The Spaniard spoke to Khel Now in a candid chat about the task at hand, his mantra for success, returning to Indian football and much much more…
It has been a season of unprecedented upheaval at I-League club Mumbai FC. Seeking to emerge from the shadow of the long reign of former boss Khalid Jamil, the metropolis club embarked on a new journey under the unpredictable and streaky Santosh Kashyap with much optimism, However, while, Jamil scripted a fairy-tale that has captured the imagination of the nation with league leaders Aizawl FC, his former club have gone south at the rate of knots. Two wins from 14 games and a place at the foot of the table was hardly an acceptable return from a campaign that began with the promise of a top-three finish.
The Mumbai hierarchy could certainly not be accused of giving the manager short shrift. With results on the slide, disharmony in the camp and the manager’s relationship with the fans and players ruptured beyond repair, their patience had to tell and so it did, after the 5-0 thumping at the hands of regional rivals DSK Shivajians.
Mumbai survived relegation last season on the final day with a victory over the same opponents. Now, with four games to go, they are in need of a similar quick fix. To perform this Houdini act, Mumbai have turned to a man who knows the country well. Spaniard Oscar Bruzon was the head coach at former top flight club Sporting Clube de Goa and was also the assistant manager at Indian Super League outfit Mumbai City FC in 2015.
The new man at the helm of affairs at MFC recently sat down with Khel Now’s content Editor Mrunal Nakashe to reflect on the task at hand:
Bruzon was last in India as Assistant manager at Mumbai City FC in the ISL.
Bruzon couldn’t have joined Mumbai at a tougher time but says he feels privileged to have been considered for the job and that he had no second thoughts about taking it on following productive talks with club officials.
The new head coach knows that his team have to hit the ground running but is not fazed by the challenge.
“Sometimes, the life of a coach is to be flexible and adaptive in a short span of time. This is exactly the case here with the exception that I have experience in this country and in both the top tiers,” Bruzon explained. However, he’s also thankful for the fact that he has had at least some time to get his feet under the table, coming as he did in the midst of the international break rather than in the middle of the season.
Asked for his assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the team as well as things that needed to be worked on, the Spaniard promised that the fans can expect a more balanced side with a methodical approach.
“The team is responding well to the change. We are changing the practice dynamics including many tactical small-sided games so that the players know well all the functions of their position and are interacting with the closest positions. Additionally, we are focusing on building the lines of the team to progress more effectively when we have the ball,” he elaborated.
Mumbai have one of the worst defensive records in the league while they have hardly been prolific in front of goal. The former Flaming Oranje boss insisted that irrespective of their torrid season, they will start from scratch after the break.
The kind of season that Mumbai have endured can often leave teams and players mentally scarred, causing them to shy away from completion. Bruzon insisted this is not synonymous with Mumbai FC. On the contrary, he stressed the team were itching to get back into action.
Mumbai have endured a torrid season losing 5-0 to regional rivals DSK Shivajians in their last match.
“The team is waiting for the 8th of April to come (back) quickly. Apart from the training sessions, we are having some team bonding activities as only the players who express will fight for this club will have the chance to do it on the pitch on the given day,” he pointed out.
One thing in Mumbaikars’ favour is that they have all their remaining games at home and the new manager is keen to establish a home advantage.
The fans’ discontent that has plagued Mumbai this season has been well documented. Bruzon realises the importance of the role the fans will play in the run-in and is keen to get them back onside. “I can feel the support of our fans that deserve better performances and results from us. We want them to feel proud of the team they support. The Yellow Brigade has been very welcoming and that no doubt increases the responsibility of our work here,” he reassured.
When the Spaniard joined SCG in the 2012-13 season, the Goan giants too were languishing at the bottom of the table. He had 13 games to play with then and guided the team to a respectable sixth-place finish. Although the window of opportunity is much smaller this time around, the tactician believes that the relative experience will stand him in good stead during the rest of the campaign.
A lot has changed since Bruzon was last in India. The ISL has taken the country by storm, bringing in unparalleled financial resources and a host of global stars to Indian shores. While he refused to comment on the possible merger of the cash-rich league and the I-League, the former Mallorca assister batted for the current top flight, unequivocally stating that it remained Indian football’s premier competition.
“The league that gives India its identity in football is the I-League. I still feel that I-League teams have most of the knowledge of the market and definitely work still better from the development point of view. The real impact of the ISL should be measured after another 3-5 years,” the Spaniard asserted.
Spain dominated the world game for the best part of a decade before enduring a forgettable World Cup campaign at Brazil 2014 followed by a patchy Euro in which they never really got going. However, the new Mumbai manager feels his national team are getting stronger after a phase of transition and he says expectations for next year’s tournament in Russia are as high as ever.
Bruzon signed off by emphasising that India must invest in quality infrastructure, improved coach education programs and provide regular competitive football for kids in the age group of 10-11 years to bridge the gap with European teams in the distant future.