SOUTHALL, UK—A non-league west London football club that attracts average home crowds of 50 has formed one of the game’s unlikeliest partnerships with Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.
Under the David and Goliath deal, coaches from the 10-times La Liga champions, who last won the title in 2014, will work with players from Southall Football Club, who finished mid-table in last season’s Spartan South Midlands Division One.
Formed in 1871, Southall FC has not won any honours since it lifted the Middlesex Senior Charity Cup in 1984. It does not even own its ground, playing home matches in nearby Perivale.
Atletico, who finished runners-up in the 2014 Champions League final, will provide support to Southall’s ambition of developing British Asian footballers and take part in a number of football social inclusion projects in the local area. Visits by first team players have also been promised. Last week, Germán Robles González, director general of the Atletico Madrid Foundation, visited Southall where he met local dignitaries and club officials.
Mr González said: “You might think this is a very odd marriage but Atletico is a very forward-thinking club and we work with different partners all over the world. I have had a wonderful time in Southall, it has been an extraordinary experience. We believe there is a huge potential for football in this area and I hope that our work is the start of something good.”
Along with many other leading European clubs, Atletico are trying to break into the Indian market and believe that uncovering a British Asian footballer might help them achieve this. The Spaniards already co-own Atletico de Kolkata, which plays in the Indian Super League, the country’s richest football competition.
The ground-breaking partnership came about through business links Southall FC owner Channa Singh Gill has in Spain. Mr Gill said: “For a little club like ours to be connected with one of the world’s most famous football names is amazing. Who would believe it? This is a fantastic opportunity for our players and coaches to learn from the best in the business.”
In May, Mr Gill complained in the Standard that his club was struggling to attract young Asian players, despite being in an area that has one of the highest populations of Asians in the country. He said: “Some of Atletico’s star names could be coming to Southall in the near future. If this doesn’t get local youngsters interested in football then I don’t know what will.”