soon.
Is Osian's committed to make necessary investments to create world class infrastructure? Put a sound youth development system in place?
Yes naturally, without major infrastructure development no excellence can be brought into the sport let alone the involvement of the public and given football has such high global standards it is all the more imperative that we develop from the grassroots as quickly as possible without cutting any corner.
After last year's success, what can we expect from this years 120th Durand Cup?
This year the tournament promises to be better for a number of reasons such as the introduction of floodlights providing the night match experience for the first time in the history of Durand Cup. Osian's has also helped revamp the Dr. Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi moving towards giving it an international quality. The total prize money for this tournament being given out by Osian's is Rs.2 Million. It will be increased to Rs.5 Million next year. Also, Osian's New Delhi Heroes is making their debut this year.
After the Durand Cup and the New Delhi Heroes are you planning any other football-related initiatives?
We are focussing on youth at the moment and these two responsibilities will consolidate in the next 2-3 years leading to a world class framework for football infrastructure.
How do you see the future of Indian football? What would be your dream or vision for Indian football?
I am hopeful that the work of Osian's in football infrastructure build-up over the next 3-5 years will bring about several changes in many areas simultaneously. The quality of physical and psychological training; the curriculum and the time devoted to physical training in schools; bringing Indian talent up to international standards, among others are the key areas of change that Osian's will work upon to re-energize the foundations for football. Osian's began this process by collaborating with the great armed forces and their dedicated love for football as the first step in their larger vision.
We must all hope that come 2014, India will qualify for the World Cup, for we may be able to forgive failure in 2010, but four years later will be very difficult to stomach. Osian's will of course play its role but the whole football fraternity in India must move together for this.
the interview was conducted by Arunava Chaudhuri (November 2007)