On the job training

NANDAKUMAR MARAR

Having a ball... Coach Derrick Pereira up in celebration with the Mahindra United team after winning the 27th Federation Cup Football tournament.-R. RAGU

DERRICK PEREIRA wore two hats at the Alchemist Federation Cup Football. The coach of Mahindra United was preparing for Asian Football Confederation's Professional Diploma Coaching Course during the inter-club tournament. He completed the first assignment with honours as the Mumbai team won the final in extra-time. The second test will see him putting the Federation Cup experience to use, while being assessed by AFC instructors (Jozef Venglos and Hassan Al Sabah) as part of the course's fourth and final module in November-December 2005.

Indian football coaches doing professional courses at their own cost is rare, and Pereira is richer for the opportunity to work towards developing Mahindra United into a winning combination. Among 22 Asians taking the Kuala Lumpur test for `A' Licence holders, he is one of four Indians (see box) doing the four-part course and the one to taste victory in the Federation Cup after implementing lessons picked up in the first two modules in Malaysia and Germany respectively.

"Richard Bates taught us about tactical play during the first AFC module at Kuala Lumpur. The second phase in Frankfurt and exposure to the Bundesliga clubs made us aware of benefits of the `pressing' game and how to build physical conditioning for the same. I worked with Mahindra players during training in Mumbai, trying to inculcate in them the habit of starting moves from the back, building up play in midfield. Training sessions with the ball for Federation Cup probables were aimed at developing the heart as well as muscle conditioning as part of module three," said the ex-India defender, while admitting to already spending Rs. 2 lakh out of his own pocket towards AFC course travels and study.

Pereira singled out defence as a priority area for Mahindra United in Federation Cup preparations and was happy to see the players respond positively in competition. "Looking at the squad given to me, I had the feeling that if we kept our goal intact, with our defenders doing the job, Mahindra could score anytime due to high quality of ball players in the squad," he said, pointing to an early knockout game against JCT and the final against Sporting Clube de Goa as examples. "I focussed a lot on the `pressing' game in match simulation exercises; always done with the ball to develop control and conditioning. The response from the boys, once they became aware of individual and team benefits, was fantastic."

Mahindra United's preparations during the three-month period from August 15, 2005 formed part of the coach's personal log, inclusive of the Federation Cup tune-up and tournament play. "AFC asked us to inform them about the daily log and our observations via email. Each one of the 22 coaches doing the pro licence course will make a presentation before AFC instructors on a given topic. My subject is `If I am the Director of coach education in India, how would I go about it'," said Pereira; who will also be assessed on the basis of a three-point questionnaire. He believes long-term planning and an emphasis on physical conditioning, particularly strength training, are vital for more consistent performances in Indian football.

To drive home the point about strength training at an early age, he relates a first-hand experience during a game between AFC coaches at Frankfurt. "Match-play is part of course syllabus. During one such tie between German coaches v/s Rest, I played opposite former Germany World Cup player and playmaker Thomas Haessler. He was physically stronger despite being smaller and shorter than me. Look at Roberto Carlos, the Brazilian roving defender who is short but powerful. Height has nothing to do with strength in both these cases, it is just specific physical conditioning Haessler and Carlos underwent as youngsters which made them tough to handle against bigger, taller rivals."

Pereira does not think `body typing' will work — for example, shortlisting youngsters from the north-eastern/northern parts of the country. "Powerful players have emerged from south, so just looking at Manipuris/Punjabis won't help. We should aim for the Jo Paul Ancheri types, a nice blend of physical strength and talent," he says. "Of the Indian players I worked with, Abhishek Yadav, of the India players I worked with, would have been a superior player had someone worked on his conditioning and body movements early on. Now it is too late to change him, though he has qualities needed in a striker."

Coaching also demands proficiency in man-management and the ability to work with different player personalities. Indian club coaches have to deal with Nigerians, Ghanaians and Brazilians teaming up with footballers from different parts of India. Pereira's experience with Mahindra United, after switching over from Vasco SC, has, so far, been easy. "I have a bunch of experienced players who know what has to be done. The high-profile foreigners in the squad, (Jose) Barreto and (Yasif) Yakubu, are thorough professionals. The players I worked with at Vasco in the Goan league were youngsters and had to be moulded."

With the Federation Cup 2005 title in the pocket, Mahindra United's next stops will be the National Football League and probably the Asian Club Championships. Can Derrick Pereira help an Indian club make a mark at the Asian level? "The midfield is one area which needs attention, apart from the boys getting conditioned to playing the `pressing' game. The forward line will get sharper when Yakubu (the Ghanaian striker awaiting clearance from his previous club that will facilitate the inter-state transfer) joins Barreto. The defence is shaping well. So I am looking forward to catching up with the boys after AFC's final module ends. Changes will be needed to take on competition in Asian tournaments. No instant results are possible, Mahindra United as a team have to grow into the next level."

Course of action

THE AFC 3rd Professional Football Diploma Coaching Course started on May 2, 2005 in Kuala Lumpur with 22 coaches from across Asia taking part, four amongst them being Indians (Hering Shangpliang, V Soundararajan, ex-internationals Derrick Pereira and Savio Madeira).

Derrick and Savio assisted teams in the Federation Cup 2005 — the former as chief coach, Mahindra United, the latter as assistant coach, Salgaocar SC. The course consists of four different modules spread over seven months.

Instructors were Richard Bates (FA, England); Magni Mohr (FIFA Instructor from Denmark) specialising in Physical Conditioning; Hasan Al Sabah (AFC) as assistant and an MSN instructor.

The second module in Germany — July 25 onwards — was conducted instructors Gero Bisanz (DFB coach instructor and ex-German women's national coach), Stefan Lottermann and Hasan Al Sabah as assistant.

After the first two modules, 22 participants (all `A' licence holders below 45 years) returned to their countries to put into practice the lessons learnt, with their home club/national team.