Chennai City's Akbar Nawas: Watching players improve was the greatest satisfaction

Reflecting on Chennai City's title-winning campaign, coach Akbar Nawas explained how his domestic players improved incredibly, which gave him the utmost pleasure.

Akbar Nawas guided Chennai City to its 2018-19 I-League title.   -  Twitter/@ChennaiCityFC

Akbar Nawas, who forged a strong partnership between four foreigners and a bunch of homegrown players from Tamil Nadu to win the I-League title for Chennai City FC, revealed that it was not easy to find the right balance.

Nawas said the local players initially struggled to match the wavelength of the foreigners in training sessions and unnecessarily ran too much without passing the ball to their foreign teammates.

“To have raw talent at your disposal and build them to a different level was a challenge. But at Chennai City, I increased the level of Spanish players. Because when you increase the level of foreign players, the level of your local players increases twofold,” he said.

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The local boys were raw and lacked experience, making Nawas’ job doubly difficult, but he stuck with the project, gradually improving the side. “The credit goes to Rohit (Ramesh). He asked me to try and work out if something could be done with Tamil Nadu players. He understood that I would like to pick players from across the country and didn’t pressurise me to include local talent. I could see he was really interested in the development of Tamil Nadu players,” Nawas said.

“I wasn’t aware of Tamil Nadu football, but my philosophy is that every player can be coached. However, how far the player goes depends solely on him. With that mindset, we went ahead and built on the talent we had. Eventually, we exceeded our expectations.”

Chennai City defeated Minerva Punjab 3-1 in the final fixture of the season to seal the championship –becoming the first team from Tamil Nadu to win the I-League. It gathered 43 points from 20 matches, losing just three games.

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While Pedro Manzi and Nestor Gordillo stole most of the limelight owing to their standout performances, Indian players like Ajith Kumar, Sri Ram, and Alexander Romario were also an integral part of Chennai’s success.  

“Watching the players improve gave me the biggest satisfaction from our title-winning season because I never believed I could build or improve them to this magnitude. In my coaching career, so far, usually the players improve by a level or two, not higher. But players here improved multifold – that was my greatest achievement apart from lifting the trophy.”

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