The All India Football Federation (AIFF) will have its hands full in the next few days, trying to prevent the AFC ban on hosting international matches. If the ban is effected, no doubt it will peg back our plans of resurgence as things were moving towards the better in the last year or so. But even as it tries to fight the ban, it should immediately pay attention to what should have been done months back.
We have succeeded in recruiting a professional coach for a sizeable period and the AIFF deserves praise for garnering the funds required. But it has failed to get Stephen Constantine to interact with our club coaches, who have dealt with the players for years. The same players will be under Constantine during international events and conditioning camps and the former can only gain if he speaks to the club coaches.
I distinctly remember that at least a few of these coaches had expressed their desire to exchange notes with Constantine, but for reasons unknown to me, nothing has materialised. The initiative, needless to say, should come from the national body, but nothing to this effect has been heard of till date.
Why should the national coach interact with the club coaches' Being a foreign professional, the coach must first form an idea about the background of our players. We know it can be wildly diverse in a country such as ours and inputs from club coaches, who work with these players day in and day out, can only be valuable. He is sure to learn more on apparently trivial things like food habits, the way of living and attitude.
We all know the grammar of coaching of a foreign professional and our homebred coaches is different. But since the same players will be under Constantine for a part of the year and with Subhas Bhowmick, Subrata Bhattacharya or Marcos Pacheco for the rest of it, some sort of balance is needed.
A very simple example: Constantine is trying to regularise the 3-5-2 format with which most of our coaches are not very familiar, though some of them are trying to get used to it. If Constantine makes his views clear on what exactly he is trying to achieve, our coaches will find it easier to understand how to go about their job.
Indians are way behind in fitness, even by Asian standards and Constantine is rightly trying to address this problem. But if the players follow one programme under him and revert back to our conventional methods after that, I donít think the best of results will follow. This is the most crucial area, and rather than criticising the Mohun Bagan coach for fielding a half-fit Bhaichung Bhutia in a crucial match, Constantine will do better to share some of his precious knowledge with these people.
Maybe people like Subrata donít know as much as Constantine does, but whatís the harm in sharing the knowledge' Especially with Indiaís interest at stake' But then, itís the duty of the AIFF to take it up and ensure that some sort of interaction takes place. It may not yield stupendous results but on the other hand, it canít have detrimental effects either.
I have seen reports that Sven-Goran Eriksson made it a point to meet the club coaches after taking charge of the England team, even though he wasnít on the best of terms with a few. Even here, Englishman Ron Midds, who was on a coaching assignment in the 1950s and recommended that yours truly be included in the national squad, found time to speak to Indian coaches. So what is the problem now'