The former Shillong Lajong boss spoke about his time with Kerala Blasters, transition from I-League to ISL and more.

  • As a head coach, one is accountable for the decisions he makes.
  • Onus of giving Indian coaches the opportunities as head coaches is on ISL clubs now
  • Best thing Kerala Blasters have in Indian football is the Manjappada

Thangboi Singto was the assistant of Josep Gombau at Odisha FC during their inaugural season. After the Spanish head coach refused a renewal, Singto also picked the exit door from the Bhubaneswar-based side. There have been many speculations about his future plans ever since he left the club. In the meantime, the highly-rated coach joined us in an exclusive interview where he shared his experiences and thoughts on the Indian Super League and also left some hints on his future move.

Explaining his reasons behind leaving Odisha FC, Thangboi Singto said, “One big factor was not being able to stay together with my family and my son’s education. The other one was a professional reason.”

The tactician was the head coach of I-League outfit Shillong Lajong during 2013-17. Speaking about how difficult was the transition from I-League to ISL, he said, “The transition was not difficult as I believed that I was going to work and learn from better footballing people under better conditions in more professional ways. That motivated me.”

Further, Thangboi Singto went through several stints in the ISL, namely at NorthEast United, Kerala Blasters and Odisha FC, where he carried out the responsibility of assistant coach. He feels both the roles are the same in terms of work culture and ethics. But there is some difference in the influence. “As a head coach, you have to make all the final decisions after discussing with the staff and club officials. So you are directly accountable for any decision that you make. But an assistant coach can do as much as his role entails him and as per the duties given by the head coach and requirements within the team.”

The 46-year-old has spent three stints in the Indian top tier. Expressing his overall moral impression about the league, he added multiple points to the list. “I believe ISL has brought a better professionalism, more revenue, experience, better infrastructure, more TV viewership, development of overall aspects of the players and coaches, handsome corporate backing, more options for the national team, streamlining the youth structure and grassroots level development of Indian football.”

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Recently, the Association of Indian Football Coaches (AIFC) proposed an idea of clubs appointing Indian coaches with AFC Pro License as head coach. The former Shillong Lajong boss seemed overwhelmed by the decision as he also suggested ISL clubs to look for the talent inside the country rather than roaming around the globe in search of a head coach. “It’s a very encouraging decision by the league. Now the point is whether ISL clubs are confident enough to appoint us Indian coaches! On the other hand, the question can be— are we Indian Pro-licensed coaches equipped and qualified enough to take this mantle. I believe, yes. In India, we have coaches of that calibre. Having been involved in 68 ISL matches myself all the years I am ready to take a step higher. Onus is on the clubs now.”

“There are enough talented Indian coaches who can easily take I-League teams and do well, provided they get all the support and respect that a professional coach should. A bit more belief to the Indian coaches and push from all sections involved in Indian football would ultimately help the country improve in the game further,” he added.

Opening up about his prospective plans he hinted, “There are very few options. I am on the verge of agreeing terms with a club. Hopefully, by the end of July, I can announce something.” Since the day of his departure from the Juggernauts, rumours suggest Thangboi Singto is in talks with Kolkata giants East Bengal. However, he dismissed the talks saying, “When a historic and important club in Indian football shows interest, it’s a great privilege. I did have a phone call with one of the officials but being in advanced talks with another club made it difficult. It would have been a great opportunity though.”

There are many discussions always piling up regarding the substandard performance from Kerala Blasters in the last few seasons. Having worked with the club before, Thangboi Singto expressed his opinions on this regard. “My stint with KBFC was a great learning experience. I always have my best wishes to them. It won’t be right to pinpoint anything as I am not with the team anymore. They always have sincere efforts and have support from their owner. The best thing that they have in Indian football is Manjappada, which every ISL club would love to have.”

As ISL has gained recognition as the top league of the nation, the roles and responsibilities of the I-League clubs have now been subjected to debate. Commenting on this, Thangboi Singto said, “The role of I-League, 2nd Division League and state leagues is equally important and will always remain so in the Indian football ecosystem.”

“It can be the platform to exhibit young talents and act as a very good supplier of upcoming players for the national team. Hopefully, we will have more teams in ISL and I-League soon. Only 10 teams in ISL and less than 12 teams in I-League in not at all enough for the awaken footballing nation, India,”  he concluded.

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