Strangers Agents - Indian football agents are more than meets the eye

Varun Achreja’s company recently helped organise a full-fledged baby league in Champhai in Mizoram. The reason for undertaking this project 184 kms away from Aizawl in a town which takes 12 hours by car to get to, is two-fold: “It helps contribute to the growth of the game, which believe it or not, is a great feeling in itself after being in the sport for such a long time. It feels like you are shaping the game, providing a platform to young footballers and creating a future,” Achreja says. In an honest admission, he said that there was the added incentive of being able to win the trust of these players and their guardians to probably guide their future careers.

“I would have already celebrated their future signings had I been in this for the money and the contracts,” he said. “But it’s about how you look at your business - whether you do it only for the money and glamour, or also to be integral to football’s development.”

But trust and credibility are fickle and all three parties - players, agents, and clubs - have suffered from this. Over time, clubs seem to have developed a cautious attitude towards agents.

Bengaluru FC’s chief technical officer Mandar Tamhane is one of the most experienced hands in the Indian football transfer market - and has been pivotal in sealing the clubs most important deals - like Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and many others. He echoes the views of most clubs when complaining about multiple representations.

“If either party is not honest, then it can be a dirty business,” says Tamhane. “If I want a player, I speak with a player first. Sometimes, four agents will say they represent him. Sometimes, an agent gets to know about the club’s interest, goes to the player and then tries to sign him with the promise that they’ll get him a move to Bengaluru. Then the original agent also informs us of his mandate with the player. Which is why, the best practice is to make sure you clearly ask the player who his agent is.”

Says Alvito D’Cunha of East Bengal, “It’s the easiest job for someone to say I am an agent. Previously, there were few companies which you could trust - nowadays any Tom, Dick, and Harry says I am an agent - but you’ve never heard of them. These people know getting one or two players and moving them on is an easy way to make money.”

About the Writers

Pulasta is a football commentator and award-winning sports writer. He has worked for the All India Radio, BBC Leicester, The Post Newspapers-Zambia, Firstpost, Mint Lounge & Scroll among others.@TheFalseNo9

Adnan Bhat is an independent journalist. He regularly writes for The Wire, The Quint, Ozy, among others. @adnanmbhat