Interview with Lutz Pfannenstiel (German Coaching Instructor)
German coaching instructor Lutz Pfannenstiel is a good old friend of mine and after his three week trip to India to run three coaching courses in Kolkata, Mizoram and Mumbai for the German Olympic Association (DOSB) and German Football Association (DFB); we caught-up in Frankfurt/Main last week for an insightful interview about his experiences in India and future plans.
You were in India for three weeks in Kolkata, Mizoram and Mumbai to conduct football coaching courses, three different courses in three different parts across India. How where your experiences in those three places?
Those were three very good experiences, but also three different one’s; which already shows that like the culture, the football in India very, very different in this vast country.
Also you can’t say that every coaching course is the same. The women’s coaching course in Kolkata showed that lots of people in Kolkata just love football and it is a part of their culture. But I was really surprised when I came to Mizoram because it is one of these places that not many people around the world know that Mizoram even exists. But it showed that there football is more then just a game, it is really integrated into everything; be it cultural, people talk only about football in Mizoram, which showed an unbelievable level of enthusiasm in Aizawl; which was absolutely fantastic.
The third course in Mumbai was very well organised by the All India Football Federation and it was a very special course level-wise. Then it had the who’s who of goalkeeper coaches of the country involved and that was a decent level, but I also saw that the participants were really interested, they really wanted to learn something and take something home from the course.
Basically all three courses in their own ways went off very very well!
You knew quite a bit about Indian football before flying across. Was there anything which really surprised you or was it according to your own expectations?
As you know, I am not a complete newcomer to Indian football as I have a good friend in this little German-Bengali guy, Arunava Chaudhuri (laughs). We together had been once in New Delhi for a conference and I always try to follow Indian football.
To put it in a few words, I think the potential in Indian football is definitely there. No doubt about it! But you just have to basically make things work. You have to find ways of organising the game and it has to spread through the whole country.
I also watched a few I-League games and I think it could do a little bit better, the level needs to improve; but it is always a learning curve.
Also I think it is important to develop the game from the bottom up to the top!
As you say, you have now seen a little bit more of Indian football. The last time we went to India in September 2010 was for a conference, now you went there to do a course. Anything which impressed you? If you had to pick something, what would that be?
Every place had something impressive about it. In Kolkata, it impressed me to conduct a course at this huge Salt Lake Stadium, one of the biggest stadiums in the world. You just image how good the atmosphere would be when the top teams from Kolkata play against each other, but also the way the women coaches were interested in the training methods. It showed that women’s football in India is on the way up.
As I said before, in Mizoram football seems to be the most important thing in the world. Everybody knows Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker or Manuel Neuer. It is just like normal knowledge for these people.
And Mumbai is a top class city, a metropolis. As said earlier, a very organised course and here I learned a bit more about how Indian football is structured. e.g. seeing the Cooperage ground, a nice facility in the heart of the city, but it is somehow politically difficult to run the facility to its potential. This is also something which I learned about India and its football.
We have known each other for years, I think over a decade. You first got in touch as you wanted to play in India, now you are a coach with expertise in goalkeeping and also work as a coaching instructor. If you got an offer, would you consider going to India?
You know how professional football works. It is a short-living thing and I have my contract here in Germany, but in the future you never know.
As you said, I was interested to go to India as a player many years back. I think it would have worked out perfectly fine at the time if I had gone there, but it never happened. For me with my knowledge of international football, I do think I could help India to develop quite a bit. So yes, one should never say never.
I had a good time in these three weeks, so let’s see what happens in the future…
Thanks for talking to me and all the best!