At Belgium’s Standard Liege, Luis Norton de Matos, India’s new under-17 football coach, played with Belgian greats Eric Gerets and Michel Preud’Homme who was adjudged best goalie in the 1994 World Cup. He also said the experience of being managed by the legendary Ernst Happel was amazing. But it is with Mahatma Gandhi’s words that the Portuguese wants to start work for the under-17 World Cup.
“Gandhi said, ‘strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will.’ With this in mind, I am approaching one of the most difficult assignments in my career…We have a long road (ahead) but progressing from the group would be the first target,” Norton de Matos, 63, told HT over the phone in his first interview since taking charge on Wednesday. He will start work from Saturday.
“The next four-six weeks will be crucial. My first job is to know each player and play friendlies every week till we are ready for tougher international opponents,” he said, over the phone on Thursday.
The new coach refused to talk about predecessor Nicolai Adam’s allegedly aggressive ways but said “for this age, when there are a lot of expectations and dreams, it is important to mix affection and discipline; be like a father. But the boys have to be willing to die for the coach. And their approach to every game should be to win, not to not lose.”
For now, the coach said he would work with the existing Indian support staff but get a Portuguese assistant-coach (Hugo Martens) and “a scout (analyst) who will identify strengths and weaknesses of our opponents (once the draw is made in July). The smallest of details can make the difference.” Norton de Matos didn’t name the analyst because “we are trying to convince him now” but said he too is a Portuguese.
Norton de Matos said as an aspiring physical education instructor, he maintained a ledger on the training sessions of Happel, who was the first to win the European Cup (now Champions League) with two clubs, when he played at Standard Liege. “Even today I use many of his methods. He was one of the biggest coaches of the 20th century and some of his training is reminiscent of what (Pep) Guardiola and (Juergen) Klopp do now.”
India’s new coach also said Euro 2016 winning coach Fernando Santos has been a friend from when they were 16. And that he knows Jose Mourinho long before he became the Special One. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das said they spoke to Santos and got Mourinho’s feedback before appointing him.