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ISL: Kerala Blasters' Eelco Schattorie - Don't hype Sahal Abdul Samad up, he needs time and coaching

12:13 PM EDT 10/1/19
Eelco Schattorie
Eelco Schattorie feels I-League is a good platform for Indian footballers...

Kerala Blasters head coach Eelco Schattorie feels midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad needs to be given time and coaching to grow as a footballer. 

The talented Kerala-born midfielder has quickly grown to become a fan favourite at the club and his displays in Indian Super League (ISL) and for the India national team have earned him rave reviews from all over the country. 

However, the Dutch tactician believes Sahal is a rough diamond, one that needs to be polished through coaching. 

"We have been working with Sahal for a few weeks, he has tremendous talent. He plays with intuition, I think he has never really been coached before. He never played at a club level or in club competitions. He is a rough diamond, he needs time and coaching to grow," Schattorie said.

"A news article every week saying how great he is will not help him. I told him to be humble and take his time. Young players, they need playing time. For players with quality, they need a platform - a good platform in India is I-League. If you are within an ISL club and you don't play right away, you will lack playing time. Then you get supporters asking, why he is not playing? He needs time."

He also touched upon the exclusions of Keralites Arjun Jayaraj and Jithin MS from the final squad for the season. While Arjun is nursing an injury, the coach said Jithin is not ready for the first team. 

"Arjun is a great player, he is injured. His future could be on the wings. He needs time. It is not a matter of giving players a chance, they need to be ready. You can't go to primary school to university. Jithin is not ready for that (move to the first team)."

Further assessing his squad, Schattorie admitted concerns regarding his defence. Kerala Blasters had to cancel their pre-season tour to UAE after playing just one game due to issues with the organisers. They have been playing friendlies in Kochi but the coach has not had the option to choose from a fully fit squad, with Sandesh Jhingan returning from national team duty and Gianni Zuiverloon and Jairo Rodriguez yet to fully recover from their knocks. 

"The defence of my team, at the moment, is not ready. Without making it a big issue as if we are in trouble, we can hopefully we can catch up in two weeks. 

"Club management did a hell of a job to create a good team. It takes time for a team to gel. FC Goa have been together for three years. I have worked hard wherever I work."

The ISL could soon replace I-League as the top tier football league in India and the former East Bengal head coach feels what is done at the lowest level in terms of youth development is very important if top clubs want to sustain, regardless of which league they play in. And for Indian footballers to improve, they simply need to play more games per season. 

"ISL has more coverage but there always has to be a pyramid where one league has to be the top league. The thing that needs to be emphasised in the end is what is done at the bottom - the youth development. That makes the top clubs stay at the top. That makes everything sustainable."

"Forget about coaches, if you bring the best coaches and a player only plays 20 games in a year, that is not enough. There is a break of 3-4 months. You need to play a minimum of 30 games, preferably more."

Ahead of their season opener in Kochi against ATK later this month, Eelco Schattorie announced Bartholomew Ogbeche as the club captain, who will take over the mantle from fan-favourite Sandesh Jhingan. The former PSG forward, who scored 12 goals in 18 games for NorthEast United last season, is set to lead the team from the front and will be the team's prime source for goals. 

The coach explained his decision, "Sandesh is a great caption, he would be my second captain. I haven't worked with him (Jhingan) that much as he joined the camp after the national team duty. Ogbeche is the oldest, has played at the highest level and has experience."