It was a super Sunday for Indian football as 50 coaches qualified for the All India Football Federation (AIFF) ‘D’ licence category by being part of the first phase of Premier Skills, a joint initiative of the British Council of India and the English Premier League.
The trainees, who can now apply for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) ‘C’ licence programme in three months, were nominated from the eight Indian Super League (ISL) clubs and a few non-government organisations. The AIFF and ISL had collaborated with Premier Skills for the week-long training programme that aimed at training coaches at the grassroots level.
The session in Mumbai was led by Premier Skills head coach Jeremy Weeks, who was supported by West Ham United’s women and girls’ development officer Katie Bottom and Robert Perrett, development manager at Crystal Palace. The trio were also helped by three Premier Skills coach educators — Kuntala Ghosh Dastidar, Shekhar Kerkar and Shafeeq Hasan — who are part of the programme since 2013.
Over the last week, Premier Skills conducted a number of theory and practical workshops in which finer details of the game was explained to the batch of coaches. The trainees took part in various sessions, including self-assessment, introspective sessions and personal reading. The response has been encouraging, said Weeks.
However, Weeks also impressed on the need to have more technically qualified coaches. “It’s quite simple to be honest; if you want young kids to take up football in a cricket-crazy nation, there must be coaches with good technical knowledge to mentor and guide them as well,” he said.
“It’s very easy to coach at Manchester United or one of the big clubs as there is no dearth of resources or infrastructure. But when one has to bring out the best with limited resources, that’s where the going gets tough,” said Weeks, involved with the Premier Skills programme since 2009.
Apart from coaching styles and formations, the coaches were informed of several warm-up schedules to help improve the physical condition of their respective sides. A special session on using football as a community tool was also conducted. “The coaches have to incorporate skills and motivate young players to take up the game in a professional manner. The programme has to be strategised differently for different countries for which the backing of the respective federations is important as well,” said Weeks.
To the AIFF, this was an opportunity to produce more coaches at the most basic level. “Creating such a programme was very important for us, which is why we decided to give it accreditation and offer AIFF ‘D’ licenses to those who take part in it. We need players to come out through such programmes and play football at the highest level. We want to strengthen the base of the football pyramid,” said AIFF general secretary Kushal Das.
There is no dearth in passion, according to Weeks. But he also advocated for better supervision and greater sharing of knowledge. “The challenging factor is to inculcate technical skills and details among the coaches so that they can pass them on to the next generation. A coach must have great technical knowledge of the game and thus, such sessions are necessary so that people like us can share their experience in the Premier League and replicate it in India,” he said.