Humour is an easily noticeable thing about coach Akbar Nawas. One gets a sense the mood will be light-hearted wherever he is.
“Just don’t think. That way you’ll score many goals,” he shouts across at a player and laughs as his team Chennai City FC practised at the Sri Ramachandra University in Porur here on Monday. It was the last day of an around three-week practice for the team in the city. The team has practised at the University and the Tiki Taka artificial football turf (Velachery).
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As some of the new young (u-22) players, whom the club has signed for the ongoing season, settle down for a chat with Sportstar , Nawas comes over and earnestly says, “Hey, you’re interviewing the young players?! They’re not worth it.” Then, cracks up.
He’s amusing and the players go with it, yet there’s no getting carried away. And he, going by the team’s last I-League campaign, seems to get the job done too.
“He’s very friendly,” says the 18-year-old centre back Bijay Chhetri, who was with the I-League club Indian Arrows.
“Whatever he (the coach) says, we follow. Most of the young players the club has signed this time haven’t been before in a professional setup like this.
“He comes up with the practice schedule the day before practice. Generally, in the practice here, we’ve had a near one-and-a-half-hour play everyday. We’ve had one or two fitness sessions every week,” says the 21-year-old midfielder H.A.C. Ahmed Sahib, who hails from Tuticorin.
“Our play session is hard and intense that it is in itself a fitness session,” says the 21-year-old defender M. Pradison, who hails from Kanyakumari.
“Positional play is something that’s been remarkable in our training. That’s something not focused much on at the college level,” he adds. Ahmed concurs.
“We are looking forward to and excited about the season ahead. We are eager to repose the faith the coach has in us,” says the 18-year-old forward Monish Kumar of Bengaluru.
The team couldn’t make it to the knockout stage of the Durand Cup held recently, yet the coach says the young players were “dominant against teams that have been together for a long time”.
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According to Ingulab, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the club, the team will leave for Coimbatore on Tuesday for practice there, and will then participate in the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup (Oct. 19-30) in Bangladesh.
Nawas says: “It’s still too early to say anything (about the young players and how the team’s been shaping up). But I’m very happy we’ve got this Bangladesh tournament.
“That will be a real indicator. And then, I can give you a better indication of what we can do during the (I-League) season.”