Odisha FC interim head coach, Joaqiun ‘Kino’ Garcia Sanchez, was full of praises for Indian players in this season’s Indian Super League (ISL) and believes the country has a bright future in the sport.
In an interview to Sportstar , he said, “I think India has a bright future in football. I think there are a lot of good players here.”
“The players are coachable – they want to learn, they want to improve. They follow instructions, they want to be better players, they work hard. The Indian players that we have in the team, like Nandhakumar (Sekar) and Jerry (Mawihmingthanga)– I think they have evolved and the level of the players is improving as the competition gets better.”
The Spaniard is a UEFA Professional licence holder in football management and has been a part of the DV7 football project, under former Spain and Barcelona striker David Villa. He suggested on similar lines to improve the country’s football framework through more structure.
“You see Liston (Colaco), Manvir (Singh), or even Aniket (Jadhav) of Hyderabad FC – so we are having a lot of talent in the teams in India. Of course, they need experience and time to get into the match, (which will be possible) through the I-League, the Indian Super League, and proper structure.”
“For me, one of the keys for a country to evolve – because I have been in countries with professional and academy teams – is a good system for tough competitions.”
“India is a big country. You have talent, you have good players. You need to develop a system of high-level competition, so when the players arrive in the first team, they are ready to compete,” he added.
Kino is not the first one from ISL to suggest modifications in the league with Jamshedpur FC head coach Owen Coyle and Mumbai City FC captain Mourtada Fall, both suggesting more games for the improvement of players this season.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has already decided to include the I-League champion into ISL from the 2023-24 season, leading to more games.
Kino had joined Odisha FC as an assistant coach ahead of the 2021-22 season. After the team’s loss to Kerala Blasters, when the Kalinga Warriors parted ways with its head coach, Kiko Ramirez, Kino rose as the panacea, appointed in the interim role till the end of the season.
“It is not something that we wanted but this is football and these things happen. The club decided that I have to lead the club till the end of the season – to try to motivate them, to try to change some things in training so that they feel good every day at work and that is something we are doing,” he said.
However, this is not his first encounter with Indian football. Kino has managed Levante UD's women’s team for several seasons, when it faced India in the 2018 COTIF Cup. The match saw India’s goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan sent off as Levante crushed the Indian Tigresses 5-0 on its way to a record fourth title.
“In the group stage, we faced India,” Kino recollects, “though we won the match, they were improving and we were surprised [with their performance] because India is not a country known for women’s football and four years ago they were developing.”
“I think they are improving, but what has happened is difficult to give an opinion. But I feel bad for the players because it must be very hard to pull out of the competition in your own country,” he further added, talking about India’s exit from the AFC Women’s Asian Cup owing to a COVID-19 outbreak in the team.
In the ISL this season Odisha FC looks to be done with aspirations for a semifinal playoff spot, but Garcia is optimistic about the team’s foundation for the upcoming seasons.
“You need to understand... we want to make Odisha a big club," said Garcia.
"The good thing is to establish a good base – build things in a proper way and continue to grow every season and become a club to be in the top half of the league regularly. So, my objective is to complete the season and keep the fans happy.”
Odisha FC had the second highest number of Spaniards in the team (4) after FC Goa (5), starting the season with the head coach and the assistant manager also from the same country.
Six months later, Garcia has one wish to take away from the season – to continue in ISL.
“I hope so (laughs). This is a decision not in my hands. I am really happy in India. The bubble has been really hard for everybody, but the club made sure and we were in good mood in the camp, the staff is good together. So, if I have a chance and the club agrees, I would love to stay in India,” he said.
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