Indians look for new direction

Indians look for new direction

India football coach Savio Medeira may not have been in the top saddle for very long, but he has already learned the valuable art of stressing the positives and not putting undue pressure on the players.

By Ramdas Volvoikar

Published: Sat 18 Feb 2012, 1:09 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 2:14 AM

And no other than the present Indian football team would be in need for a dose of inspiration from Medeira right now as it embarks on a tough AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal next month.

Medeira credits developing this personality trait to his stint under former India coach Bob Hougton. “Bob was a great professional. He had tremendous management skills and I was lucky to work under him,”’ says the 46-year-old, who arrived in Dubai with the 30-member strong Indian team for a preparatory camp ahead of the AFC campaign.

The Indian team is in a transition period and most feel the gaping hole left by the exit of Baichung Bhutia, Climax Lawrence and Mahesh Gawli at one go would be difficult to fill. But not Medeira. “There comes a time when every senior player has to make an exit. Coincidentally and unfortunately we lost Bhutia, Lawrence and Gawli at the same time. We can’t fill this void overnight but I am confident that we have some good players who are battle-hardened and up for the big show. Midfielder Lenny Rodrigues of Churcill Brothers, Pune FC’s Lestor Fernandes, also a midfielder, and defender Raju, a Tata Football Academy product and currently with East Bengal, willl be some of the players to watch out for in future,” remarks Medeira, whose contract with the All India Football Federation runs out till May 2012.

India team may not have the rich calibre compared to other national teams, but it doesn’t lack passion or commitment to scale greater heights, feels Medeira.

“This is a young team... Everyone wants to contribute. There are no big names except for Sunil Chetri who is extraordinary. The team spirit is the plus point of the team,” says Medeira while insisting that there are no minus points.

The coach feels India can make big strides into the AFC competition despite being clubbed into the Group of Death with defending champions North Korea, Tajikistan and Philippines being the other teams in Group B while hosts Nepal, Turkmenistan, Palestine and Maldives in the remaining group.

“North Korea is a World Cup-playing side, and obviously it is the team to be feared the most. However, we can take heart from the fact that two teams can make it to the next stage. That is good enough for a spot in the league tournament ... If we can hold it against other teams,” explains Medeira, who spent his entire career with Salgaocar SC in India beginning 1983 and finally retiring in 2000.

India are coming into the tournament with a SAFF Cup victory under their belt. The ‘Men in Blue’ defended the SAFF Championship title by beating Afghanistan last year. Medeira’s side were unbeaten in the competition after being thrashed by Zambia 5-0 in a friendly on the eve of the competition. This title should provide the necessary fillip to the team.

“There is no better feeling than a title victory before going into a big tournament, and we will be carrying that optimism in Nepal,” says Medeira. The Indian team had some good news as they have moved up the FIFA rankings ladder to the 154th spot and are placed 27th in the Continent. They have jumped four places up in the latest edition of the rankings released this month.

Indians can look for more positive notes from football once the four FIFA training academies are started in the country. “The AIFF has planned to start academies in the next few months with Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata and Sikkim being the probable centres. If we have to improve the profile and create a new market for football in India, it is essential that a structured development programme is put in place which will churn out class players.”

“This can be done only by having good academies which in turn will improve the performance and ranking of the Indian national team,” adds Medeira.

As part of the Dubai camp, the Indian team will tour Oman for a warm-up tie on February 23. This will be followed by two friendlies in Dubai- on February 27 against Azerbaijan and on March 1 against an Iranian team.

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