Former Rangers executive Raj Athwal has been appointed president at Indian Super League side Odisha FC as the former Ibrox man makes an emotional return to his parents’ homeland.

Athwal, who served as Head of Commercial and Global Partnerships at Ibrox between 2013 and 2015 was confirmed as the ISL’s side’s new chief, where he will work with Scottish manager Stuart Baxter.

Athwal admits it is a “different” world from his roles at Rangers, Watford and Coventry as he spoke of his “pride” at making the move to India, where he started his new role last month.

“It is a different world,” Athwal told Sky Sports. “Odisha is considered a small coastal state. When you consider the population of India is over one billion you can understand why.

“My parents came over in the early ’60s and so my whole ancestry is from India. When I am speaking to family out there, there is always that feeling of pride, that connection.

 

“Having engaged in a number of open and honest conversations with the club’s owners, I also found their infectious passion and the vision for Odisha extremely impressive.

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“You have to remember that ISL is still in its infancy, its inauguration was in 2013. It would be unfair to compare it to the English Premier League or any of the major European leagues.

“Make no mistake, though, the appetite for top-flight football in India has never been greater. Similar to MLS, wealthy investors are coming forward and showing real interest in establishing new clubs. The continuing expansion of the league is testament to that.”

Athwal will come up against Rangers’ partners Bengaluru, Odisha sitting four places behind seventh-placed Bengaluru.

The All Indian Football Federation named a Rangers player their Fans’ Player of the Month for December

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