Five teams are set to take part in the upcoming I-League qualifier from 8th October.
Professional football is set to resume in India for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, as the I-League Qualifier is set to kickoff in the state of West Bengal from 8th October. Five teams from the 2nd Division League including ARA FC, Bhawanipore FC, FC Bengaluru United, Garhwal FC and Mohammedan SC are set to lock horns for the prestigious I-League spot. The tournament will be played in a round-robin format and the team that ensures top spot will gain promotion.
The 2020 edition of the 2nd Division was paused midway through due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with no decision made with regards to which team gains promotion. In order to ascertain the winner o thef 2nd Division, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided to come up with the idea of organizing mini-tournament, consisting of eight non-Indian Super League and I-League reserve sides. Unfortunately, FC Kerala, AU Rajasthan and Lonestar Kashmir decided to withdraw from the competition, which was exclusively revealed by Khel Now earlier.
In the following article, we look at the profiles of the head coaches of the above-mentioned five teams.
Vivek Nagul (ARA FC)
Ahmedabad-based ARA FC are led by Vivek Nagul, who has previously been part of ISL side Chennaiyin FC for the first two seasons under Italian great Marco Materazzi.
Nagul is one of the few coaches in India to hold both AFC and UEFA A licenses. He was part of the erstwhile Mahindra United setup as well as Pune FC, who got promoted in the year 2009. Nagul worked as an assistant coach under Stewart Hall there. He is also one of the few Indian coaches who have worked aboard. In the year 2011, he followed Hall to Azam FC in Tanzania as a first-team assistant coach as well as heading the youth development of the club.
After his stint with Chennaiyin, the 50-year-old joined ARA in the year 2018 and has been serving as the Technical Director of the club.
Shankarlal Chakraborty (Bhawanipore FC)
Shankarlal Chakraborty is a well-known name, especially among Mohun Bagan fans. “Shankar da,” as he is fondly called, served Mohun Bagan as an assistant coach for four years from 2014-2018. In his first season with the the Kolkata-based club, the team went on to win their first I-League title under the stewardship of Sanjoy Sen.
Mohun Bagan also won the 2018 edition of the Calcutta Football League under his tutelage. In the 2018-19 season, he got promoted as head coach after Sen decided to leave. However, after just one campaign in-charge of the Mariners he was relieved of his duties. Since then, Chakraborty has been associated with the Bhowanipore-based club from 2019.
Richard Hood (FC Bengaluru United)
FC Bengaluru United tactician Richard Hood started his coaching career at the prestigious Tata Football academy as a U-17 coach in the year 2011. After serving for more than two years at Jamshedpur, he joined Bengaluru FC as the head of youth development for a couple of years till 2015.
He then joined as the head of player development at the All India Football Federation in 2016 and has also worked as a coaching instructor appointed by the AIFF. The UEFA A license holder left his job in 2019 and has been currently working as the head coach of FC Bengaluru United, who ply its trade in the BDFA league.
Vikas Rawat (Garhwal FC)
Delhi-based community club Garhwal FC return to the senior national football scene after six years and are led by Vikas Rawat. Rawat joined Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools (BBFS) — which acts as a youth development project of Garhwal FC, since its inception. The 35-year-old acquired his AFC A license in the year 2017 and has been working as head of the BBFS academies spread across the country.
Yan Law (Mohammedan SC)
Yan Law has been the youngest AFC A license coach in the country, acquiring it at the age of 25. Following his meteoric rise, Punjab FC hired him as a head coach for the 2019-20 I-League season.
The team finished in third position, tied on points with second-placed East Bengal with 23 points in 16 games, before the campaign was halted due to the pandemic. He was relieved from his duties after the completion of the season. In the meantime, the newlook Mohammedan SC management hired him, as they look to enter the I-League and reclaim their lost glory following relegation in 2015.