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Home > City Resources > Sports & Recreation > Personalities

 Bimal Ghosh 

Coach Bimal Ghosh - Piloting Air-India to dizzy heights

Bimal GhoshMumbai's top soccer team Air-India has been piloted to dizzy heights in many prestigious competitions by renowned coach Bimal Ghosh who was voted as the best coach in the year, 1997. Ghosh added another feather to his cap when he guided hosts Air-India to victory over arch rivals Mahindras United in the final of the recently concluded Air India Millennium Cup Football tournament.

Born and bred in Kamptee in Nagpur, Ghosh joined Air-India in 1982 as a striker. He served Air-India as a manager from 1992 before he was elevated to the post of coach in 1994. Being a son of an army officer, Ghosh is a strict disciplinarian who has moulded Air-India into a closely knit team. He is a shrewd observer of the game and has the knack of spotting potential in budding youngsters.

Ghosh does not rely on star performers to deliver the goods. Widely known for his brave and bold decisions, he has not only the intrinsic ability to forge a winning combination with lesser known players, but is also able to transform them into stars. Under his guidance, promising youngsters like Khalid Jamil, Bungo Singh and Tomba Singh have become champion fighters. Ghosh spoke to about his glittering career as player and coach.

How would you describe your journey as a striker, manager and subsequently as a coach of Air-India?

With the boysI started my career as a striker for Nagpur University. I also played for Rambbani Sports Club in Nagpur, and for South Eastern Railway, before joining Orkay Mills in 1980. I represented Air-India from 1982 to 1991. My best performance was against Bombay Customs in the Rovers Cup in 1987. Air-India was trailing by 2 goals when I scored a hat-trick in five minutes and we won the match 3-2.

As a player, life was easy. And being a coach, there is tremendous responsibility on my shoulders. I worked as a manager for Air-India in 1992, before accepting the responsibility of coaching the airmen in 1994. As a coach, I had observed that the players get all the credit whenever our team wins a match or a tournament. However, when the team loses a match, criticism is heaped upon the coach.

Initially, people would say that Air-India is able to win matches because it banks on top players like Jeevan Moraes, Naushad Moosa and Abbas Ali Rizvi. So, I introduced a new ideology in order to reduce our dependence on top players. I prepared the boys for greater battles and we continued to win matches even in the absence of Moraes, Moosa, Rizvi and Paitie, who had already switched over to other clubs. Look at Tomba Singh and Bungo Singh who originally manned the center and the right positions on the field. When other teams started marking them, I changed their position and groomed them to play in any position.

Can you specify some of your major achievements while working as a coach of Air-India ?
The year 1994 was probably the best in my career, when I made my debut as a coach of Air India. We (Air India) won the Bombay League Championships, and registered a 1-0 victory over Germany in the final of the World Airlines Cup. In the same year, Air-India was unbeaten in 37 matches and only suffered losses to East Bengal and Mohan Bagan. After emerging as the runner-up in the Bombay League Championship in 1995, Air-India won the Sikkim Gold Cup and also became the Bombay League champions in 1996. Again in the year 1997, Air-India won the Bombay League and were unbeaten in the National Football league, before losing five players to injuries in a match against JCT.

In 1998, Air-India could not live up to the general expectations with a mere 2nd runner-up position in the Bombay league to show for our efforts. However, we came back strongly in 1999 and won the Bombay League and the Sikkim Gold Cup in 2000.

How would you describe the present state of India football ?
Indian football has changed completely from what it used to be in the earlier stage. Skill was the only significant aspect in football in the 1950s. But nowadays, in addition to skill, football hinges on stamina, strength and speed. We are okay as far as skill is concerned but we lack in strength and stamina.

The Indian team was unable to put up a competitive show in the Sahara Millennium Cup. What could be the reason for this ?
Basically, the Indian team could not function as a team and played very badly against Iceland and Uruguay. How could you rely on senior players like Carlton Chapman, Bruno Coutinho or I M Vijayan who are not even full-time players within their individual teams? Coach Islam Akhmedov should have certainly experimented with the younger players. I also think that the selectors were apprehensive of the media and the existing quota system which empowers every state to represent their players in the national team.

What are the remedial measures for improving the standard of Indian football?
We have to look at the grassroots which means greater focus on boys between the age group of 8 to 9 years. Every state should have at least one football academy. It is common knowledge that we lack renowned coaches at the school level. Hence, it is important to get the services of experienced and qualified coaches. I reckon that the MSSA-Colgate Inter School football tournament which is organized by Bombay School Sports Association every year is good for the game. However, the tournament is held only for a limited period, and thus fails to hold the momentum of children towards football. Even parents are not very encouraging as they want their children to concentrate more on studies. Football is a forgotten affair when students progress from school to college for higher studies.

How does a qualified coach help to mould a team?
An able coach has the ability to combine the whole team in well-planned way. The coach has to find solutions to the problems of every player in the team. I personally believe that a coach should find solutions to the problems of the players, because he (the coach) is generally held responsible for the performance of the team on the field. This is despite the fact that every team has a manager who deals with the problems faced by players.

The coach has to ensure that the players get along well with each other on and off the field. The off-the-field relations between players are important and help them to attain better understanding and coordination when on the field. The coach will be able to forge a winning combination if he can motivate his team.

Can you tell us about your daily practice schedule?
I make the boys practice 3 to 4 hours everyday. I experiment with different combinations. The emphasis is on the speed, shooting skills and set-play like the corners and kicks. I also guide the players on how to play and move from one post to another on the field.

What do you think about Air-India players, Bungo Singh and Tomba Singh?
Bungo and Tomba love football and possess tremendous firepower. Although, they have made considerable improvement and played well against top teams like Iran, Salgaocar and Mahindras, I believe that they should not be overexposed because they lack experience. They should be nurtured very carefully with proper guidance as they have got a bright future and will represent India in the near future.

Both Bungo and Tomba are very obedient and give a lot of respect to everyone. They reside in close proximity and also obey Khambiton Singh, who is a senior player. We also always keep a watchful eye on them so that they do not get out of the premises of Air-India and remain focussed towards the game.

Tell us something about Khalid Jamil?
Khalid is a very good player and is only next to Baichung Bhutia. He can play in any position either center, right or left and is unstoppable on his day. Moreover, he is very disciplined and loves to play football which is very important. He has bright future and will play for India..

By : Wasim Siddiqui
Photographer: Vinayak Prabhu


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