BY SUDHAKAR SHANBHAG | NT
PANAJI: When Armando Colaco speaks he makes sense, absolute sense and therefore makes the right impact in Indian football, courtesy his sagacity.
At Dempo, Armando, through his enviable coaching style, has revolutionised the fortunes of the club, making it India’s No 1. And, what, with a record five I-League titles under his belt, Armando says that the league needs to get stronger as he pours in his years of experience and hard work, his lifeline in football.
“We need good facilities and money. Even if we make do with the facilities we have, the quality of football is not good enough. We need the league to get stronger,” observed Armando, stressing that Indian football needs the necessary conviction to take the right steps to move to the next level.
Armando feels that I-League does need top players from international market to attract crowd to the ground, but maintains that the way the league is being run presently it will bring an end of football in India.
“The way the I-League is run currently, it will bring the end of football in India. What type of administration doesn’t pay previous season’s prize money? For us to attract top talent, we need to make sure all this red tape is gone,” thundered Armando, adding: “Take for example the FIFA visits. They discuss they want to promote football in places like Gujarat, Guwahati and Bangalore. But what about those states which are already doing so much for the sport? No development there? There’s no strategy.”
“We also need conviction. To be honest, I signed Rohan Ricketts (former Arsenal, Tottenham and Wolves player) in ten minutes. The deal was done that fast. We’re also working on a deal with Shah Rukh Khan to see if he can attend a few matches. If people don’t want to see football, at least they come to the stadium to watch him,” India’s most successful club coach remarked.
Armando isn’t convinced that football in India has grown in the last two decades. “It has stagnated. We are still there. In fact, I would say that football was much better in my days. If we still had those players, we would be in top five of Asia,” stated the former India coach.
When prodded, what is stopping this growth, Armando listed out five reasons: One, everybody in India wants shortcut to success. Two, no grassroots development. Three, everybody is a coach - we don’t understand that kicking a ball and to teach how to kick a ball are two different things. Four, look at the federation. Does anyone in there know tactics? Do they know football? I don’t think so. And five, Indians don’t have faith in Indians.
“We are stuck in the belief that India cannot play football. If they believe we can, then development will happen,” added Armando.
On a personal count, Armando said there is no doubt that Dempo SC has become the top club in India in the last decade. “It goes without saying that we are the most successful side in the last 10 years. Look at our records… let them speak for themselves. And there’s no looking back from here.”
On the shift in power in football from Bengal to Goa, the Dempo coach said: “I can remember how everyone wanted to run to Kolkata a few years ago. It was never the other way round. No one wanted to come to Goa. But, since we started winning, players want to rush to the west (of India). I think the pivotal point in this was me signing Cristiano Junior from East Bengal. That pretty much started everything.”
On Dempo’s success formula, Armando remarked: “No secret at all, it’s all out in the open how we function. It’s about togetherness, about the pride of playing for a club like Dempo and the freedom that I get as a manager. The management has never asked me “why did you lose this game?”
“But credit must go to the players. I love my players and I let them know this. Even the owners are brilliant. That’s how it is at Dempo. There are no ego problems in our club. Everybody does all the work here. For example, I’m the one to lay out the cones, get the ball, set up goal-posts… there’s no difference between any member of the club. I think this atmosphere is what makes the club work so smoothly,” summed up Armando.