Newly-appointed Kerala Blasters CEO Viren D'Silva is no stranger to the challenges at Kerala Blasters, pressure from the fans and the ups and downs that are part and parcel of running a football club.
He was at the helm when Kerala Blasters surged into the final in the first season of the Indian Super League (ISL) and the team performed badly in the following season. It was the team that he put together that went onto reach another final in the third season of ISL. Hence, it was no surprise when club owner Nimmagadda Prasad turned to his trusted employee to fill the seat left vacant by an outgoing Varun Tripuraneni.
Viren was busy at work as the CEO of the Pro Kabaddi team Tamil Thalaivas, who have the same owners as Blasters, when he received the offer to return to the Kochi-based club.
"I have always held Kerala very close to my heart. I think it was a great opportunity. Like any challenge, I looked forward to it. The feeling was that of excitement and also that of getting ready for what's ahead," Viren described the feeling of coming back to the football scene in Kerala, in an interview to Goal.
This time around, however, the playing field is highly uneven. After reaching two finals in the first three seasons, Blasters have taken a tumble in the last two years, finishing sixth and ninth on the table and alienating a large section of fans in the process. For Viren, taking charge at this crucial juncture was an opportunity for improvement rather than a difficult challenge.
"Seasons come and go as they say. The first three years had its own challenges and the last two years have had a different kind of obstacle, I'm sure. You try to work on processes, you try as a team to get the small things right.
"We are blessed by love and passion for football in Kerala but with that comes expectations. Expectations on and off the field. Some footballing economics are unique to India but its more an opportunity than a challenge, the way we approach it.
"(Having already worked at Kerala Blasters) made it (the return) easier in terms of familiarity, love and passion. But I think the situation is very different now. There are 10 competitive teams and no novices. I would say it is easier this time around because Kerala Blasters and the fans have a five-year legacy. We are the number one club in India that translates passion and interest into eyeballs. Yes, performance is a matrix in that but sponsors and fans know we are here to stay and grow and certainly, their constant support and belief are refreshing."
With the recent announcement of a five-year sponsorship deal with JAIN University, Viren D'Silva has set the ball rolling for supporters to dream of long-term success. It has been very difficult for Indian clubs to reduce their losses every year and while they are probably a few years away from turning in huge profits, Viren believes there is a strong commitment from everyone involved to see it through the difficult times.
"World over, running a football club is not an easy business to be in. What we do have is the Reliance Group and its partners Disney - their commitment to Indian football is unwavering.
"Beyond that, each club owner has taken the baton in different parts of the country. It's not easy but there is a commitment to see it through testing times. The way we look at it is Kerala Blasters have to play its part in Kerala. The love and passion of the people in Kerala has translated into a positive ecosystem and as you have seen with the five-year partnership with Jain and with our partners Muthoot Pappachan Group who have been there for five years.
"I would say, yes, it is a tough road. Very difficult to judge something in terms of profit and losses. But there is potential and it keeps growing with the brand."