FEATURE | BY ANSELM NORONHA Follow @apnoronha on Twitter
Floyd Pinto - the current head coach of the India U-19 national team and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Elite Academy - is a name established in the Indian football field through an unfamiliar channel to begin with.
One of the youngest in the country to hold an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 'A' License in coaching from the May 2014 batch, it was a seven-year odyssey that he pulled through into the coaching department since graduating as an engineer from the Don Bosco Institute in Kurla-Mumbai, via two years of semi-professional playing experience.
"I have not played much at any level other than the Mumbai University level and Kenkre FC in the Mumbai Elite Division. At the same time, I was persuing my engineering as well. So it was difficult to manage," recalled Floyd Pinto, whose exposure to the beautiful game came at a deferred stage.
"Through Don Bosco itself, the administrator Fr. Adolph (Furtado) got me into Kenkre FC as a part-time coach. Ever since I picked up there, I spent six years at the Kenkre academy as well as their I-League second division team as the head coach and head of youth development. At that point of time, I played with them (Kenkre) for a year but I soon realised that it's not going to happen because you need that level of nurturing before you become a good player," he unravelled how he took to coaching.
As a coach, Floyd Pinto helped Kenkre FC qualify for the I-League second division with a distinctive record of leading the "youngest team in the league" in 2010. He also ensured the Kenkre FC U-17 had the honour of becoming the youngest team to attain promotion in the Mumbai League, besides finishing as runners-up at the Costa Blanca Cup in Spain with the Kenkre FC U-13s in 2013.
Explaining his path into the AIFF's fold, Pinto revealed, "This is my third year with AIFF. I was with the same team when (Anirudh) Thapa and all were there, that was the Kalyani batch, when all the teams were shifted to Goa from Kalyani and Bengaluru. This group is a mix of Kalyani and Bengaluru boys. That time I joined as an assistant coach under Thomas (Joseph). Six months into the job, I took over as the head coach. So it's been effectively around two and a half years as the head coach.
"The group who passed out last year includes Thapa, Jerry (Lalrinzuala), Prosenjit (Chakraborty), (Baoringdao) Bodo - all of them who went to Chennaiyin FC and FC Pune City from the 1998 (born) group. That time (Shabir) Pasha was in charge of the 97 group, that was the then U-18 team. I was with the U-17 team and now officially two years with the AIFF Elite Academy, as it's known as, which is the (India) U-19 team. So these are all the 99-born boys who are eligible to play for the SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) and AFC U-19 tournaments."
Ever since he's assumed the position of head coach at the AIFF Academy Teams, Floyd Pinto has won the U-18 I-League in the recently concluded season, winning the title once before as assistant other than lifting the Subroto Cup as the head coach of the AIFF U-17 team in 2015. The members of the recent AIFF U-18 squad would go on to comprise of the India U-19 team which also houses the standby players of the U-17 World Cup team.
"There are many (U-17) players who they kept back (from the Europe tour) because they wanted to have a look at them later on. All the players (who were in the U-17 World Cup team), including the injured players, will be called back in August in a view to assess them once the squad (under Luis Norton de Matos) come back from USA and Mexico," Pinto confirmed.
Meanwhile, the FA International License Certificate holder is preparing for the SAFF U-19 Championship that will be held in Bangladesh in August 2017 and then the qualifiers for the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship scheduled to take place from 31 October to 8 November 2017 where India are grouped alongside Yemen, Turkmenistan and hosts Saudi Arabia.
Other than the twin friendlies against the Singapore U-19 side, winning one with a 7-2 margin and losing the other by a solitary goal, Pinto has been conducting trials to hunt for his final squad. "We have to see how the boys (on trial) adjust to our training before knowing in about a week how the squad is going to shape and then we start shipping out the boys that we don't want and keep the core," he stated.