The selection process for India’s next football manager, a post which has been left vacant since the resignation of Stephen Constantine in January after the Blue Tigers’ agonising exit at the AFC Asian Cup, is currently underway.
After taking over India for the second time in 2015, Constantine oversaw a huge revival of sorts.
The Englishman helped the national team break into the top-100 of the Fifa Rankings along with guiding them to Asian Cup, following an eight-year hiatus, where they narrowly missed out on qualification for the knockouts.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who has been one of the mainstays in the national side for quite some years now, hopes the new manager will build on from where Constantine left and lead the team to greater heights.
“We need a coach that will take us a step further than what we did in the last four years,” said Sandhu on the sidelines of Neymar Jr’s Red Bull five-a-side event in Kolkata.
“Someone who believes in the team and uses all the talent that is provided up there in the leagues and takes us a step further. We should try to qualify for the Asian Cup again and aim perform better with the World Cup qualifiers coming up,” he added.
Sandhu, who has also captained the national side on multiples occasions believes it becomes easier to buy into a managers philosophy if he is a good man manager.
“The coach should be a good man-manager, no matter what the results are and that is very important,” said the Bengaluru FC glovesman.
He added, “If a person is a good man manager it becomes very easy to ask something from the players, they give 120 percent and believe in the system because that’s what makes the players play. And once the players and the coaches are in sync, the team performs. A good man manager can make the players believe in his system and his vision, it makes the job easier.”
Former Bengaluru coach Albert Roca is likely to be among the frontrunners for the post and despite only coaching El Salvador on the international stage, his track record in India has found him many backers.
The Spaniard guided BFC to four major finals during his two-year stint, during which they clinched the Federation Cup and Super Cup despite coming within touching distance of the AFC Asian Cup in 2016 and the 2017-’18 ISL finals. Sandhu backed the recruitment of the former Barcelona assistant coach given his understanding about Indian football.
“Roca is a brilliant coach given his communication and man management skills,” he said.
“I have enjoyed playing under him and if he is chosen as a coach, it would be a very good fit because he knows about Indian football and has had his fair share of experience.
“My relationship was quite good with him. He is very honest with the players. If you are not doing well, he will come up to you and tell you that. If he wants something from you in the system, he is very clear about the role. It was truly a privilege to play under him. And if he is one of the coaches who is shortlisted, then it’s good for Indian football.”
Coming to Indian football, the craze for Sevens – seven-a-side football has taken Kerala by storm with around 600 tournaments being hosted in a year that also features national team players taking part.
Five-a-side football has also witnessed a significant rise and Sandhu, a clever ball-playing goalkeeper himself, believes the shorter formats can help more people get involved in the sport.
“For sure, five-a-side is the way ahead for Indian football. You can use it to promote football and have more interest among the people. Eleven-a-side is the format recognised internationally but if five-a-side is there, it will help promote the game and culture of sports in India. We can do more of that,” he concluded.