Education is important to make your presence felt

Football

SHAPING TALENT Noushad Moosa has slipped into the role as a coach with ease, grooming the next generation of players at the Bengaluru FC.

Noushad Moosa leans back deeper into his chair, at ease at the Bengaluru FC office. The conversation has gone on long enough to make him comfortable.

“I was playing the Nehru Cup semifinal against Iraq in Kochi,” he says, a smile creeping in as he remembered that day 22 summers ago. “The stadium was packed and at half-time, the main gate was crashed by the crowd. It’s a cricket stadium and you have space (around the field) and there was a massive crowd. The game was stopped for around 45 minutes because it was not safe.

“Somehow the opponent coach was really nice and he said let’s play. It was very hot and humid and for me to take throw-ins, it was getting difficult because my hands were getting wet. And the best part was, whenever I came to take a throw, I found a lungi for me to wipe my hands,” he laughs.

It’s been nearly two years since he walked through BFC’s doors as the assistant coach and head coach for the first team and the reserve side respectively. His responsibilities at the club have only increased since then.

The 47-year-old is the thread that connects the club’s present to their future. A link between generations. The role fits Moosa like a glove.

The stories of his time as a player are fascinating. From remembering a time when the All India Football Federation decided to come up with a coupon system to restrict the players from playing only (yes, only) 50 matches to when one half the stadium chanted his name before his famous corner-style throw-ins while playing for East Bengal in the Kolkata derby, the stories are told in great detail, animation and warmth.

But most of all, he knows of football, footballers and life after football. And he knows it all in great personal detail. As a coach tasked with grooming youngsters and sending them out to the world, what more can you ask?

“Education makes so much difference,” he says while talking about youth development. And as with any educator worth his salt, Moosa is intent on giving examples to back his statement. The one he uses here is that of a dear friend and one of India’s greatest players -- I M Vijayan.

“Vijayan could do anything with the ball,” he says. “The skill he possessed at that time... he had that natural talent. He was a guy when he was old also, 36-38, he could score hat-tricks. Vijayan was different,” he says before diving into the point.

“Vijayan came from a poor background and wasn’t well-educated,” he says. “Vijayan, with the game he had, and (if he) had that education, I’m telling you he would have been at a different level. Sunil (Chhetri) presents himself well. Bhaichung (Bhutia) or Renedy (Singh) -- they have become a brand and that part of presenting himself is missing in Vijayan. He was so far ahead of everyone,” he adds a bit ruefully.

“He calls me about talented players even now, because he wants them to not suffer as he did. He wants the kids to have an education and all that. He understands that. He wants them to get an opportunity,” Moosa adds, shedding light on Vijayan’s character.

“The players playing in ISL and I-league are earning good money so the kids are not giving preference to education. It’s not only about something to fall back on. It makes a big difference because you have foreigners coming in and they speak about tactical things.”

That right balance between football and education is his main focus at BFC. The other is to make sure the philosophy of the club runs right through from the first team to the U-9s and U-11s.

“Our system is such at BFC that we have a philosophy and we want to graduate players to the senior team. What’s important is to have the quality to match that level,” explains the man who is a former head of youth development at Pune FC.

“What the senior team needs, I need to see that it happens in the junior teams. Till last year it wasn’t happening but this year it is and you will see the results. We went to Barcelona and played their junior team last year.

“Carles (Cuadrat) and Gerard (Zaragoza, assistant coach) said ‘you see the way they are playing the B team, the senior team plays the same way and their U-13 or U-15 team will also play the same way.’ So that’s how the process is.”

“So I teach them to deal with the pressure. This season we started with a tournament where we faced Real Kashmir in the semifinal. We were down one goal, we scored, then we were leading, they equalised... so against a team like Real Kashmir where five foreigners are playing and the way these kids were performing... it’s a learning process for the boys,” he adds.

This past season, the reserve side won the BDFA Super Division. BFC boys reached the final of the Hero Junior League and Hero Sub-Junior League where they lost to Minerva and Reliance Foundation Young Champs respectively. They fell short in the Elite League, finishing third in their Group in the final round of the group stage.

The former Churchill Brothers star has also identified where there is leakage of talent and is hoping to fix it with his team.

"In India you have U-15 and U-19. Now its come, U-18. Say a 15-year-old graduates and he goes to the next level, the age gap is 2-3 years and he really suffers there." he explains.

"This year, at BFC, we are not making an U-18 team, we will get 2-3 maybe but I'll keep players of 2003-04 date. Maybe I wont get results but these kids will get to play U-18 I-League. If they don't win this year, they can next year because they have got that high level of playing time. They will also play the BDFA league, all the major tournaments and Second Division League because the U-18 and reserve team will be clubbed together. You have to give them the right kind of education so that they will be fearless."

It's all a matter of time.

"What is needed in our country is a long term plan. Japan want to be in the World Cup final in 2050. Those players are not born yet. They are building the structure and every world cup they are there because they are planning. So you have to work now. You have to work on the culture. This is the opportunity to get into it," he signs off.

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