The euphoria after India U20 team's win over Argentina U20 and the India U16 team's triumph over Asian champions Iraq U16 has evinced a brighter outlook for the future among fans and pundits alike. For, the group of youngsters who look set to form the core of the national team in the future showcased skill and maturity that belied their tender years.
But one also has to take cognizance of the fact that the two teams were mentored by a couple of promising Indian coaches in Floyd Pinto and Bibiano Fernandes. The victories were as much a credit to their work as it has been for the players.
The exposure tours and training camps held in foreign countries with world-class facilities have not only helped the players develop themselves but has also seen the coaches evolve. Interacting with coaches and players from countries which have a proper football culture has only helped Bibiano and Floyd learn a few tricks and improve themselves.
The results are there for everyone to see. The wins over Iraq and Argentina did not happen overnight. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) have had a concerted effort in providing exposure to the promising young players and had the gall to put Indian coaches in charge of the team. Yes, Pinto was assisting Luis Norton de Matos for a while but even when the Portuguese tactician left, the federation resisted the temptation to appoint another foreign coach.
Pinto, with exposure and experience under his belt, has guided the U20 team to a groundbreaking win that will be remembered for a long time. Pinto, an engineer who has had only semi-professional playing experience, has been in charge of the AIFF Elite Academy and the junior teams for quite a while now and has shown promise, guiding the Academy team to I-League U18 titles in the recent past.
Despite that his India U19 team in the past were not held in high regard. The results were not noteworthy and Floyd Pinto was not really a name that reverberated around the footballing circles. But now it has changed. With the right support and guidance, the AFC A License holder has made the country sit up and take note of his name.
Bibiano Fernandes, on the other hand, was entrusted with the U16 team and the young coach has not disappointed. With proper support and scouting staff with him, Bibiano has churned out impressive results with the U16 team in the recent past. Wins over Jordan, Tajikistan, Hong Kong and creditable draws against the likes of Serbia were all signs of promise of the team and the manager.
It is heartening to see two young Indian coaches making their mark with the junior national teams but the credit goes to the work done by the AIFF in the last one and a half years to ensure the development of the coaches as well.
Coaches' education and AFC Coaching Courses have been in place in the country for quite a while now under Savio Medeira who is the head of coach education in the AIFF. But it required the right exposure to bring out the best in these two coaches. That is what AIFF and SAI have done. They have invested heavily into the young team but also trusted Indian coaches to make the most of the opportunity.
Just doing a coaching course or camps will not help the prospective coaches excel. One needs the right kind of exposure and opportunities to do so. That has what has helped Floyd and Bibiano now.
The talent and aptitude has always been there. Though the Indian Super League (ISL) has not seen any Indian coaches to manage a team, the I-League has shown that they are good enough.
In the last four years, Indian coaches won the I-League thrice (Sanjoy Sen in 2015, Khalid Jamil in 2017 and Khogen Singh in 2018). Sanjoy Sen's win came against the likes of Dave Rogers, Stuart Watkiss (Bharat FC) and Ashley Westwood (Bengaluru FC) while Khalid Jamil trumped Trevor Morgan (East Bengal) and Albert Roca (Bengaluru FC) to the title. Yes, the same Roca who walked to the top of the ISL group stage table in last season.
All they need now is more support, exposure and opportunities to showcase their ability. The success of Bibiano and Floyd should be a catalyst for the development of more and more top quality Indian coaches. However, for that they need exposure, not just coaching camps.