Age no bar: New pursuit for Olympian Maneypanda Somaya

At 60, the three-time hockey Olympian has enrolled for AIFF’s D-Licence certification course.

Maneyapanda Somaya during the AIFF D-Licence football coaching course at Cooperage stadium on Wednesday.   -  Vivek Bendre

Fuelled by passion for football, Maneypanda Somaya is taking a new turn in life at 60. Having recently retired as Executive Director at Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, the senior citizen is learning to be a football coach at the entry level when others his age and armed with professional expertise may prefer a consulting role in the private sector.

Incidentally, he also led the India men’s hockey squad at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and is a three-time hockey Olympian.

The oldest trainee in a batch of 30 at the Cooperage ground, he enrolled for the All India Football Federation’s D-Licence Certification course, conducted by Western India Football Federation (WIFA), the state governing body for the sport. Applicants need to be above 18 with football experience in Mumbai.

‘Passion’

“Football was always my passion in school and college here. I was away from the sport due to a long hockey career and corporate life. I was in touch by watching matches and playing. I am looking forward to getting involved in some way. The structured approach to coaching attracted me to this programme,” Somaya said.

He added: “I joined only to enhance my knowledge and be in touch with football. After the course is over and if I do get my licence, I will leave it to circumstances how things pan out. Honestly, at the moment, the only thing is to rekindle my passion for the sport. If there is no coaching assignment after this, I would be very happy with just the knowledge gained. Fitness is a challenge. I am playing after eight to 10 years, so trying to push myself and get fitter.”

‘Global sport’

Somaya, a hockey Arjuna awardee, retired from competitive sport after 1988 Seoul (Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984 were two other Olympic appearances) and retired from BPCL in 2017 at 58. Two years later, he chose football ahead of hockey or corporate life. “In hockey, there are coaching programmes, but football has a stronger structure. The challenges are much more than hockey, since football is truly a global sport, played by more people across age groups everywhere in India. Consulting did not interest me because I had a full corporate life,” Somaya said.

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He has no club to coach after the course as yet, but is excited to use management skills in learning something new. “In my capacity working with BPCL as Executive Director and as member of the senior management council, mentoring new entrants was part of the job. I acquired skills, [it’s] given me the benefit for life,” he said.

‘Huge subject’

The hockey international had competed earlier in the Harwood Football League (for Mahindra Tractors) and the First Division (Catholic Gymkhana, Dadar XI). “I am three decades behind [fellow trainees at the course]. I played many years ago at the highest levels in Mumbai. The younger lot are more knowledgable, the coaching techniques have changed, there is so much to learn. Enrolling for the D-Licence is only a part of it. Football is a huge subject and we are probably only touching the outer crust here.”

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Like most Mumbai hockey aces, football was a constant companion from schooldays at St. Mary’s and a passion right through at Mahindra & Mahindra (playing football and hockey). “I was initially a footballer and as a converted hockey player; football footwork and agility was always an asset in hockey at every level. I was able to draw on the football experience during my hockey career.”

Now at 60, he is proving that learning never stops.

The D-Licence Certification is a basic course and other coaching levels are C, B, A for pro coaches up the ranks. Conducted by WIFA under the supervision of instructors Jeddy Almeida and Mangesh Desai, the six-day course involves theory, practical classes from 8am-6.30 pm daily, followed by home work. Applicants are asked to draft a coaching plan for the next day's sessions. organising the drill, technique, next level of progression. The state body conducts such courses in all districts to set up a data bank of coaches and uniformity in teaching methods.

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