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Is Jamil India's best coach in I-League?

Khalid Jamil (white shirt) of India clears the ball ahead of Jordao (No.29 shirt) of West Brom during the Pre-Season Friendly match at The Hawthorns, in Birmingham, England in July 2000. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.

I first met Khalid Jamil at Hotel Orient near Karims in Old Delhi. That was in 1997 when he was still a rookie player in the Indian team which had many established star players like IM Vijayan, Jo Paul Anchery, Carlton Chapman, Bruno Coutinho, Savio Madeira and Baichung Bhutia.

He was only 20-year-old then but the former India coach Syed Nayeemuddin, who saw him while he played for Air India in the Durand Cup, was convinced that Jamil would make a great career. By the time he joined Air India, he was touted as one of the future stars of Indian football.

Just like his mentor, Nayeemuddin, who included him in the Indian team for SAFF Cup in 1997, Jamil was shy and soft-spoken but the Mumbaikar always flashed a sweetest smile.

Born and brought up in Kuwait, Jamil moved to India when the Gulf War broke out. His early footballing lessons involved an under-14 camp run by French World Cupper Manuel Amoros, during which he also spent a few minutes with the legendary Michel Platini.

It was a different story that the prodigious talent couldn’t make it big and played only few matches for the national team. Only after playing a couple of games, he was left with two broken knees and one shattered dream.

Today, Jamil has been able to overcome that sadness since he has established himself as one of the best young coaches in the I-League after retiring from international football in 2004. He continued to play in the domestic league and played for Mumbai FC in their first season, where they finished sixth in the I-League in the 2009 season. But troubled with injuries, the then head coach David Booth put Jamil in charge of Mumbai FC’s Under-19 side — a team that he took to the title.

That, in fact, was the beginning of his impressive coaching career.

The 35-year-old is intelligent and sharp and has done quite well with the Mumbai FC. But surprisingly, not much has been written about this gentleman coach. We write a lot about the foreign coaches currently working with Indian clubs but we ignore our own, home grown coaches. Last season, Mumbai FC staved off relegation and the football pundits heralded Jamil as the one of the best Indian coaches because he was able to keep the team in the top 10 despite the club being handicapped by a shoe-string budget.

In the last three rounds of the current I-League, Mumbai FC has been really outstanding. Their 3-2 come-back win over Sporting Clube de Goa in the fifth round is by far the best while in the next round Jamil’s boys thumped Shillong Lajong 4-1 which seemed to have turned the corner after a poor start. Jamil has been able to inject a sense of confidence in his side which fought back to hold star-studded Mohun Bagan 1-1 last Sunday.

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