The Indian Football Transfer Season has been refreshingly different this time around with a host of quality players joining the I-League. On the other hand, some Indian players also went for trials in Europe following the footsteps of Sunil Chettri. All India Football Federation, rarely out of news, be it positive or negative, also chipped in with their contribution.
AIFF, celebrating its 75th anniversary, was in news because of the recently concluded Coaching Seminar, the never-ending row with I-League clubs and the plans to launch an IPL-esque league with a shorter I-League. TheHardTackle takes a look at these events and puts in perspective the importance of each for the game in India.
AIFF Coaching Seminar
AIFF organised a five day Coaching Seminar from from July 16 to July 20, 2012 which saw the likes Rob Baan, National Coach Wim Koevermans, Technical Director (Regional and Elite Academies) Scott O’Donell and Head Coach (Youth Development) Colm Toal addressing the seminar on a regular basis. A number of coaches were invited from various regions as Rob Bann and Co. looked to share their future agenda of improving Indian Football. The purpose of the seminar was to inform coaches about the possession style of playing football that the national team will aim to adopt.
The Seminar attracted 67 coaches from across the nation with some prominent faces being Prasanta Banerjee, Godfrey Pereira, Tanumoy Basu, Mumbai FC coach Khalid Jamil, Syed Sabir Pasha, former national and now assistant coach Savio Medeira, Aqueel Ansari and Noushad Moosa. The Seminar started off with a talk from Rob Bann where he shared his vision to take the game forward in the country. This was followed by a practical session with the U-17 national team to show match related tactics. Baichung Bhutia was the guest speaker on the first day and lauded AIFF efforts
Let’s not stay stuck in the 60s and the 70s. Let’s embrace the new concepts. From my experience, I have starved for the right kind of training for long. This initiative by AIFF is an excellent one. It’s the right beginning.
The Seminar also had sessions on improving physical fitness of players and prevention of various types of injuries. The Seminar focused on the fact that development, more than results, should be given importance in lower age group levels. Head Coach Youth Development, Colm Toal was also all praise for the AIFF and said -
This is such a wonderful initiative to get so many Coaches under one roof, that too for a week. It gives us the idea to exchange ideas. This was long due.We need to talk and question each other. Coaching is all about opinion and nothing is correct and definite. The more the opinion, the more the ideation.At the Youth Development Programme, winning doesn’t matter; but development does. You all as Coaches need to differentiate it. It’s necessary to strike the balance and marry both.
The third day was perhaps the most important one as national coach Wim Koevermans demonstrated various match strategies. Highlighting on the importance of choosing a formation based on the opponent, Koevermans presented a practical demonstration of tactics. The seminar concluded with a football fest where 60 children in the age group of 6-12 participated.
The seminar was indeed a step in the right direction by the AIFF which has time and again come under the hammer for alienating the I-League clubs from the national team. The seminar was a great opportunity for I-League clubs to understand the philosphy which will be adopted by national team in near future. The event was also marred by controversy as several coaches from top I-League clubs stayed away. Nonetheless, this was an important step forward from AIFF.
AIFF – Club Row
As clubs turned a blind eye to the coaching seminar, there were also reports that they were unwilling to release their players for the preparatory camp for upcoming Nehru Cup. Clubs were reportedly unhappy about releasing their players on the non-FIFA match days each time such an event is organised. The matter got so aggrevated that even Baichung Bhutia jumped in saying
Everyone should support India’s cause for betterment of football and if the country wins, everyone, the clubs, the players and even media would be benefited. We can not compare ourselves with the players in Germany, Spain and European nations as their two week-time is enough. But for Indians we know that we need more and more training to do well in any international tournament.If the clubs take part in very important tournaments like AFC, FIFA or any other international events than in that case the matter is different.
It has become almost a perennical event in Indian Football with clubs and AIFF clashing over the release of players. The unfortunate turn of events has confused players about their chances of making it to the preparatory camp and the same worry was echoed by Sanju Pradhan in a recent interview.
Football Version of IPL
Buoyed by the success of IPL and the World Series Hockey, AIFF is planning to start its own version of IPL type league which will feature marquee players. The AIFF is keen on improving the outlook of the game across India and is holding initial level of talks with IMG-Reliance and there are very strong indications that such a league might take off sooner than expected. In a recent interview, AIFF General Secretary Mr. Kushal Das said
Everything is at a discussion stage and nothing has been finalised as of now. But we do plan to hold an IPL style league.
If all goes according to plans the likes of Hernan Crespo and Fabio Cannavaro may be playing alongside the likes of Jeje, Raju and Mehtab. Only drawback of the start of such a league is the reduction of number of matches in I-League. According to the new plan that has been reported in certain newspapers , the proposed IPL type league will kick-off in January and I-League will be split into two zones – East and West. Top two or three teams from each region will then compete for the title.
The clubs are likely to oppose this move as it would mean lesser playing time for them and it is not likely that the clubs would release their players for such a franchise based event. An AIFF backed event is most likely to succeed, unlike the PLS, but it needs to be properly planned and it should not cut down the matches in I-League which is still the league to unearth new talent in the country.
The Big Picture
The Coaching Seminar was indeed a step in right direction as AIFF looked to bring the I-League clubs in tune with the vision it has in mind but the AIFF-Club row and the boycott of the Seminar by a lot of clubs were two events which don’t inspire confidence among the fans across the nation.
As for the IPL styled league, it is no doubt a welcome step but the AIFF needs to make I-League more popular and also retain its value as the most important domestic tournament.