Renedy unplugged: Pork, coffee and football

Former India footballer Renedy Singh is set to take an ‘instructor’ course next month and is keen to be the head coach of an I-League side apart from running his own school in Imphal.

Renedy Singh at a cafe in Imphal on Thursday (August 30).   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Northeast is known for its varied, tasty preparations of meat and Renedy Singh, being an athlete, takes his protein seriously. The former India midfielder, who played for club giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, wears many hats. He recently launched his own academy — Renedy Football School here — and is into the fourth year of running the show at the Football Players’ Association of India as its president.

The former footballer spared an hour for a candid chat with Sportstar over a pork-filled lunch at a city restaurant, Shosa Kitchen, on Thursday. He is 39, but his appearance defies his age. The light blue tee, relaxed-fit trousers and the trendy sling bag is the early-30 spunk. 

Your school poster on those walls (behind our table) says the place is reopening. Why was it shut?

I was not in town (laughs). The head office of FPA is in Kolkata, so I have to keep travelling.

The poster is also an announcement of your homecoming...

Yes, it is. (Digging in the food) I like the pork here. There is another cafe nearby — 1985 Retro Coffee Shop — where I chill in the evenings.

What’s your vision with the school?

Coaching in Manipur is a challenge, though the players have a lot of potential. There is miscommunication with the coaches. Being a Manipuri, I thought I could connect better. Look at Aizawl, it was nowhere in the picture till 2011. It is because of one organised guy, Tetea Hmar, secretary of the Mizoram Football Association, the scenario changed. Manipur has been losing to everyone. Last week, it lost to Arunachal in the Sub Junior National tournament.

And you blame poor coaching…

Yes. There are a few A-license holder coaches. Many think they are big, but instead of thinking that, they should learn as there is a communication problem. I will be going to Goa next month for an ‘instructor’ course. If I can become a good instructor, I can help many coaches and players. If they can spread over remote areas, it will be helpful. 

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How much did ISL teach you?

One of the best years. In FC Pune City as assistant coach, I had David Platt as boss. He had coached Manchester City. I used to watch him on television before.

You were also with CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria on loan...

During my youth, there was not much opportunity to go abroad even for a trial. I wanted to try it out. They were European winners at one point of time. Hristo Stoichkov was there. He is still involved with the club. But there were pay issues with managers. Three coaches were changed in five months.

Renedy Singh, who appeared in 56 internationals scoring four goals for India between 1998-2011, was the first Indian footballer to sign up for a Bulgarian top side.

What is your immediate goal?

I don’t want to work as assistant coach any longer. But no Indian can be a head coach in the Indian Super League, there is a rule. But I can go down to I-League. If I can become a head coach, I can learn from my own philosophy.

 

You were advising Neroca FC too...

Yes, because it is family. I am quite open to any team, but I want to be sincere too. I can’t jump to any team. The best team may not come to you. I want Manipur football to develop.

After finishing the authentic Smoked Pork Curry, Brown Rice and Baked Yogurt — one of the recommended dishes — we reached the retro cafe, a five-minute drive.

India did not send a team for the Asian Games. How much of a setback is it?

India hardly gets to play, so they should have been sent. For Asiad, even if they had sent an U-23 side, it would have been useful. This was the best chance to play against competitive countries. How many times will you celebrate winning against Bangladesh (with all due respect to them).

Who should India play with?

Perhaps, Thailand or Syria. I am not asking them to play Japan as there is a huge gap. They should play against opponents who are a little better. Syria almost beat Australia in the World Cup qualifiers. Imagine what will happen if we play the Aussies.

Is the I-League-ISL co-existence helping?

It is better for younger players. They can play in the I-League and the seniors can play in the ISL. There should be relegation and promotion, otherwise, there is no point.

Do you think the ISL, now in its fifth season, has lost its glamour?

When you have to start you need big names. In India, people won’t be aware otherwise. After David Beckham’s appearance, the Major League Soccer in US got better. Now, Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) and Rooney (Wayne) are there. You need to start with players like Alessandro Del Piero for people to start talking about it.

The players in Mohun Bagan are not being paid their dues of late...

In our time, say the amount is Rs. 12 lakh for a year. They would give Rs. 8 lakh in advance and promise to pay the rest on a monthly basis. For the first few months, it would be right on time but then it would be irregular. This happened till about 2008. Former president Tutu Bose was pumping in some money but he quit.

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