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How 'A' licence holding Indian coaches are nothing but puppets

05:38 WAT 22/05/2018
Bastab Roy
India have several A licensed coaches but unfortunately, most of them work as assistants to foreign coaches in ISL or become puppets in I-League...

East Bengal recently roped in former ATK assistant coach Bastab Roy as their new head coach for the upcoming 2018/19 season. Roy, who has been the assistant coach in the Indian Super League (ISL) franchise since 2015, will replace Khalid Jamil at the helm of affairs.

While it may seem that Bastab has got an upgrade in his role, in reality, he will perform the exact same duties which he used to do at ATK.

East Bengal had earlier announced that Subhash Bhowmick will continue to serve as the technical director of the club. With someone like Bhowmick in the dressing room, it is highly unlikely that Bastab will have any say in the running of the team, which was more or less the same role he performed at ATK. 

This is a normal practice among the I-League clubs since the All India Football Federation (AIFF) made it mandatory for the clubs to appoint head coaches with AFC ‘A’ Licences. ISL also makes it mandatory for Assistant coaches to have an A License. While several coaches underwent the test and grabbed the required licences, the ‘legends’ decided to give it a skip. Two of the most successful coaches in the history of Indian football, namely Subrata Bhattacharya and Subhash Bhowmick, did not feel the need to get the licences done.

Subrata Bhattacharya’s last major head coach stint was with East Bengal back in 2007 where he did not last even a season. Bhowmick last worked with East Bengal in 2009 where he lasted for only 10 months.

But the lack of necessary coaching license did not mean that their coaching careers ended. Clubs found loopholes in AIFF’s rules and appointed them as technical directors.

Subrata Bhattacharya took charge of Mohun Bagan in 2011/12 season with former player and ‘A’ licence holder Prasanta Banerjee as the head coach. While Prasanta was the boss on paper, Bhattacharya controlled proceedings in reality.

The same thing happened in 2012/13 when Churchill Alemao appointed Subhash Bhowmick as Churchill Brothers’ technical director with Mariano Dias at the helm of affairs. Under Bhowmick’s guidance, Churchill won their second I-League title.

The above instances clearly show how the AFC ‘A’ licence coaches are mere puppets who are controlled by the ‘technical directors’ who haven't got the coaching degrees. In the ISL, most of the Indian Assistant Coaches do not have any say with regards to the first team decisions. Insiders in several ISL clubs have informed that many of the assistant coaches are not even present at the training sessions. 

In one of the ISL franchisees in the earlier seasons, a foreign coach refused to take his Assistant Coach for away games. Also, in another franchise, the Indian Assistant coach had not watched the I-League matches and the team had to rope in a consultant to pick their Indian contingent. 

While one cannot doubt the abilities of coach’s like Bhowmick, Bhattacharya, it has to be kept in mind that there is a reason why the parent bodies of world football have made it mandatory for the football coaches and managers to have licences.

Across the world, coaching license is mandatory. The stardom of a footballer from yesteryears does not matter when it comes to coaching. However, one also has to question the clubs as to what is the role of such coaches in the first-team process. Do assistant coaches have any say in choosing players in India?

In fact, in the ISL, the club CEOs seem to be more proficient in picking players rather than qualified assistant coaches!

India have a huge pool of A licensed coaches but unfortunately, most of them work as assistants to foreign coaches in ISL or become puppets in the hands of ‘technical directors’ in I-League. At the end of the day, Assistant Coaches are just doing youth development or heading grassroots programmes. 

To take an example, renowned coach Bimal Ghosh, who does not have an A license, has produced many notable players. How many players have these licensed coaches produced? All this raises questions as to how effective is the A License coaching course in India and whether the clubs have any confidence in handing these coaches responsibility of the club.

Someone like Khalid Jamil was an exception when he refused to acknowledge Bhowmick’s authority in the team. After the veteran coach took charge as the club’s technical director, it was expected that he would take the responsibility from Jamil. But the former I-League winning Aizawl FC coach did not let that happen as he remained the boss of the side until his last assignment that was the Super Cup. That was the very reason Bhowmick never liked Khalid and he was sacked at the end of last season.

This year in East Bengal it will be a repeat show of what happened in Mohun Bagan and Churchill Brothers. Bhowmick will be the boss and Bastab Roy will be his yes-man.