The Ahmedabad-based side have registered one win and lost two fixtures in the ongoing season so far.

Football is finally here in Gujarat and the sport won’t be leaving the state anytime soon! Ahmedabad Racquet Academy Football Club (ARA FC) became the first team from the state to play in a senior divison of the national league (I-League Second Division).

We caught up with their head coach Nagul Kumar, to talk about his experience working overseas, his tenure as an assistant coach of ISL team Chennaiyin FC, and much more.

Q1. As a coach with domestic and international experience what motivated you to join ARA FC?

A- After quitting Chennaiyin FC, I wanted to spend time with my family and was abroad for quite a long time. I wanted to take care of my ailing parents. I also have an academy in Pune. I thought of developing it, but it takes money. So, I thought of taking up coaching once again and ARA FC offered me a job and I accepted it.

Q2. You are participating in the I-League Second Division for the first time, how has the experience been? What are the realistic targets for the club this season?

A- I’ve experienced all this with Pune FC, so I know what are the expectations from the management and the regional spectators. For the players it has been a wonderful experience. The target is to reach the knockout stages and I believe we can make it.

Q3. ARA went into the season with a young squad, don’t you think it is a high-risk strategy?

A- It was what the management wanted. They wanted to give young players a chance and especially the Gujarati youngsters, but if we had more time the team would’ve been much stronger.

Q4. Do you agree that the inexperience of the squad might haunt them during crucial stages? Also, your team doesn’t have any foreigners, why was this decision made?

A- Definitely yes. But, we need to give everyone a chance then only they can improve. So yes, it could haunt us. We wanted to give everyone a chance to be ready for the latter stages of the league. 

I always believed in giving youngsters a chance and also stating the fact that we didn’t have the finances to fund the foreigners.

Q5. In Western India, we have seen football clubs and academies shutting shop. What is your take on this?

A- It’s really a sad state. The team owners after spending good amount money do not get results and after a few seasons the club runs into losses and are forced to shut down.

Q6. You were a part of Chennaiyin in 2014 and 2015 as an assistant coach. The side won the title in the 2015 edition, tell us about your experience?

A- It was a wonderful experience, to instruct legends like Mikel Silvestre, (Bernard) Mendy, Djemba Djemba, Elano, without hurting their sentiments. Honestly, it was a surreal experience.


Q7. In the ISL, there is a trend that champions always struggle in subsequent seasons. What do you think about this?

A- The pressure of expectations always hurts a team. If you don’t get a win in the first couple of games, its very hard to bounce back.

Q8. How did your stint in Tanzania happen? Was it difficult to move abroad?

A- During my stint as an assistant at Pune FC, head coach Stewart Hall got an offer from Tanzania and offered me a position of his assistant. I happily accepted it. 

I wanted to start a trend for Indian coaches to work abroad. When everyone said I can’t do well, I challenged myself and proved it because I like to challenge myself.

Q9. You’ve worked in India as well as in Tanzania. What is the difference in football between both countries?

A- For them, football is their bread and butter, whereas in India we consider sports as a hobby. The level of education there is poor when compared to India, so sports is the only way of life for them.

Q10. Which youngsters from ARA should we watch out for this season?

A- The squad is filled with immensely talented players. But, since you asked for a few names, I’ll say Prateik Swamy, Amey Bhatkal and Vinay Singh.”

Q11. How important is the structure of coach education for the development of Indian football?

A- The curriculum of coaching in India is very small and apart from it there’s no single philosophy. When Bob Houghton came, he brought in his own English philosophy, then Wim Koevermans brought the Dutch way and (Stephen) Constantine did the same. I think all the Indian coaches should get together and bring their own philosophy.