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Prioritising first team, local talent: A passionate Mandar Tamhane sees NEUFC as opportunity, not challenge

New CEO of NorthEast United Mandar Tamhane is looking forward to working with the Highlanders and taking them back to the glory days.

Prioritising first team, local talent: A passionate Mandar Tamhane sees NEUFC as opportunity, not challenge

Mandar Tamhane (Source: 90ndstoppage/Twitter)


The Bridge Desk

Published: 19 May 2023 7:31 AM GMT

Indian Super League outfit NorthEast United FC announced on Tuesday that veteran administrator Mandar Tamhane would take up the role of the club's CEO. Tamhane was previously associated with Bengaluru FC and had been with the Blues since their inception back in 2013.

The Pune local's newest project paints a stark contrast to the one he was a part of in the last decade. The question begs- why this leap of faith? The experienced campaigner sees it as an opportunity rather than a challenge which most people are making it out to be.

"It's more about looking at the job as more of an opportunity, rather than a challenge. At the end of the day, every job is going to be a challenging job, whether it is in whichever field you do so," Mandar told The Bridge.

After stepping down from the position he had in Bengaluru, Tamhane had received six offers from all around Indian football, but conversations with NEUFC owner John Abraham turned the tide for him towards the ISL club.

"I had a lot of conversations with John and I think, his passion for the club, his passion for the sport was very evident from what we spoke. For me, it's very important for whom I'm working for, you know, and for me, that was a very primary reason that made me inclined towards my decision of joining Northeast United," he explained.

The Highlanders finished last in the 2022-23 season, after finishing second-last in the season before. The days of their best-ever finish in the ISL, when they finished 3rd in the 2020-21 season, are long behind them. Inconsistency with the coaching staff, not getting good enough players were the markers for the first team's underwhelming campaign this season. Naturally, the pressing matter which will get the attention needed at the earliest, as per CEO Tamhane, is the first team.

"Immediate importance is to the first team, right, because that's where everybody recognises you by. So obviously, you have to look into the getting the right people to work with you, you have to look at the recruitment of the players, the staff, etc. I think there are other plans that we have in mind where we will be taking it in a step by step manner," Tamhane said.

When quizzed about the squad building process for the upcoming season, he said, "I think, rather than me speaking, the actions or whatever we do as a club, will probably be a better answer to all your questions, and with time, you will get your answers."

Northeast- The place to spot talent

For the longest time, the Northeast region of the country has been a hub for Indian football in terms of unearthing gems for the future. The new CEO of NEUFC agrees with this fact vehemently, and hopes his arrival can mean a positive contribution to the country through the club.

"Whenever I've worked in Indian football, whether it was in Bengaluru FC or with the AIFF, my primary goal was to look at how I can contribute to the development of the sport in our country. And I feel I can always do that looking at Northeast. Most clubs go to northeast to spot the talent, and we are going to be based in northeast and I think there's a lot more that we can do. And it's not just about the first team, right? It's about the opportunity to do so much good at the youth development and the grassroot level,"

Holding up at the business end

One would expect a club like NorthEast United, which has been struggling on the field for the last few years, to be having similar results off the field too. However, in the conversation with The Bridge, a surprised Tamhane revealed that the Highlanders were actually holding their own in terms of sponsorships.

"I personally was surprised, but it's a fact that NUEFC is amongst the top two, or maybe top three in terms of the sponsorship that is given to the clubs collectively across partners. It does reflect on the performance of the team on and off the pitch for this but but to be very honest, I think the team is among the top three when it comes to the sponsorship," he said.

"There is also a new contract up for renewal when it comes to the television partner for the Indian Super League in the coming season. That is what everybody is looking forward to as to how that will translate into maybe additional revenue to the clubs," he added regarding the financial side of things.

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