Our World Cup / Asian Preparations did not get off to a good start with two narrow defeats by Oman at home and Guam away both with the score line of 1-2. I am of course disappointed by the results as we deserved something from the Oman game and had a perfectly good goal disallowed late on in the game. We deserved whatever we got in Guam which was nothing and have only ourselves to blame, we started off quite brightly but as the first half wore on you could feel something was not quite right and well there are a number of reasons that we can point to but at the end of the day we did not do ourselves justice and yet again failed to win away from home. India has for a number of years not shown its best and there are a great many reasons why but the main one for me is the lack of a real football culture and the complete lack of youth development throughout the country. It matters not who is to blame the question is what are we doing about it now, we all want to qualify for the top competitions everyone wants that, but if we don’t have the players coming through then how is that going to be possible. Everyone looks to the National Team and of course everyone has their own ideas as to who should be playing and who should not but what many people don’t understand is what is going on around the player, an example would be Romeo who went to Brazil he was in fact on my list to be in my first squad against Nepal but had left for Brazil………my question is why? We had no information he had left and I had to take him off the list so as he would not have to return from Brzail days after he had gone there. Sadly for the player we all know how that ended and so the player has wasted 5 months of his football career for nothing …….I have heard about many other players who people feel should be included in the National team , what people have to think about is can the player they want play the system we use? Is the work rate there? Is the understanding there? , can the player perform, how does he train? There are so many variables to consider it is not oh so and so played really well this week or has scored 2 games in a row he should be in the National team. I have been to more I League games then just about anyone in the country I am at 2 games and sometimes 3 games a week with Venky my assistant coach going to the same amount of games elsewhere so we really do have the whole league covered. I want to win football games more than anyone my future depends on it so I am not going to play a player who I feel will not give me what we need. As always with rebuilding teams there are going to be days when things don’t work out or a player freezes but I have done this many times before in my career, sometimes you can turn things around quickly and other times it takes time but in the end I will get there . Ideally you would like to blood the youngsters in the U23 or U20 but there are so few games at those age groups that we cant do that, so we end up throwing them in at the deep end and when you do that you are not going to get consistency from those players to begin with. They need to understand the difference and the speed at which the game is played at the international level, it is not easy to go from the very slow paced I league to International football so it takes time. My other problem is that we do not get enough time with the players in the national team camps. I had 4 full days before the Oman game as the I league ended on the 31st May camp was due to start on the 3rd of June so we wasted 2 days in Delhi trying to get visas for Guam !! Oman on the other hand had a two week camp and two friendly games against Bahrain and Syria.
With Venky my Assistant Coach in Guam
I am not trying to make excuses this is how it is and it is tough for the players the staff and everyone involved no one wants to lose or let down India. I am working as hard as I can to change the players mindset and get them to understand what we need to be doing on and off the pitch, we have bought in Danny who is our Sports Scientist and players are doing things they have not done before so there are alot of changes happening which will help the players in the long term.
Indians Abroad, let me clarify what I want to see happen, I would like the opportunity to select some of the players that are of Indian origin / have roots here to play for the Indian National team, there are a number of players that I have identified who would add great value to the team and obviously improve us as a whole. How can we do this without upsetting the government‘s policies, the recent result against Guam has for sure raised the issue of why we are not allowed to use Indian players playing abroad. This is of course not the long term solution it is a way where we can improve results in the next few years now but and at the same time make sure we are doing the right things when it coes to developing players here in India. The AIFF has begun that process by appointing Nicolai Adam as the National U17 coach and then allowing me to bring in Lee Johnson to run our U19 National team this is giving those players from U15 up to U19 a solid football education which will pay dividends in the ensuing years. My point is that in other countrys this process is happening at all levels especially at club level. So how do we get the goverment to look at this rule so that we can take advantage of Indians who want to come and play , the OCI card is perhaps the best option if our goverment recognzies that OCI card holders can represent India in sports this can solve the problem and we can take full advantage has have all the other countries around the world. Social Media is playing its part and the h #BackTheBlues is playing its part more then 1,000 people have signed this already so lets hope the powers that be can help make a difference.
Going back to the games I will start with the Oman game seeing at that was our first game, it was always going to be a difficult game but we really gave ourselves a mountain to climb going down a goal inside the first minute. We have also added a number of new faces the team as I felt that the whole team needed to be revamped given our recent past and that must be taken into account. In 4 games we have used 13 players for the first time and while that is not ideal it is a necessary evil for us at the moment as we try to reestablish ourselves in Asia. We fought back well and when Sunil Chhetri fired home a lovely goal we looked like we could get something from the game but a silly penalty sent us into the dressing room 1-2 down. The second half was much better and we started to show signs of life and had Oman on the back foot for parts of the second half, a well worked corner saw us equalize and everyone was headed back to the center circle when the linesman put his flag up and signaled offside this a full 5 seconds after the goal went it and no one from Oman protesting!! It was a really poor decision to say the least and though we tried very hard we could not get the momentum back after the disallowed goal which was in the 65th and we were buzzing at that time so anything could have happened. After all the difficulties we faced we could have sneaked a very credible draw so there were some good signs for me.
Signing a ball for a young Indian fan
The much highlighted trip the Army Camp was a great experience ( although it was tough) it did a great many things for us as a team and in the future we will look to bring in experts from other fields that we can learn from to help us improve. I would like to thank the Army again for allowing us to use their facility and of course a special mention to the AIFF Col Metha who kindly arranged and supervised the trip it was truly an awesome day.
Now to the Guam game, of course given their rankings we were supposed to beat them easily!! I will start by saying we did not play well, and Guam deserved to win. Guam used and quite rightly so 11 players who have had some experience in the US professional game, you can talk about what levels they were at but your average American see's his first coach at the many summer soccer campsaround the country from the ages of 4-6 !! whereas our Indian players are lucky if they see a coach by the time there 13-14 so there is a huge gap when it comes to the development of our players and those based in the US.
With Gary White, Guam Coach
Guam at the end of day beat us fair and square and I have no complaints we did not play as we can and we paid for it. We have talent in India of that I am certain but it is like anything it needs to be worked on. I use the diamond as an example it is found under the ground covered in dirt, rock, and needs to be dug out of the mountain. Then its cleaned, and polished, graded and then sold to a dealer before ending up in the shop window before someone buys it. This is exaclty the same process that is followed all over the world when it comes to players, they all need to be discovered. We need SCOUTS who know where to look, what to look for and can determine how good the player is based on what he already has !! it is a science this process does not happen by accident or by people who love the game but dont know the game there is a difference. We must be more systamatic in our approach, Why dont we have any players starting in European Leagues or even Asian leagues come to that who are born and bred in India ? (Gurpreet could be the first ) the reason is because they do not have the foundation which is formed from the ages of 3,4,5,6,7 years old. We need to be going into schools , and develpoing the culture and you will see what happens if that is done. look at China , Japan and many other countrys it is possible we have the ability lets do it !!!
Thank you for reading.