Yesterday my bottle of wine tasted so much better and no, not least because it’s branded Madeira. Perhaps it has finally come off age after several years spent on the shelves or maybe because I decided to enjoy it as it were! But I do stop to wonder what it might have been had I picked it up a few days earlier, found it bitter and thrashed about it to my 20,000 odd followers on twitter and got them to see my point ?
Quite the namesake , the Indian national football coach walked away with the prestigious honour of being the only man in the country to win the SAFF Cup both as a player and as a coach . Accused of being a slouchy understudy to the great Bob Houghton, he put out what was apparently the ‘weakest team’ India has seen in a while and yet managed to savour a great moment of accomplishment. Yes , the quality of the opponents in the tournament was not the best and the standard of football was not the greatest but credit to him for fielding the right blend of youth and experience and sticking by his guns through the harshest of criticisms.
As fans, we tend to think that we know it all and that the coach is dimwit because he does not concur with our point of view. Well, that’s what Fantasy football is for and Indian football is crying out loud for it – I’m sure Sportskeeda can virtually stitch up something for us to be our own bosses and rule over our respective kingdoms.
Three games in charge and the jury was out against Savio Madeira as Indian national Coach on several counts. His crime?
a) Experimenting in a ‘FIFA Sanctioned International Friendly’ before a big tournament, something every coach does worldwide in contemporary football.
b) Including too many players from the champion club in the national team who did not deserve to be in the vicinity of footballing circles. What would Spain be without a Barcelona + Madrid or for that matter Germany be without a Bayern Munich?
c) Not giving enough of an opportunity to youngsters. Arsene Wenger has testified the theory that you’re never going to win a major tournament for a long long time with mere fledglings. They have to be gradually introduced much like the Ronaldo’s and Messi’s who made a few cameo appearance before feeling their way through to the national sides although they were the best players in their countries at that point.
He was convicted and crucified when India drew against a ‘strong’ Afghanistan side. His left wing man and midfield general were singled out for special praise and touted as Clifford ‘Big Red Dog’ Miranda and Climax the ‘Anticlimax’ Lawrence. The abuses hurled were far beyond the realms of a civilized society.
Yet, how the former responded to grab his bone …3 goals and countless assists in matches that followed spoke volumes about his ability to bounce back from adversity. The limitations are obvious, an often bad first touch and poor when tracking back but who really cares when you have such a lovely left foot that caresses a football the way it should be.
The latter was more subdued but an integral part of the plans all the same. We saw glimpses of his brilliance with some fantastic through balls on the odd occasion but some badly misplaced passes often took the gloss out of his game. Every team needs a steady head with good composure to dictate play from the middle of the park and his efforts ought to have been fair enough to save him from the wrath of his detractors.
The old warhorse Mahesh Gawli and the strong tackling Gouramangi Singh stood firm ground in keeping opponents at bay. Where they lacked in pace, they compensated with a lot of heart. The battle scarred Nirmal Chetri did his defensive duties well and forayed well into the opposition half when the opportunity arose. Anthony Pereira never managed to measure his crosses but put in a good shift on the right. Rocus Lamare was steady as a rock in shutting down rival attacks and Jeje was up to the task in using his youthful exuberance to tick of rival defences. Had custodian Karanjit Singh not made that crucial save of a Balal Arzoo shot (If I remember right) in the finals, then we might have been reading a different script altogether.
The stars of the show were undoubtedly Sunil Chetri and Syed Nabi . The striker showed why he is the best player in India by far with his positioning and finishing ability. The other striker or left back, call him what you will was a true joy to watch with crucial interceptions at the back and bombarding runs forward.
India were often dominated at some points through the course of the competition most notably during the later stages of the first half and the early stages of the second half against Maldives in the semis and in the first half of the finals against a cohesive Afghani unit and both times they needed a penalty to bail them out . But, they dug deep and worked as a unit to come out victorious. When Chetri was misfiring against Bhutan in the first half, Clifford took centre stage, when Jeje was subdued; Chetri was going all guns blazing. Surely the coach had something of a role to play in the midst of all this triumph, don’t you think?
They say a job well begun is half done and Savio Madeira and his boys have bolted the door on the doubting Thomases at least for the time being. Now is the time to look ahead and take Indian football to the next level both on and off the pitch.
I personally may not be an entrepreneur or a revolutionary or even a simple guy who attends the national team’s practice session but am proud to be a mere watcher and more importantly a true believer.