India U-16 coach BIBIANO FERNANDES is back in Goa preparing the boys for the AFC U-16 Cup to take place in Bahrain in September 2020. If India qualifies, he will be the first coach responsible for the countries qualification to the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The Navhind Times Sports Editor AUGUSTO RODRIGUES catches up with him to get a glimpse of his way forward.

Q: You were selected to represent India for a FIFA Grassroots Development course for coaches of all countries in Asia in Japan in November 2019. What is your assessment of the path forward after your interactions in Japan?

The level of competition in Japan and India is different and therein lays the biggest difference. They have a lot of competitive matches for U-12 and all age groups. During my stay in Japan I saw some U-14 boys play and their level of passing was better than some of my U-16 boys. This is because they are taught this at a young age through competitive matches.

Q: India has started competitive matches and the country is seeing a growth in Academies too. Do you see a change in approach? Or is it still early days for India?

Japan started years ago. They have reached a stage where they are trimming the system conceived by them. The system is being set in India. For example, Japan Football Association (JFA) has four football academies ,for various age groups, in four different regions of the country. Boys fight to get to these academies through merit and scholarship. The AIFF has one academy now.

Q: What is the difference in style of coaching in Japan and India ?

When I was in Japan I noticed that the coaches do not shout at their players when they are playing. They just sit and allow the boys to have a good time and express themselves and teach them later on based on what they observed during the game. This is because the coaches are not pressured to win. In India, coaches are pressurised to win and this creates an imbalance.

Q: So, coaches are not made accountable if their boys do not win?

No. Coaches there are not thrown out if their boys do not win. There is no pressure to win. The emphasis is on allowing the boys to enjoy the game and note the fine points on which the child should be fine tuned.

Q: Is working as a coach in Japan akin to being a government employee in India?

In Japan I noticed that the coaches work with the dedication that one day, at least one of their boys will play for their country. That is the motivation and sincerity I noticed in them and that is why, when the boys are enjoying themselves, they are able to spot the best talent and work on that talent with no pressure.

Q: You have re-grouped with your set of boys that played and qualified for the final round of the U-16 AFC Cup. Shamik Vaz from the Dempo SC Academy was one of the boys you were trying at that time on as left back . How is he shaping up now?

He is doing commendably and I think he has a good chance of making it amongst the final boys to be selected for the AFC Cup. Shamik is a good left back and doubles up well on the left wing. I think he has a good chance of making it.

Q: Are players still being scouted to join your team and in which positions?

The scouts are all over the country spotting talent and I am, in particular, looking for some players in the midfield. There are quiet a few vacancies in the midfield that need to be filled up.

Q: A lot of players in the Indian team are from the North East. Is the trend continuing?

We have realised that there are quiet a good number of players coming from Uttarakhand. I was, at some stage, thinking of going there to see and find out how they are churning out such quality players in their State.

Q: Shamik the only player from Goa. Why ?

Two more players from Goa are supposed to come for trials in a few days. I think the boys from Goa develop late as players. I started late. That trend is seeing a change and it will take some time.

Q: The boys with you spend months without their parents or siblings. What is the secret of keeping them happy?

There are times when I am their teacher; times when I am their friend; times when I am their family. We have to roll all roles into one. But the basic is one: Give them respect if you expect them to respect you. Everything is centered on respect.

Q: The AIFF age groups leagues are on and I have noticed that when a player is substituted, neither the coach nor player acknowledges each other during the substitution. Why?

I really do not understand why coaches behave this way. This is not a subject taught in license coaching courses but I would definitely expect coaches to research on the subject. We have to learn beyond what we are thought. I wonder why there is no interaction between a coach and the player who is substituted.