The likes of Khalid Jamil and Thangboi Singto have proven how a good Indian coach can work wonders in the top flight league.

The Indian Super League (ISL) is back! It begins on 19th November with a mouthwatering clash between two of the most loved teams in the league – ATK Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters. In this new season, fans are brimming with excitement, with several firsts in store for them. For instance, an Indian, Khalid Jamil, will be the head coach for the first time of any team and only four foreigners are allowed to be on the pitch at any given time.

This, and more, is set to make the league more entertaining and will bring more Indian players to the fore. Keeping an eye on the latter, Khel Now believes that having an Indian assistant coach in the ranks will (like it has, over the years) help teams. We take an intricate look.

Some shining examples

Let’s begin with the man of the moment, Khalid Jamil. One of the most loved-and-hated men in Indian football, Jamil’s success story is self-made. After his retirement, he took to management and continued to keep Mumbai FC in the I-league for years, even with meagre resources. His first challenge away from Mumbai was at Aizawl, where he won the I-League with a handful of unheralded talents.

After stints with East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, he joined NorthEast United as an assistant coach. His deep understanding of the game and home-grown players helped the club immensely. The right signings saw the Highlanders play an attacking brand of football, with the likes of Lalengmawia turning into one of India’s best. Under Jamil, the Highlanders have had their best-ever season.

Jamil is not alone on the list of Indian thinkers who have immensely helped their teams in the ISL with their local knowledge. Thangboi Singto, one of the most well-read tacticians on the Indian football circuit, has helped Kerala Blasters, Odisha FC and Hyderabad FC in building a strong base for the future. Singto was the first to hatch the plan to bring Jessel Carneiro, an unknown figure from Dempo SC, to Kerala Blasters in 2019. Carneiro is set to captain Blasters in the upcoming season. Hyderabad FC also have Singto to thank for for the commendable performances put in by the youngsters.

Another name that deserves a place on the dais is Syed Sabir Pasha. Relentless and one to shy away from the limelight, the former AIFF Elite Academy head coach signed up for Chennaiyin FC and brought to the fore several youngsters who went on to play key roles in Chennaiyin’s ISL trophies. From Lallianluaza Chhangte to Jerry Lalrinzuala to Anirudh Thapa to Rahim Ali, Syed has a key eye for research and spots talent early on.

Another one to shy away from the limelight is one of Indian football’s smartest minds, Derrick Pereira. Pereira has tonnes of knowledge and experience in Indian football and is regarded as one of the best groomers for youngsters in Goa. At FC Goa, he’s regarded as one of the key men in shaping the future of the club. The club, in recent years, have signed several youngsters from Goa Pro League opponents who are set to play key roles in years to come.

Shakti Chauhan, a former assistant manager, oversaw Odisha FC’s best-ever season (erstwhile Delhi Dynamos) under Gianluca Zambrotta. That team had signed players such as Milan Singh, Saiurat Kima, Chinglensana Singh Konsham (on loan), Souvik Chakraborty and Kean Lewis – all unheralded talents back then. Zambrotta accompanied by Chauhan turned these players into a bunch of attacking warhorses, burgeoning to the semifinals in that season. The team, even after changing its base, has never been able to re-script anything close.

More recently, Sanjoy Sen has been playing a crucial role in the dominance of Mohun Bagan and then ATK Mohun Bagan with several clutch signings over the past couple of years. Bringing in Lenny Rodrigues to control the midfield and signing Sandesh Jhingan as a key figure in the defence could well be attributed to Sen, who had worked with both of them in the past.

Safe to say, ISL clubs in particular and Indian football in general has benefited from Indian managers. With Khalid Jamil’s foray as head coach, new doors are set to open for Indian tacticians to take over teams and leave their mark. The Northeast United FC manager has a massive role to play here; he will set the record straight, he will walk a new road, he will give a new direction to Indian football here on.

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