The former India international spoke about the development of the domestic game and the progress of the national team over the years.

On the eighth anniversary of the Indian national team lifting the Nehru Cup in 2012, former skipper Gouramangi Singh appeared for an interview on AIFF TV. In the final match of that illustrious tournament, Singh had notched the vital opening goal on the night. The 34-year-old has embarked on a new journey now, as he is the assistant coach of 2nd Division League side FC Bengaluru United. However, the former Chennaiyin FC player very clearly recollects the famed tie against Cameroon.

“It was one of the evenings that I cherish even today. It was a huge win for us eventually. I do believe that a lot of Indian football fans who follow the Blue Tigers closely will definitely remember that particular match. It was one of the important matches, a huge win and I think it was a good start for our coach Wim Koevermans,” the former player gleefully noted.

Singh fondly looked back at the phase from late 2000s to 2014-15. One of the major developments in this time was the appointment of Koevermans as the head coach of the national team. He claimed that the Dutchman brought new elements of coaching to the table, something that the players had been averse to in the past. The defender mentioned, “Wim brought in a completely different style of coaching, the style that you want to play. The kind of equipment that he was using, a lot of things were new to us. All of us adapted soon. His coaching was very much reliant on video analysis, statistics, which helped us a lot.”

Gouramangi Singh is of the firm view that the belief and confidence of the team increased significantly, as they started performing positively in each tournament. He observed, “We qualified for the AFC Asian Cup of 2011 after 23 years and it was sort of a wake-up call and a sense of realization that we can do it. We can be a part of the top 20-25 teams and everything somewhat started from there.”

The player-turned-coach vouched for the current batch of players to maintain their consistency and become one of the best teams in Asia, firstly. He opined that there would be opportunities to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in the future, as there are chances of an increase in the number of participating countries in the mega tournament. However, there are other objectives to be achieved too.

Gouramangi Singh explained, “Now, we need to feature in the top 8-10 and we always need to stay in the Asia Cup every four years, without fail. For us to really talk about qualifying for the World Cup, it’s a long-term project. We are on the right track, with the kind of facilities and the infrastructure. We need to focus on this. To consistently be in the top 10 teams and feature in the Asia Cup every four years should be our immediate targets.”

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Meanwhile, Singh’s former teammates, Sunil Chhetri and Subrata Paul, heaped praise on the FC Bengaluru United head coach. They lauded his willingness to work hard and proposed that very few players possess this intrinsic, instrumental quality. The 34-year-old elaborated that he looked to develop his style of play in accordance with the demands of the coach.

“I know for a fact that I am not the most talented player. I was not the fastest or strongest centre-back, but what I did was I found a way to survive. I needed to play a game that suits me and that helps the team win. So, I think I tried to understand what the coach wants from me. I don’t think I tried to do anything extra or more than any other players in the team. Eventually, the goal of the player and the coach is the same because both want to win a football match,” the former Prayag United player elucidated.

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Gouramangi also reflected on the international trips that the Indian Super League outfits have been conducting before the commencement of a new season. He advocated for more such clubs to adopt these as part of their schedule and thus, work for the betterment of players and Indian football in general.

“Like we talk about the exposure tours with ISL clubs is new. But, with the national team we have been travelling abroad, getting foreign exposure. The players associated with the national team are used to it, as they have been getting to do it in the last many years,” Singh remarked. “But, with ISL clubs holding pre-season abroad, which is not usual in Indian football, it will only benefit us.”

Gouramangi Singh was quizzed regarding the trend of former players donning the responsibilities of a coach after hanging up their boots. Recently, his former teammate Steven Dias was also appointed as the assistant coach of Odisha FC and similar examples can be seen elsewhere too. Singh mentioned, “All former players who had good careers as a player coming in will definitely help. Now, they are trying to understand the game differently, from the other side of the line. But, they have the experience that will always be with them.”

“We need more coaches not just in the ISL or the I-League, but also in the 2nd Division League, soccer schools to small academies, villages. Good coaches will provide chances for coming of good students and eventually Indian football will benefit,” he signed off.

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