U Mumba, the Pro Kabaddi League team, has announced Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan as its head coach. The Indian replaces Gholamreza Mazandarani, an Iranian, who served the club for one season.
Baliyan has had experience in the PKL. He had coached Patna Pirates to the title in the third season, and in the recent National Kabaddi Championship, guided Railways to the summit. “Sanjeev Kumar is a proven coach at the Nationals and earlier in Pro Kabaddi. We are happy to have him,” informed Supratik Sen, the U Mumba CEO.
According to the team management, Mazandarani was replaced due to visa hassles for coaches from Iran. He was the first foreign coach in the league last year. Sen, the spokesperson for U Mumba, said, “When it comes to getting a visa for an Iranian coach, there are issues. He is able to reach only a few days before the preparations, then needs to go back for more documentation. It disturbs team plans. Otherwise, there is no reason to change a noted coach.”
He added: “Visas for Iranian players is not as difficult, because they have older visas.”
As a coach, Gholamreza gained recognition after having shepherded the Iranian men’s team to the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games. En route, the side had defeated India, the favourite. As Pirates’ head coach, Gholamreza played a part in signing Fazel Atrachali, a fellow Iranian and a defensive ace, at the auction last season. Atrachali was the highest-paid foreign player, priced at ₹1 crore.
With the 2019 player auction on Monday, the Mumbai franchise will have a new person in charge as the management gets busy with new player acquisitions. “Players are chosen after careful assessment, so change of coach is not an issue before the auction,” said Sen.
Iranian players were major attractions at the 2018 auction in the wake of their Asian Games success.
It is learnt Sanjeev, the new head coach, will be assisted by Upendra Kumar, who has been retained from last season by the club. Gholamreza’s next move, at this point, is not known.