Minerva Punjab FC appoints Sukhwinder as technical director

After a five-year break from professional football, Sukhwinder is making a comeback — this time as a technical director with I-League’s defending champion, Minerva Punjab.

Sukhwinder insisted that with Minerva playing an important role in Punjab’s football culture, he is glad to help the team out.   -  AIFF

Sukhwinder Singh’s contribution to Indian football is immense. The Punjab veteran, who coached the Indian football team in one of its glorious phases, has also been a major force in the national football league.

His long and successful stint with JCT Punjab is still remembered by fans.

After JCT wound up its football team in 2011, Sukhwinder was involved with the club’s junior academy in Phagwara. He then went on to join Churchill Brothers but the stint ended in 2013.

After a five-year break from professional football, Sukhwinder is making a comeback — this time as a technical director with I-League’s defending champion, Minerva Punjab.

Minerva's CEO Shawnawaz Khan confirmed to Sportstar that Sachin Badadhe, the assistant coach during the 2017-18 season, is officially promoted to the role of head coach. "We have made the decision to promote Sachin to the role of head coach. After playing a crucial role in the team's success last season, we are hopeful that his experience will prove crucial in the new season."

While the seasoned coach confirmed to Sportstar that he has ‘agreed’ to join hands with Minerva, he insisted that he hasn’t formally joined the club yet.

However, the club’s CEO, Shawnawaz, told this publication that Sukhwinder ‘has already been appointed.’

“The contract has been signed and he is on board. He was neglected in the Punjab and Indian football scene despite his high standing in the game. So, instead of finding a foreign official we zeroed in on him and Ranjit Bajaj sir (the owner of the club) had a meeting with him and the move was finalised,” Khan said.

“As the name suggests, he will take care of the technical aspects of the team and the coaching side as well. He will be a great addition to the team,” Khan added.

On his part, Sukhwinder insisted that with Minerva playing an important role in Punjab’s football culture, he is glad to help the team out.

“We have been in touch for a while. I will visit them in a few days and then we will officially take it forward. It is a team from Punjab and we share a good rapport, so I thought why not help them out. I haven’t joined yet. I will meet them in the next two days. I am not eligible to coach, so I will have to work as the technical director,” Sukhwinder said.

The veteran coach however, iterated that a formal agreement is yet to be signed.

Despite staying away from professional football for nearly five years, Sukhwinder made it clear that the new responsibility won’t be a problem.

“I haven’t been detached from football. I have been involved with the game. We have been running football activities in Phagwara along with former players like Inder Singh. So, I didn’t retire from the game but yes, I haven’t taken bigger responsibility in the last few years. I have always been attached to football,” he said.

As he returns to the mainstream, the expectations would certainly soar. “As per as expectation is concerned, in Phagwara it was different. Here, I had to recruit players and I only had to look after payments. Every responsibility was ours. Here it is different.

Minerva is defending champion, so the responsibility is more. There have been changes. If I don’t have a role in recruitment then my responsibility is not that much. My responsibility is to get the best out of the talents. That’s what I will try to do,” Sukhwinder, who coached the Indian team that won the SAFF Cup in 1998, said.

Over the last few years, Indian football has seen a sea change, thanks to the Indian Super League (ISL). With technology playing a major role, hasn’t coaching got tougher? Sukhwinder, however, did not subscribe to the idea.

“Everyone talks about new ideas. In every sport, there have been scientific changes. The spikes Milkha Singh use to wear are no longer available, now, better stuff is available. The balls we would use have changed.

There is a difference for sure, but the change is more about physical abilities. Whoever has got good stamina, he does well in football,” he said, adding: “These days, one can use computer and follow certain techniques. That’s the main change.”

While he will decide on the future course of action after visiting the club in the next couple of days, Minerva has indeed given a new lease of life to one of India’s most successful but under-rated coaches.

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