Indian Football

Gouramangi Singh: I think it is the perfect time to play football in India

Riddhiman Sarkar

May 25 2023
Gouramangi Singh

The FC Goa assistant coach had some interesting insights as he commented on the RFDL, the Indian national football team, and more.

Former Indian national youth team captain Gouramangi Singh is one of the most decorated former players to grace the world of Indian football. Among many other laurels, Singh led the winning Indian team (Under 18) at the Ian Rush Trophy in 2003. Moreover, his international career is one of the most illustrious with memorable performances against New Zealand (2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers) and the United Arab Emirates (2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier). 

 Recently, he sat down with Khel Now and gave us an exclusive interview on a plethora of topics. Here are some excerpts from the same as he talked about his career, the current batch of players, and football in India. 

Experience of coaching FC Goa

Having played assistant coach and been an integral part of yet another player-turned-manager Carlos Pena’s backroom at FC Goa, Singh was deeply indebted to the club. He expressed his gratitude for bringing him back to his roots.

“ I think it was an honour. Very honestly, a big ‘thank you’ to the club for giving me the opportunity to come back to Goa. I left in 2012 after my stint with Churchill Brothers as a player. Then I got transferred to Kolkata, to Prayag United (United Sports Club). So then I think, exactly after ten years, again, FC Goa gave me the chance to return and Goa is like a second home for me.

Knowing the club, the people, and the place (helped me even more). It was more of an honor because representing Goa and trying to help the club in whatever small way I can gives me immense pleasure. Yes, on the football pitch, we didn’t have the result that we wanted but again it’s all part and parcel of the game. We learn and we pick ourselves up so preparations for the upcoming season are already in full swing. So, I’m very positive and optimistic about the next campaign.”

Improvements in Indian football over the years

The former Indian national youth team captain is one of the ideal candidates to lead the youth development projects. He accordingly noted some of the drastic and some of the ongoing chacnges in the Indian footballing scenario.

“I think it’s the perfect time to play football in our country, India, at the moment. That’s what I feel personally. It’s part of the transition which I’ve seen so much in the last 17-18 years. I’m talking about 2004 when I was playing for India (U20). You know, I happen to remember playing in I-League matches with kick-off times at four in the afternoon. The pitches were nothing like what we are seeing today.

“The quality of the field, and the stadiums have all undergone big improvements. All I-League and ISL clubs own dedicated training fields as well and they maintain them. Then the number of matches they’re getting to play, and the exposure, all play a part. Slowly this structure is falling into place.

The professionalism, sponsors, and level of coaching still have a long way to go but are regardless moving forward. So, once again and I’m saying this for the youngsters in the (Reliance Foundation presents Premier League Next) Generations (Cup) I think they are in a good time.

The only thing is how many of them can realise the situation we are in and how smart and hard they can work to make the best out of their position. Not everyone is fortunate enough to play football. You have to have the skill and talent to play this game. When you do have the same, I would encourage you to make the best out of it because not everyone is lucky enough to play this game. ”

Hosting matches during international break

India’s decision to field the Hero Tri-Nation tournament series in Manipur was touted to be a massive publicity move and it paid off exactly the same way. People flocked to support the Blue Tigers and helped them to a memorable second title. Singh mentioned how these international breaks can be utilized and tweaked to better the development of the national team.

“Yeah as much as we want the national teams to play, they have certain restrictions, right? All over the world, in fact. They have windows and it can’t be that they get to play entire year round. You can’t do that. But yes, I would love them to play during all the international (FIFA) windows and to utilise it. Also if they can find a slot between the Asia Cup in January like the Tri-Nation Cup which was for a few days.

So you know, if they can work out some extra games then it would definitely help the coaches to plan, see the combinations, and see how far the team has come together. So, it’s part and parcel of the preparation and it is needed. If they can provide those windows, nothing like it. I would love to see them as well as against some quality opposition. It’s always nice to give respect to all the opposition (teams) we’ve been playing but we if we could open the doors to some higher-ranked teams and get some games with them, it’d give us a sense of reality.”

