"I was delighted when the opportunity came" - Mehrajuddin Wadoo discusses his role at Nepalese club FC Chitwan and reflects on his coaching journey 

Mehrajuddin Wadoo
FC Chitwan head coach Mehrajuddin Wadoo (Image Credits: Twitter)

Jammu & Kashmir has consistently been a breeding ground for immense talent and has contributed massively to the Indian national team. Amidst these talents, Mehrajuddin Wadoo stands out as a significant figure for both the national setup and various Indian clubs.

The 39-year-old, now an emerging coach, boasts an illustrious playing career with stints at Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, as well as his contribution to Chennaiyin FC, where he won the ISL title in 2015. With 32 appearances for India and several honors, Wadoo’s playing legacy is distinguished.

However, it is his coaching career that currently takes the spotlight. Among the cadre of young coaches in India, Wadoo emerges as one of the most promising ones.

Starting his coaching journey in 2018 as the academy coach for former ISL club Pune City FC, he subsequently served as an assistant coach for Hyderabad FC in 2019 before taking the role of head coach in 2021 at Sudeva Delhi. After a season, he returned to his hometown, joining Real Kashmir FC in the I-League.

At the end of the 2022-23 season, the chance to manage one of Kolkata’s powerhouse clubs - Mohammedan SC - came calling, and he made an impressive impact, steering them clear of relegation in his initial games.

Bolstered by some top recruitment strategy, Mohammedan have emerged as a formidable team under his leadership this season, showcasing a quality brand of football, while delivering positive results as well.

Wadoo guided Mohammedan to six victories in their first seven games in the Calcutta Football League (CFL), while the team narrowly missed out on the Durand Cup quarter-finals by goal difference.

Now Wadoo has embarked on a new chapter in a different country. He was appointed as the head coach of Nepalese club Chitwan FC a few weeks back, succeeding fellow countryman Khalid Jamil. The former Indian defender’s coaching trajectory has already become a source of inspiration, and he is undoubtedly one to watch for in the future.

Recently, Sportskeeda had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with him, where he explored his coaching philosophy, discussed his experiences as a head coach, and offered his views on the Indian football team.

Here are the excerpts from Sportskeeda’s interview with current FC Chitwan head coach Mehrajuddin Wadoo.

Question: First and foremost, I want to ask you about the coaching philosophy you have. Is your style of play completely dependent on the players you have or do you stick to specific principles and encourage players to adjust accordingly?

Wadoo: For a coach, at the beginning, you need to see the quality of the players. Wherever I have worked, I always see the quality of the players and then decide what philosophy suits the team and the club as a whole. But yes, I also have some principles, that I don’t want to change or compromise.

At the end of the day what matters, however, is the players a team has so that you can get the best out of them. I’m hoping that in the upcoming years, with several youth leagues in the country taking place, we will produce tactically and technically very sound players, which will be good for the coaches to work with.

Question: As the current head coach of Chitwan FC, could you share how the opportunity to take on this role came about, and what has the experience been like managing a team outside of India for the first time?

Wadoo: When I left Mohammedan SC, it was very difficult for me to get a club because every team had a head coach. I was not satisfied with the kind of jobs I was offered by the clubs.

Once the offer from FC Chitwan arrived, I was delighted and felt that it would be a great experience to work outside the country. The Nepalese League is going to be an equally good competition, as they have got some very good players and the foreigners in the league are going to make it interesting.

There are players also players who played in the ISL last season, who are also in Nepal this season. I’ve been here for 15 days with the team and I feel very happy.

The team looks good and we have played a friendly which we have won. We are set to play another one before our first game of the season starts on November 25. I’m looking forward to having a good season and an experience here.

Question: I also want to discuss your views of the Indian men’s national team under Igor Stimac. What are your thoughts about the team, especially as they go into a crucial period?

Wadoo: At the end of the day, what matters are the results. The team is playing very well, as we saw against Kuwait. They were in control of the game and the boys looked very confident.

It is certainly not easy to win away from home; we have played them a few years and lost very badly, but this Indian team is doing a brilliant job at the moment.

Question: There have always been questions regarding the limited opportunities for Indian coaches to coach an ISL side. In your view, what factors contribute to this, and what could Indian coaches do better to make an impression on club management?

Wadoo: The Indian coaches need to perform if they want opportunities at the highest level. In the I-league there are a few Indian coaches, while there are assistant coaches in the ISL, and when they get the opportunity, they should grab hold of it.

I believe there are good Indian coaches. Opportunities are lacking, but when the coaches get their chance, some of them do well and some don’t and need to improve. Clifford Miranda is a good example, who did well and won the Super Cup with Odisha FC. He has set an example, and that is how all Indian coaches should work because when you get a chance, you need to show your level quickly.

Once you start gaining the trust of the club, it’s better. Now it’s a big responsibility of all the coaches to show our best, which will open the door for us and other Indian aspiring coaches.

Question: You are currently coaching your fourth team. How has this exposure been for you as a coach, particularly when you are just starting your journey?

Wadoo: I’ve coached a lot of teams, but in that sense, I’ve gained a lot of experience. Working with Sudeva Delhi FC and Real Kashmir FC, where there were several young players, and then Mohammedan SC, which is a big club, I’ve only developed and got more exposure as a coach. I’ve given my best at every club and the team has also performed very well.

Yes, sometimes things don’t happen the way you want and when you are a young coach, you may not change the things you want to change.

But it has been a great experience for me and at the end of the day, I’m very happy in terms of the work I’ve put in at all the clubs and the way the team has performed. Right now, I’m working with Chitwan FC and it’s a different atmosphere, but it certainly helps me to learn as a coach.

Learning is a lifelong journey and I’m in that phase while looking to deliver the results as well. But right now, my biggest challenge is Chitwan FC, as it’s outside India. I’ll try to do my best so the clubs outside India will gain trust in the Indian coaches.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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