'We need to give coaches time'

'We need to give coaches time'

Bernard feels teams should not adopt a trigger-happy policy in search of quick results

Bernard Oparanozie – or simply Bernard -- might not have been as glamorous a performer as his goal-scoring compatriot, but the soft-spoken African did what he did best, going about his job without much of a fuss.

Bernard, who manned the backline for nearly 15 years in different football clubs in India and retired as a player in 2004, is reveling in a different role now.

“To me football is like a game of chess. You move and place the pawns – read players – the way you want them, and your opponents do the same as well,” the current Mohun Bagan manager said on the sidelines of his team’s training session in Bangalore last week.

“That is why I particularly like being a coach or a manager, because as a coach you are not just playing one role, you are playing all of them.

“You are the defender, the midfielder, the goalkeeper, the attacker. And that is much more exciting.”

Bernard, who began his career in India with Sesa Goa in 1989, felt the current crop of footballers are not as committed as the men from the previous generation.

“Indian football has progressed a lot since I began playing here, but the downside of that progress and all the money that has been pouring in has been the decrease in commitment of the players. According to me, the work of a professional footballer starts after a training session. The mindset you have, when not playing football, is as important as anything else. What you are thinking and how you wind down during your free time is vital. Because what you do outside affects how you perform on the pitch. ”

Bernard, who has two sons with his Indian wife, believes a team’s performance or playing style is a reflection of the coach’s personality. “Whenever I watch any team play, I look at the formations, the style of play. Because it is the coach who makes all the decisions in football. Take Alex Ferguson (Manchester United manager) or Arsene Wenger (Arsenal manager), their sides always play the same way, irrespective of the players that keep changing. Which is why a team like Chelsea, who keep firing their managers, keep playing a different brand of football,” the English Premier League fan observed.

“That is why I believe In India as well, we need to give coaches time. Whenever people ask me, I say Steve Darby (who had a short stint as Bagan coach at the beginning of the season) was a good coach, he just wasn’t aware of how to deal with things in India,” Bernard who was Darby’s assistant at the time explained.

The former Bagan player felt until youngsters improved their basics, they would find it hard to ply their trade in foreign shores. “Sunil (Chhetri) and Jeje (Lalpekhlua) could not make much of an impression in Rangers because they are not used to the style of play in Europe. They have not been brought up playing that brand of football,” he said referring to the trials which the two footballers underwent recently in Scotland.

The 47-year-old was a part of the famous JCT squad that lifted the first National Football League title in 1996, a team which had the likes of IM Vijayan and Bhaichung Bhutia.

“That was a great team to play with. I know for a fact that my defending improved at that time because Sukhi (JCT coach Sukhwinder Singh) would play those two, who were much younger, against me in training,” he recalled with a smile. “But the best player I have seen is (the late) Krishanu Dey, he was an unbelievable player and very difficult to defend against.”

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