ISL needs to take criticism positively

A little bit of criticism, or a negative comment from coaches or players and the response is often harsh with threats of fines and suspension.

“If we all sat here and said nothing, then it’s a waste of all the coaches’ experience,” said Kerala Blasters' Steve Coppell.   -  Sreenivisa Murthy

It has got some of the biggest names and best brains in world football, including Brazil legend Zico, and that should offer a wonderful opportunity for the folks who are running the Indian Super League (ISL) and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to pick up a few things to improve the sport in the country.

But it looks like the officials only want to hear the good things about the league. A little bit of criticism, or a negative comment from coaches or players and the response is often harsh with threats of fines and suspension.

One even gets the worrying feeling that there is a sort of gag order on coaches here.

“If we all sat here and said nothing, then it’s a waste of all the coaches’ experience,” said former England World Cupper Steve Coppell, the Kerala Blasters head coach, at the Lulu Marriott here on Friday.

LISTEN TO COACHES

“You know, just because sometimes, the federation might not like what the coaches say, it doesn’t mean that it’s not beneficial. If the facilities are not great, don’t put your head in the sand and say they are brilliant because they have to be improved.

“If the standard of officiating in these games is not consistent, or is not consistent as it should be, then I think it’s the responsibility of coaches to say that this can be improved,” said the Kerala coach.

Zico, the FC Goa coach, had been very upset with the standard of officiating in the ISL and said that his team had suffered on a few occasions because of it.

That brought out a strong response from the AIFF the other day.

Meanwhile Marco Materazzi, the 2006 Italian World Cup winner, was a bit cautious when speaking about the incidents that followed his team Chennaiyin’s recent goalless draw against Kerala Blasters in Chennai.

“If I speak out, I will be banned for 21 days,” said the Chennaiyin head coach who was hit with a one-match suspension after that game.

“After what happened, I think it’s pretty obvious that I can’t speak out my mind. So if they don’t want to exploit my experience and other coaches’ experience, that’s fine with me,” added Materazzi.

NO MORE HUGS OR HANDSHAKES

He also revealed that he would stop exchanging pleasantries after games.

“I just wanted to shake hands and have a couple of words with Belfort (the Blasters player). Because, according to ISL regulations, we are supposed to shake hands and talk to each other after games but obviously, that’s not what they want,” he explained. “So from now on, we are not going to do it any more.”

Coppell said that the federation and the ISL could absorb a lot of things if they took coaches’ comments positively.

“Sometimes, you know, it’s not as good as they would like but don’t deny it. Sometimes, it’s apparent for all to see and to improve season by season… actions have to be taken,” said the 61-year-old, a former Manchester United star.