It was a mesmerizing evening for the Indian footballers like Arnab Mondal, Baljit Saini, Rahim Nabi on Saturday at the Vicente Calderon where Barcelona played against Athletico De Madrid in la Liga derby. And before the match started, Athletico De Kolkata team, the partner of Atletico De Madrid, walked down the ground with the ISL Trophy they won in the inaugural season in the last year.
It was an initiative, taken by Madrid club officials to promote their Kolkata franchise team’s success in Spanish football. That was the reason Arnab Mondal and his mates had a rare opportunity to parade with the trophy at the Stadium in the presence of World Football’s best players like Leonel Messi, Neymar De Silva Santos Junior.
Speaking on the occasion over phone from Madrid on Sunday evening, Baljit Saini said, “We simply could not dream of the atmosphere that we were parading with the trophy in presence of the legendary players like Messi, Neymar and Suarez. We were just mesmerized.” The Kolkata franchise team, lead by East Bengal defender Arnab Mondal and Canadian striker Iain Hume entered the field when Barcelona legends Messi, Neymar and Suarez were doing warm-ups before the start of the match. It was initially planned that marquee player of ATK this season, Postiga would be assisting with Arnab Mondal in the parade. But Helder Postiga failed to attend the function. So, Hume who had represented Kerala Blasters in the ISL last season looked assisting Arnab in the parade.
According to an ATK official who was present there, one of the Barcelona executives had also a discussion with Athletico De Kolkata officials regarding the Indian Super League and its popularity within a year. The ATK official also said, “Barcelona executive looked curious over ISL and he even asked whether the renowned Spanish club could be associated with the franchise-based league in near future. It has been a great promotion of ISL in Spain.”
However, Spanish coach of the Kolkata franchise team Antonio Habas did not attend the parade function on Saturday. Rather he chose to go back his home.