Thoughts on the AFC Asian Cup draw and the current team’s chances

The Gaurs’ assistant coach actually broke a 47-year-old goal drought for India in the AFC Asian Cup back in 2011. As a stellar goalscoring defender in his playing days, Singh knows a thing or two about competing at the highest possible level. For someone who has accomplished feats as meteoric as his own, the assistant coach was generous with some vital words of motivation for his juniors. 

“Yes, we are in a very tough group with some very tough opponents like Australia, Syria, and Uzbekistan. It’s an extreme matter of pride to play as a country and as a team. And for the boys they know what it is like to play for India, for your country in the Asia Cup.

So I don’t think they need any extra motivation for that. But yes, I would like them to believe that they can definitely compete and get something out of the three games. Whether it is a point or a win and three points but I want them to believe (that they can do so). Because on a given day, even when you’re playing against stronger opponents you can stay compact and play in a disciplined manner.

In terms of defending and transitions, you never know. You have 90 minutes, and there are opportunities from set-pieces; from set-pieces, you can actually score in this group. Though it’s a tough group, you have to see that you’re competing in the Asia Cup, the largest tournament in the continent. You would only expect tough opponents.

The thing is you need to believe that you belong to those top 24 sides. They need to believe that they’re one of them and  among the best in the continent. If we have to be ready for some of the top things, I need them to believe that they can go there, compete, get a point or three because anything can happen.”

On how can we bridge the gap in playing time between the I-League and ISL sides

The Reliance Foundation Development League and Reliance Foundation presents Premier League Next Generations Cup benefit the fringe players of ISL and I-League teams. However, there is a mismatch in the number of games ISL reserve sides and I-League reserve sides play throughout the season. Gouramangi Singh designated the importance of these competitions and explained how the time may be managed better.

“That is why it is important for the young players in the bracket of 19, 20, and 21-year-olds, who are stepping up to the next level. Whether it is in the I-League or the ISL, you need to be confident and sharpen your skills. Because you need some time to get into senior football. It’s all about intelligence, delivery, and expectations. There’s no room for mistakes and people really don’t have time for trials or giving you an opportunity.

So this league (RFDL) and tournament (Reliance Foundation presents Premier League Next Generations Cup) is so crucial now for our country and for our calendar. Because this gives an opportunity to the young boys. Here maybe the coaches might even give you room to make some mistakes and realise that okay this is something I shouldn’t be doing.

That’s when it is good for you to learn and know what is good for yourself and what’s not. So those are the things that as an individual you can learn from these matches. It’s good to know that they’ve started this league and that next year they would do more zonal matches. So yeah, I think we’re on the right track and we are in the right spirits. ”

On benefits of the Next Gen Cup for young Indian players and how to improve the exposure levels for both EPL academies and Indian academies

Matches like ATK Mohun Bagan vs West Ham ushered a new dawn for the promising Indian footballing youth as the young Mariners drew with the 2022-title-winning Hammers. Additionally, players like Suhail Ahmad gave us a glimpse of potential stars not just with his “Siuu” celebration but with his unmatched style of play. Gouramangi Singh concluded by mentioning how more integration between the leagues and increased participation can improve exposure.

“See this is your league and that is why it is called NextGen Cup. This is where you get the opportunity to compete with teams from all across the country. After zonal and final round qualifications you only get the best of the lot here to contest for the title.

So this is your league and this is your time to retrospect, to reflect on yourself. The coaches, like I said, might even allow you to make mistakes; mistakes that you know you cannot afford at the senior level. So it is a very very crucial time for you and you must make the best of it. My message to the young boys would be to go and participate in this Next Gen Cup.”

For more updates, follow Khel Now on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and join our community on Telegram.

Khel Now Logo
© 2023
Agnificent Platform Technologies Pte. Ltd.