Yogesh Maurya and Aditya Narayanan, the owners of Hyderabad’s I-League team, Fateh Hyderabad FC, are looking to launch an innovative, not for profit, grass-roots programme, by the end of this year, where kids under the age-group of six can come and learn ball manipulation skills, will be given the right ball, kit... even parents will be counselled on why it’s crucial for kids to play sport.”
Talking about why it’s crucial to nurture talent in tiny tots, Yogesh explains, “From the age of two, eye-foot coordination with the third object is extremely demanding on the neuro-motor system. The first thing we need to see to develop the sport is players who are technically capable of manipulating a football at a very young age.
“As a player learns how to manipulate the ball and that ball becomes their favourite toy, they will start to engage in the famous 10,000 hours of practise. That is when you see their technique rise to the level where they can compete against other countries.”
Talking about their love for the game, Maurya says that a dream to nurture young football talent prodded them to invest in Fateh Hyderabad FC. Maurya, a Columbia University and Wharton School graduate, says that he fell in love with football growing up in New Jersey, when he was only three. “The ball was my favourite toy. I was probably the only Indian player across five states while growing up... We would show up at games and people would be like, ‘Who is this Indian kid?’”
This constant question made Yogesh ask his Hyderabad-born father why other Indians were not playing football, and his dad would tell him stories about India’s glory days in the sport and “somewhere the passion was infused”. After graduation, Maurya chose a corporate career over football. He headed a real estate company in Hyderabad, then moved to the Xander Group, the largest real estate, private equity investor in India. For the last five years he has started to gradually transition himself to be more involved full-time in football.
While Maurya is the hands-on partner based in Hyderabad, up at the crack of dawn, overseeing practise sessions and back on the pitch at 4.30 pm for the second round of training, his friend and co-owner Aditya is a Wall Street hedge fund manager.
So, how did they meet and what is Aditya’s role in the team? “Aditya and I went to school together at Wharton and are close friends. He has a passion for the game and a particular passion for developing youth.” So, the Fateh Club is not just a trophy asset? “I am in the game because I have a passion and certain mission. In our club, young players are going to play, even if they are inexperienced though the team would look better on paper with experienced players.”
This mission to develop young players is the reason why Yogesh has never tempted to invest in an ISL team. “In ISL, the proposition, clearly in terms of value, was different from our approach at this moment.”
But the I-League is looking shaky in terms of certain owners withdrawing from it. “Yes, these are respectable ownership groups that have said they want to take a break or stop indefinitely. They must have their reasons but our business model in Hyderabad is different. Even if the I-league were to shut next year, it would not change my business plan one bit. In our model if I make a mistake it is not a Rs 10 crore mistake, it is a mistake in lakhs, so it’s okay.”