Pasha: Marco has taught me how to manage big players

Syed Sabir Pasha, with an AFC pro licence, is Chennaiyin FC’s assistant coach, and the head of its grassroots development programme. He spoke to Sportstar here on Wednesday.

Chennayin FC Assistant coach Syed Sabir Pasha in conversation.   -  K. Pichumani

It’s imperative for an ISL club to scour and spot promising players from the region it’s based out of. It helps the club raise its own breed of players for its benefit, ensuring beside, that that small little box of social obligation - aiding players develop - also checks on its own. It is only highly resourceful if the player scouting is headed by a person with regional connect. And, in Syed Sabir Pasha, Chennaiyin FC has secured a deep regional connect, and a surplus wealth of experience.

The 43-year-old Pasha, with an AFC pro licence, is the club’s assistant coach, and the head of its grassroots development programme. He spoke to Sportstar here on Wednesday.

On his primary role in the team

My role, primarily, is to bridge the communication gap between the head coach and the players. I also contribute for the on-field tactics, and do whatever Marco asks of me. This is a big platform for me since I not only get to coach, but also learn from the other coaching staff, especially Marco Materazzi.

On how his experience with the team has been so far

It’s been great. Being with a legend like Marco, is in itself great. And, the biggest education for me has been to get to know how to manage foreign players of high calibre. That’s something you don’t get to learn in Indian football. Because it’s the players that I’ve played with, or known for a long time that I manage there, and thus it becomes easy to do it.

On playing without Mendoza, Elano, and Pelissari this season

They were there. They did the job. They are outstanding players. But, now, we’ve signed players aware of the positions that lay vacant because of their absence. And, the new players are not far off from them in terms of quality. You’ll come to know that. It’s upto Marco to decide the team combination. But, I don't think there will be a dip in the quality of play.

On how important it is to retain, and sustain, a core group of Indian players

Changing the team doesn’t help any squad. In that way, Chennaiyin has done a great job. They believe in those players and that’s important. When a player comes into a team, he should believe in himself, and the team. Once he feels secure, he will give his best performance.

On the local players N. Mohanraj and Dhanpal Ganesh

They are very good players. They’ve been doing good in their respective positions. They had a very good pre-season in Italy. Marco is happy with them. We expect a lot from them.

On which team he considers the biggest threat this season

On paper, I can say that Pune has some big names.

On the youth development programme

The youth development programme is all about creating interest, drawing youngsters to train, and developing them into fine players. You can see that Chennaiyin FC has changed the way football was being looked at here in Tamil Nadu. We run many age-group and school tournaments under the programme. The scouting’s been good. We have an everyday programme for the u-13, and u-16 boys at the centre of excellence here. The center was started in January 2015.

On how the five players signed from the AIFF Elite Academy been shaping up

They are very talented players. They were recommended by the AIFF. None thought that they will quickly adjust with the team. Three of them travelled with the team to Italy. It’s been great learning for them to interact and play with players like Mendy and Riise. We can expect them to play for the senior National team soon.

On why Tamil Nadu hasn’t been able to win the Santosh trophy

Recently, Tamil Nadu football has been doing well. Right from my playing days, I’ve always fancied Tamil Nadu as a contender for the Santosh Trophy, but the team’s been unfortunate in one way or the other. The belief is not there among the players. Even when I coached (in 2012 when Tamil Nadu finished runner-up), I found it necessary to instil belief among the players. They think that they are an inferior to other states when actually they are no less talented. So, I think the Santosh trophy is well within Tamil Nadu’s grasp. It’s only the players’ belief that’s going to get them the trophy.

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