New Delhi: Sunday night was a night of celebration for the Indian football team. After all, it is not everyday that you manage to conquer the Indomitable Lions. Sleep was not the priority as Sunil Chetri & Co. celebrated their hat-trick of Nehru Cup triumphs all through the night.
With the trophy carefully placed on the front seat of the team bus, the players returned to their base camp, at Greater Noida, from the Nehru Stadium around midnight on Sunday. Thereafter, it was party time for the boys in blue.
The morning, however, was busy as at 6am, the players from Calcutta and Goa hurriedly packed their bags for journey back home. And surprisingly, coach Wim Koevermans was there for his boys at such an early hour as well. The Dutchman shook hands with each footballer and waited till the bus left for the airport.
“I don’t think I did something extraordinary by going to see my boys off,” Koevermans told The Telegraph later in the day. “We are all part of the same team, we wear the same jersey, we share the joy in victory and sorrow in defeat. I believe in team spirit… That’s the way I always look at things,” said the coach.
Already labelled the new messiah of Indian football, Koevermans has managed to inject a rare spirit in the team. Against Cameroon on Sunday, the Indians displayed a kind of courage and character that is rarely associated with them.
“The boys showed great spirit… Even when they were 1-2 down, they took the fight to the opposition camp. There is no magic in it... It all comes from what you do in the training. To me, the training sessions are very, very important. What we do in the training throughout the week, we should be able to produce the same at the weekend on the pitch.
“I was not too happy with the way things were going in the first half, especially after Cameroon drew level. During the half-time, I told the boys to follow exactly what we did during the training sessions for the past five weeks. Every time I got up from my seat at the technical area to speak to the boys, I looked at the eyes of each player and reminded them how we tackled problems during practice. Keep the ball and never lose the focus, I told them,” said the coach.
A member of the Netherlands team that won the Euro Cup in 1988, Koevermans has no particular idol in coaching but he has learned a lot from several top coaches. “I played football under Rinus Michels, the godfather of Dutch football. Later, as a coach I had the opportunity to interact with him during Uefa courses. I was also impressed by several coaches like Louis van Gaal and Marcelo Lippi… I picked up good things from a lot of top coaches and formed my own style.”
Asked whether India were ready to play teams like Japan or South Korea, the Dutch coach said it could be too early. “But after beating Cameroon, my boys have proved they are perfectly capable of challenging better teams. We should now play teams who are superior and we, too, stand a chance of winning,” he said.