I-League comes full circle for Sathish Kumar

Chennai City FC’s goalkeeping coach Sathish Kumar is the first from Tamil Nadu to have won honours both as a player and a coach in the top tier of Indian football.

Sathish Kumar has had offers from ISL clubs but he refused them as he is content with Chennai City.   -  R.Ragu

Goalkeeper V.P. Sathish Kumar is among a handful of players from Tamil Nadu to have won an I-League (formerly National Football League) title.

However, the 35-year-old is the only one from the State to take honours both as a player and a coach in the top tier of Indian football .

“It gives me great satisfaction to have won I-League titles both as a player and coach from the State. I am really happy to have played a part,” Chennai City FC’s goalkeeping coach Sathish, who had won three NFL titles with East Bengal (2002-03) and Dempo SC (2004-05 & 06-07) and one I-League crown (Dempo in ’07-08), told Sportstar on Wednesday.

A collective effort

Sathish has been part of CCFC since the team made its debut in the I-League in 2016. The title win, he said, was due to the tactical nous of coach Akbar Nawas and the management of owner Rohit Ramesh. “Without the support of the entire staff including players, coach, support staff and the management, this wouldn’t have been possible,” said Sathish.

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After he quit playing competitive football in 2015, CCFC approached him and he grabbed the opportunity.

“In the first two years, we finished eighth. This time, we wanted to finish in the top three. We went match by match. Nawas followed the style of Manchester City. It effectively means that goalkeepers have to be good with feet. That’s the first criterion,” said Sathish.

Sathish said his role was to drill home to the goalkeeper the importance of communication and tell him to adapt to the formation the team was playing.

“My role was to enable the keeper to jell with other players and rectify mistakes he has committed,” he said.

Praise for Taufiq

Sathish rated CCFC custodian Kabir Taufiq high. “He is a youngster who can don India colours soon. He is aggressive and his reflexes are good. He needs match experience. Actually, in the first five matches he played, we didn’t lose,” said the former India player.

Though he has had offers from Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa, he has refused them as he is very content in CCFC.

“I am satisfied with Chennai City. We have the AFC Cup next year. I am happy here. The management has treated me well,” he said.

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