India must believe in Indian coaches

KOLKATA: Stephen Constantine stepped down from his position of Indian football team’s head coach after the Blue Tigers suffered an exit from the group stage of the AFC Asian Cup 2019. So as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is currently searching for a national team trainer, here we discuss why AIFF should go for a local coach instead of hiring yet another foreign coach, who will led the Blue Tigers to nowhere.

My opinion is that I do not believe that one can buy success by buying an expensive coach. If that was the way it worked, every team in the world would just, in effect, buy a place in the World Cup.

Clearly, we have coaches who have the potential to lead Blue Tigers to great success. But we don’t afford our coaches sufficient opportunities to realize this potential. AIFF has not kept a coach long enough for it to conclude that local coaches are not good enough for the top job.

Foreign coaches are not messiahs. They are not superior to local coaches by virtue of their foreignness. Foreign coaches, like local coaches, are only as good as their record. So if we absolutely must hire one, let us at least make sure he has some degree of success on the international stage.

Some of the national team players also have scornful tendencies toward local coaches. In most cases it is hard to detect these disparaging propensities, yet they exist, overtly or covertly. Let AIFF hires any foreign coach, irrespective of his average resume, the players as well as a considerable number of Indians will begin singing his praises as the so-called master tactician and savior of Indian football. Sadly, many of the players and Indians as well normally don’t extend the same morale-boosting accolades to a local coach.

If possible, AIFF can go ahead and hire the services of Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp and it may not translate into any extraordinary accomplishment for the national team.

By the time any person reaches the status of achieving a place in any national team, such a person knows how to play the game. One does not need to teach a national squad the fundamental skills of the game – these they know by the time they make it to that level.

So what does a national squad need? They need two interventions: the first is to mutually discuss tactics and the second is team spirit and self-confidence.

The tactics and general strategic game plan can alter with every game because each opposing team is different. So a competent team should have watched as many videos of a potential opposing team as possible and should have studied as much of its game plan as possible. Then the whole team decides on the tactics to be employed, with the coach providing a guiding function. Compare this with a board of directors deciding how a company should carry out an expansion plan. It is not only the CEO who should make the decisions – all members of the board should bring their individual experiences and talents into the debate. A football team is no different.

The coach is not a god – he will not have all the answers. A professional team must come up with a tactical plan together, the result of team interaction. Now we look at the other issue, team spirit and self-confidence. A football team cannot be seen as 11 individuals; it is one team, one unit. If the team does not play as one cohesive unit, it will lose.

It is well known that, if one chooses the apparent best 11 players in the world, from 11 different teams, which then plays against any other top-class team that has been playing together for a while, the World 11 will almost always lose. The cohesive team is better than 11 individuals. Our guys need self-confidence, which means feeling like one unit. So, to my mind, we need a Indian coach, a guy who can say to the team: “Okay, guys, let us win for our country.”

AIFF needs understand we have people in the country who can make a meaningful contribution to our football, our problems are known by us and we can solve them. Local coaches have developed all the Indian legends like IM Vijayan, Bhaichung Bhuita, Jo Pual Ancheri, Renedy Singh and Sunil Chhetri, they were not groomed by people from Europe, local coaches have a good record in the national team and local clubs. That should get recognition.

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