Vita Dani is the co-owner of the two-time champion Hero Indian Super League club Chennaiyin FC and is the Chairperson & Co-owner of Ultimate Table Tennis – 11Sports. Vita’s vision is not only to create an elite football club in India with a growing legacy, but also develop a flourishing grassroots programme for young footballers across age groups and promoting women in the sport. Her efforts have so far seen over 100,000 young children engaging in football training in Tamil Nadu alone. The Playknox spoke with her about various things. Excerpts:
What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the team? How are you tackling all the challenges?
Every industry has been equally affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone is trying their best to keep themselves going during these tough times. The scene is no different in sports too as many tournaments were either called off or postponed. In the recent past we have seen live sports making return gradually with tournaments like English Premier League, Champions League, NBA and IPL, but unfortunately without fans supporting in the stadiums. The tournaments are happening behind closed doors which is a different experience altogether. With challenges at every step, it’s very important to have a back up plan ready and react quickly especially when you are working on the planning and preparation of the leagues because things have changed now.
Earlier in the pre-COVID era, you had your schedule planned based on set requirements and fixed dates. But now, you can’t ignore the fact that dates can be changed at any time and you have to be prepared for that. Earlier you knew when to start pre-season, when recruitment will take place and also marketing, sponsorship or sales, because all were going according to the planned dates. But now, due to pandemic you have to deal with a lot of real time changes and modifications. Business side of the sport is also very important, you can not ignore that. There has to be balance between sport and business. I think it’s important to think about the next two years when you are planning that will help you sustain as there’s still uncertainty over normalcy due to the pandemic.
You reckon the decision to hold ISL in Goa is a good decision? We have seen what happened in Dubai with CSK. Has the club planned any precautionary measures?
It would be very difficult to travel to different cities with your entire set-up during these tricky times. So, I feel the decision to hold ISL in one city will definitely help teams and organizers to conduct the league in a comparatively easy manner while ensuring the best level of precautions and health and safety for the players as well as staff. All you have in your hand is taking precautions and trying to stay safe.
Players’ safety is of paramount concern. After all these are human lives and we need to give more attention to provide best safety for them in a bio-secure bubble. We have been working on planning various processes such as how to provide a safe environment for the players, when to travel to Goa and when to start pre-season and various other things.
Mental health is something we Indians are not known to focus on particularly. However, how important do you reckon it is and are sufficient steps being taken to raise awareness not just within players but the entire management?
In my opinion, the aspect of mental health is make or break. That is something we will be taking very seriously, especially with the sustained toll an environment like a bio-secure bubble may have on the players and staff. It is definitely going to be a challenge. We need to stick together, create a special bond within the team and ensure everyone knows that everyone is approachable and there for each other.
That is how the mental health of everyone in the traveling contingent can be at an optimum level, and that is what will then be a measure of on-field success. Without doubt, CFC will take all necessary steps to ensure mental health is treated with utmost priority.
You are also associated with Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT). Will we see the fourth edition happening in near future?
We are monitoring the situation and in conversation with the federation. We wait for instructions and directives from the international and national federation before deciding the future course of action.
How can we popularize the game of Table Tennis further?
With the emergence of UTT, table tennis has seen revolution in India not just for fans but also for the players. Earlier when Indians would play against foreign players, we were not sure about the way they would face them and let alone will they be able to win matches; but, UTT has given our players that much-needed confidence to beat higher ranked players and face the opponents. We have not just limited our support to elite players but also have been working at grassroot level to create champions of the future.
We have been organising school, state, national and corporate-level ranking tournaments where players get to play under world class facilities. We have partnered with five academies and provide them facilities that help players to improve their performance. We also keep track of their performances and must say that the exposure and medal count has gone up. Our dream is to create a state-of-the-art centre of excellence dedicated for table tennis; work is in progress. We want to create a place for players with world class coaches and facilities so that it will become a destination for every paddler who wants to prepare to win an Olympic medal for the country.