The domestic game was an unpredictable space even before the emergence of the cash-rich league.

Since time immemorial, numerous coaches have delivered for various clubs throughout India. Be it a foreign coach or a domestic one, their contributions towards Indian football have been immense. Previously, it was only the Indian maestros who coached a club. Eventually, in the last two decades, mostly foreign coaches are looking after the big clubs in Indian football.

In the I-League a few years ago, apart from the top clubs, other clubs were managed by Indian coaches. Recently, with the inception of the Indian Super League, the concept of an Indian head coach has vanished. After the completion of seven seasons, we finally saw an Indian head coach take charge of an ISL team. But, the ISL isn’t everything. Indian football existed before the competition’s emergence. There were coaches who earned their reputation and glory back then as well.

In this article, we will read about the top five coaches who succeeded in Indian football in the pre-ISL era.

5. Derrick Pereira

The 60-year-old was recently at the helm of FC Goa in the Indian Super League. The season wasn’t a good one for Pereira, who had left his prime time a few years back. The tactician has the credentials of winning the National Football League and Federation Cup in the same season with a star-studded Mahindra United in 2005/06. It was both Pereira and Mahindra United’s first major title.

In his career, Derrick Pereira has managed clubs like Vasco SC, Pune FC, Salgaocar, DSK Shivajians and Churchill Brothers. He is currently back to his previous Technical Director role at FC Goa after Carlos Pena’s arrival as the new head coach.

4. Karim Bencherifa

Bencherifa won the I-League and Federation Cup in his stint in India (Courtesy: Transfermarkt)

The Moroccan came to India way back in 2006 when he was announced as the new head coach of Churchill Brothers. Under his tutelage, the Goan side had a second-place finish in the I-League in 2007/08. Bencherifa won his first trophy in 2008/09 when he won the Federation Cup for Mohun Bagan. During his stay at the Kolkata giants, he relished the 5-3 victory of Mohun Bagan over arch-rivals East Bengal in a Kolkata Derby in the I-League.

Notably, Bencherifa won the I-League and Federation Cup in 2010/11 with Salgaocar. In 2012/13, he made a comeback to Mohun Bagan and saved the Mariners from relegation. The 54-year-old also enjoyed a stint at Pune FC from June, 2014 to October, 2015.

3. Subrata Bhattacharya

There is hardly any trophy which Subrata Bhattacharya has not won in his coaching career. Most of his coaching accolades revolve around Mohun Bagan. Commonly known as “Bablu Da,” Bhattacharya won five trophies in a single season at the Mariners in 2001/02. These five trophies included the National Football League, the Federation Cup and the Calcutta Football League. He also won two consecutive National Football League titles from 1999 to 2002.

To everyone’s surprise, Subrata Bhattacharya joined East Bengal in 2007/08 and won the Federation Cup for the Red and Golds. As a coach, his last triumph came at United SC (Chirag United) in 2010, where he won the Durand Cup. In his coaching career, he has acted as a Technical Director to clubs like Tollygunge Agragami and Mohammedan SC as well. He also managed Calcutta-based side Police AC.

2. Subhash Bhowmick

Subhash Bhowmick
Bhowmick’s contribution to Indian football is immense (Courtesy: Aajkal)

Subhash Bhowmick rejuvenated Indian football and is one of the successful coaches in Indian football. His contribution to the sport in this country is immense. Like his counterpart Bhattacharya, Bhowmick too, had won five trophies in a single season at East Bengal in 2002/03. Under his tutelage, East Bengal won two National Football Leagues. Bhowmick even became glorious in Jakarta, where the Red and Gold won the ASEAN Cup in 2003. In 2012/13, he won the I-League as the Technical Director of Churchill Brothers.

The only notable trophy which Subhash Bhowmick did not win in his career is the Federation Cup. In his career, he has managed Salgaocar, Mohun Bagan, Tollygunge Agragami; most of which were as the Technical Director. He also guided the Indian team way back in 1989 in a tournament in Dhaka. Unfortunately, the tactician passed away in January.

1. Armando Colaco

Armando Colaco has been the most successful coach in the list. It may so happen that the likes of Subrata Bhattacharya and Subhas Bhowmick have more trophies than the Goan, but Colaco enjoys the reputation of the most I-League (previously National Football League) titles. Notably, Dempo SC were fairing in the second division when Colaco joined in 2000. He won three I-League titles and two National Football League titles for the Goan outfit. He won the solitary Federation Cup for Dempo in 2004. In 2007/08 and 2010, the tactician won the Super Cup with the Golden Eagles, after defeating East Bengal 1-0 and 3-1 on those occasions. In 1996/97 and 1999/2000, Churchill Brothers ended runners-up in the National Football League under Colaco’s tutelage.

Armando Colaco also took charge of East Bengal in 2013 and won two consecutive Calcutta Football League titles. Under his mentorship, the Kolkata giants became the runners-up in the I-League that season. From May till October, 2011, he acted as the caretaker manager for the Indian team after Bob Houghton’s departure.

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