These days, Gouramangi Singh finds himself on the touchline as the first-team coach for FC Bengaluru United in the second division of the I-League. With the league set to begin on the 8th of October, Bengaluru United's chances, with both Richard Hood and Gouramangi Singh at the helm as co-coaches, are looking good.
Former India international and legend, Gouramangi Singh spoke to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview about the COVID-19 protocols and his side's chances in the league this season.
Q. You have played in both the I-League and the ISL. How different are both leagues and what according to you is the main difference between the leagues?
Gouramangi: When I was playing, both leagues (ISL and I-League) were pretty much the same level in terms of Indian players. In fact, in the first few years, we would go on loan from one league to another.
Now, the ISL is beginning to pick up in terms of investments and we are beginning to see a lot of foreign talent in India as well. The pay has also been increased significantly.
Q. You started coaching Bengaluru United last year. How has the experience been so far?
Gouramangi Singh: So far it’s been good. This is my first proper coaching stint (apart from my own academy in Manipur). Playing in the Bengaluru League was a good experience and the I-League 2nd Division was going on well until the pandemic started. Now, we are looking to get back on to the field. The management has been very professional and supportive. The team does not have any big stars but it’s a hard-working bunch of boys with a common goal.
Q. How different is coaching from playing? Are there times when you feel like going back out there and defending for the team?
Gouramangi Singh: Coaching is a completely different ball game. 'Playing' is coming out, doing your best and keeping yourself fit. On the other hand, coaching is managing the expectations of players, seeing what’s best for the team while motivating others and taking care of the daily operations.
I enjoy practicing with players but don’t have any plans to go back out and play. I have enjoyed playing and now I am enjoying coaching.
Q. What is your approach/philosophy to coaching?
Gouramangi Singh: Since I have just started my coaching career, I do not really have a philosophy. I am still learning. For now it is just about hard work, being professional, and getting the best out of everyone.
Q. You are among the most capped players for the Indian football team. Can you share one or two of the most memorable moments you have had while playing for the country?
Gouramangi Singh: There are many memorable moments for the national team on and off the pitch. The most memorable would be the AFC Challenge Cup Victory, the Nehru Cup wins, and of course playing in the AFC Asian Cup vs Australia, Korea, and Bahrain on Asia's biggest stage.
Q. The I-League Qualifier is set to begin in a few days. How different are things with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?
Gouramangi Singh: The I-League has now become more of a tournament and not a league (there are no home and away games). New tournament protocols are in place that everyone is getting used to. Health protocols are something we need to adhere to. Lots of adjustments are needed.
Q. How has COVID impacted the side so far? How much do you think it will affect the performances on the field?
Gouramangi Singh: The initial four to five months were a big blow on the fitness front. However, in the last 4 to 5 weeks, we have managed to put in a good pre-season preparation and we are now confident of performing.
Q. In terms of qualification, how optimistic are you about Bengaluru’s chances?
Gouramangi Singh: All teams have come in with many new players and it really is anybody's game. Coming to Kolkata would have been a disadvantage for non-Kolkata based teams, but behind closed doors, it’s pretty much the same for all. We have put in a good month and a half of practice and now we are hoping for the best.
Q. Richard Hood has been part of the Bengaluru FC setup before. How has it been so far working with someone like him?
Gouramangi Singh: Richard was one of the reasons I joined the club. I was very happy to be given the opportunity and the management has ben very supportive of the coach's vision. I have worked under and with a lot of coaches, but he is one of the younger and brighter coaches with excellent communication skills. There is a lot I can learn from him.
Q. As a center-back, you have scored six goals for the national team. Which of these goals would you say was the most memorable?
Gouramangi Singh: I think the goal against Bahrain in the AFC Asian Cup would be a big one since it was our first in the Asian Cup. The goal against Cameroon in the Nehru Cup 2012 in Delhi where we went on to win the tournament would also rank pretty high in my list of memorable goals. We eventually went on to win the tournament on penalties.
Q. Three things you enjoy doing outside of football.
Gouramangi Singh: I have been lucky to travel to different parts of Europe, so I love traveling. Trying different cuisines - both Indian and overseas is also another hobby of mine. In addition to this, I love spending time with my family, something I did not really get to do during my playing days. I also enjoy working out and playing badminton to keep fit.Published 05 Oct 2020, 00:49 IST