Your first season in Kolkata wasn’t that bad. Are you satisfied?
A: One can’t be satisfied because that means the start of the downfall. I think we could have done better both in AFC and I-League, where I think we still have a chance to win. Having said that, I don’t want to take anything out of what the team did during this season. It was a long tough season, especially given our small operational group. I feel proud that Bagan have taken the lead to end Kolkata football’s struggle - this was the best season for Bagan since 2001 and the best for any Kolkata club in the last 5 years.
Between Goa and Kolkata, where do you think is the work atmosphere better?
A: For me it does not matter. I am a professional coach and I should give my best wherever I am, no matter what the working atmosphere is. It’s definitely different but not necessarily better here or there. Pressure is tremendous on the Kolkata teams. Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations; winning every game, winning every competition. It is simply impossible. But what is strange is that some of these people are part of the football fraternity and also claim to understand the game. You just look at Mohun Bagan this season. We are the most successful team in the city but yet we are the most criticised in Kolkata by a section of the media, some ex-players and even some coaches. In contrast, the football community all over India highlights and praises our team. This does not help the cause of Bengal’s football.
Do you think that one match (against East Bengal) scuppered your calculations in the I-League?
A: Not really. If we are finding it difficult in the home stretch of the I-League, it’s because of the first five games where we did not win even one match. I know some coaches can claim success because of one match but I am not that lucky. My club is more demanding. My club wants trophies not only one match!
Do you think the city attaches too much importance to one match?
A: It is normal for the fans to give importance to derby matches but we as professionals have to keep it in perspective as well. I don’t think I will keep my job just by winning only against East Bengal. Trophies are what matters in football.
How difficult is it playing in Asia and the I-League simultaneously with the roster that Indian teams have?
A: Extremely difficult. Especially when the "operational group" is too small; players can’t play 100% games of the season. Take for example Cristiano Ronaldo. He started only 60% of the games last season because there are good replacements for him. For us, we don’t have any replacements for players like Baichung Bhutia, Jose Barreto, Ishfaq Ahmed, Marcos, Deepak Mondal. The replacements need time to mature.
Don’t you think that coaches should have more say in team building?
What are your plans for the coming season?
A: Sometimes it is not possible because the coach can be changed in the middle of the season or can be hired after the crucial transfer market. So, the coach must have the ability to work with what he has.
You have worked with the best strikers on show. Who has impressed you most?
A: Odafa, Mboyo, Baichung, Barreto, even the youngster Branco all are good strikers - each one of them has his own approach to the game and has strengths but all of them are effective and can get you goals. I enjoyed working with each of them.
Lastly, do you think I-League is the answer to India’s footballing woes?
A: I-League is definitely a strong asset for Indian football. National team is another one and youth development is the forgotten one. If you take a look at the three assets, they are closely linked to each other. They have to go all together without one harming the other one because all are a must for any progress to happen.
Source: Times of India