As the India U-16 colts gear up to play Lebanon in their second match on Sept 25, Ghosh spoke at length about AIFF's new philosophy, the technical expertise of Robert Baan, Scott O'Donell, Wim Koevermans, Raymond Verheijen, his nimble footed boys, the preparation for the Championship and much more. Excerpts:
How has your preparation been?
It has been good but there were interruptions in between as nature found it best to conspire against us. It rained like anything this season in Kolkata and our training ground was flooded and we lost some days. However, All India Football Federation shifted us to a hotel and arranged for training at the Salt Lake Stadium. Thereafter, we shifted base to Dubai where we played two practice matches, one of which was against the UAE U-17 National Team which recently won the Gulf Championship. The match ended 1-1. We were based at the Al Wasl Football Club and the facilities were simply out of the World. Within one Campus, we had the luxury of nine Training Grounds.
How much of an input did you get from Scott O'Donell?
Scott (O'Donell) helps us with his technical expertise. He keeps tab of our developmental process. He visits us once in a month or even more and looks after our curriculum and monitors whether the Developmental Process is on the right track. And even when he isn't physically present, he guides us over e-mails and phone.
Robert Baan also keeps tab of our training schedules and results. Only the other day I received a mail from him wishing us luck for the U-16 Championships. It was a huge motivation not only for the boys but even for the staff. It doesn't end there. Even National Coach Wim Koevermans and Sunil Chhetri's concern and messages inspire us a lot. We all look upto them.
Robert Baan and Scott (O'Donell) has insisted on a new philosophy for Indian Football. Was it difficult to implement it?
There's no end to learning. One needs to be flexible. When someone like Robert Baan and Scott O'Donell or Wim Koevermans (in coaching courses) teaches you something, you need to understand there's a reason behind it. There's a trend prevalent among many and they criticise any new concept.
But what they fail to understand is that had we been self sufficient in Football, these Coaches wouldn't have tried to show us the path. In that case, we needn't have turned to them for their expertise.
Take from example, Raymond Verheijen. All he had taught in his Workshop in New Delhi is being implemented. Earlier, my idea of warm-ups, pre-season training, etc stayed different. But now we all have been enlightened. There's no harm in learning from people who know better.
We have been following the new philosophy of playing possessional Football and it's working. And when results follow, there's always that feel good factor.
How did the boys respond?
Teaching the boys was perhaps the easiest thing because they are young. When we came together in April 2011, some were not even 14. It's always fun to teach a kid, it's so satisfying to teach a kid. We were told to stress on the basics and everyone is invited to come and watch my boys. If you ever believe we are not teaching properly, do criticize.
Will results follow?
Surely it will! But one needs to be patient. The perception which upsets me is that when Manchester United loses, everyone rallies behind David Moyes saying 'He is a Great Coach. Stand by him.' But unfortunately, the same people bring out their daggers in a flash when the Indian Team (all age-groups) lose. Isn't that contradicting?
Football is no magic and it's not that we have been in the top 20. In fact, never! Developmental Process takes time and we just cannot afford to ignore the expertise which we are being taught.
Age fraud - how big a hurdle is that?
It's a Cancer and we need to cure it and you don't need Gamma Ray radiation to cure it. You just need to be honest.
Age-fraud is a perennial problem. Right from my playing days I have seen overage Players being fielded in age-group Tournaments all across the Country. The education which should be imparted to a 13-year old is always different from what should be taught to a 10-year old and vice versa. It all boils down to honesty.
Countries that have advanced from Asia have never compromised with age fraud. My boys drew with the Japan Football Association's U-14 National Team in 2011. The match ended 1-1. Even this time for the AFC Qualifiers we could have bought some over-age Players. But we didn't. And under the new philosophy of AIFF, we won't.
What do you expect in the next match against Lebanon?
I trust the ability of boys. In the first match we couldn't play to our full potential. But I feel confident the boys will rise to the occasion. It was their first AFC Tournament and they, all below 15, took time to settle down. And when they did, you saw what they are capable of. My boys are very quick learners and don't repeat mistakes often.
The English coach of the UAE U-17 team praised our style of play and even commented that the boys are tactically very good. That, I think is a big compliment. And it's not only him. Even the Coaches of all the Teams we have played in Kolkata including some Kolkata Senior Division Teams, did tell us the same.
Your boys are all below 15 and this is an AFC U-16 Tournament. All the other Teams have the physical advantage over India. How will your boys cope up with that?
If you look at the history of the sport, most Great Players have been around 5'10. Obviously, they were all Greats and our boys haven't yet begun their careers. But it is from this age that boys start idolising players. Physique isn't the last word in Football.
What's the biggest asset of this bunch of boys?
Team spirit! It's all about Team work and we are all playing our roles in a big joint family. There are no ego clashes among any the harmonious relationship between the staff and the boys is being reflected on the field. The most important point stays that besides churning them into good Players, we need to guide them to be good human beings. Their parents have trusted us and have allowed them to stay with us. We just cannot let them down.
--IBNS (Posted on 24-09-2013)