The renowned Tata Football Academy is by far the best football academy in Indian currently. Over the years, their contribution to the Indian National Team is comparable to that of Ajax Amestardam on the Dutch National Team. A major factor behind TFA’s incredible success stories was Mr Ranjan Chowdhury, a man credited with developing some of the best Indian players in recent times. Under his tutelage TFA boys often upset some of the bigger clubs in India. TheHardTackle’s Amod D. Kulkarni caught up with Mr Chowdhury and discussed about his plans with his new club – Pune FC.

The Man himself – Ranjan Chowdhury

Who was the best coach you’ve ever served under as a player ? What was your most memorable moment during your playing days ?

I stayed in Germany for the most part. Studied at the Sports University Cologne and played for the Univ team. Rotte Muller is my Godfather. Worked with him for 3 years. He is now the Technical Director of the German national team. And yes, I have made a lot of good friends, Klaus Augenthelar was very close . I have had very good interactions with professional coaches mostly in Germany, as my family continues to stay in Germany .

You had a long and fruitful career with Tata Football Academy , what made you choose Pune Fooball Club ?

Yes. (Laughs). Nice Question ! One academy is not enough. We need atleast 10-12 different academies across India to promote Indian football and raise our standards. My aim is to be the best in Asia in 2018. Thats my target!

Why Pune FC?

Tell us a bit about PFC’s player recruitment policy. Do we have a catchment area to scout players or are they taken in based on applications?

We have a plan. Currently we have started scouting from the north east and Punjab. We have developed scouters. Personally I have worked for 20 years in TFA and have lot of interactions to draw upon. I have called 60 boys from across the country and we’ll have a look at them over the next 15 days.

Can you give us a picture of the routine these boys follow? How many age groups do we have ?

We have U-15 , U-17 and U-19 youth programs. I developed this training package which stretches for about 1800 hours in all . Basically there are 4 phases – the Fundamental phase, the Training to train phase , the Training to compete phase and finally the Training to win Phase. We work on all phases very scientifically. Its not yet developed in its entirety but by April we hope to have things functional here in Mamurdi.

PFC Reserves have done well this season at All India level Tournaments like the Saras Gold Cup and KP Jadhav Memorial. Will some of these players make it to the next level , that is the Senior team?

Of course, there are at least 4-5 players who can match skills with the senior team. Definitely.

What are the biggest challenges in handling young players ?

You know, there should be a road map. I believe in having such a road map. What should be one’s target , what one can realistically hope to achieve. I have seen so many players. All work hard. But they dont target anything specifically for the next 2 years. Now with such a youth development program in place they will know precisely what they can achieve. Because that is the most important thing.

Pune FC is one of the most professionally managed club in the country. Clubs like FC Kochin and Bengal Mumbai FC have found the going tough before. Do you think professional clubs are finding it tough because Indian Football is, for the most part, so unprofessional ?

Look , I have traveled to countries in the African continent. They don’t even have proper pitches. But they have a dream and they believe they can reach the world level. They started 15 years ago and now they have achieved it. So everything is possible. Honestly , where we lack is mainly cause we start playing very late. Any sport if you start at age of 14-15 years then its too late. So we miss the main period which is 8 -12 years. That’s the fundamental age. Its not that we are not professional. If we miss the early period then we will surely not catch up even at the Asian level. All other kids start at 10-12 years. Anywhere, and in any field, if you want to be successful you have to cover a certain amount of training.

Thoughts on Indian Football System

Your thoughts about India’s performance in Asian Cup.

Played well . Played tactically . We are moving up. Everybody knows whats going on in world soccer. But we now have to have a second feeder team. Football ought to revolve around the 20-25 years age-group but the current average age in Indian Team is 28 years !

Finally, what do you think the biggest difference between Indian Football and other Asian teams is?

I think we are playing with a very very slow pace. Conditionally too, we are weak. But most importantly physiologically we are very very weak. Mentally we have to be strong. Its the most important area. We have to be very careful. All talents are same. Indian talent maybe equal to other Asian talents. God has given everybody same and equal amounts of power, although concentrated in different areas. It all depends on how we use it!