The federation has already advertised for the role ahead of the mega event in 2020.

The AIFF has been an enigma difficult to comprehend for the masses over the years. Their functioning has been doubted upon, decisions have been scrutinized and incessant criticism has been directed at apex football’s governing body.

One might frown upon a layman casting such constant questions over the working of a federation of such high importance and stature. However, the sheer audacity behind some of the calls demands a credible response from the concerned authorities as well.

The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup is scheduled to be played in India around the last quarter of 2020. The Indian team naturally got a direct entry into the tournament, being the host nation.

Now, for a country that has been starved of participation on the biggest stages of world football, such an opportunity is priceless. To make things even better, it would be the second time in three years that a FIFA U-17 World Cup would be hosted in India.

Such tournaments often play a major part in building a culture for the sport in the nation amongst all genders. The women’s teams will gradually attain greater prominence due to the tournament and accordingly proceed on the correct pathway towards their desired destination too.

At such times, a goof-up, or mismanagement from the people in significant positions in the federation is the last thing that the entire event would require, at least from India’s perspective. However, something similar seems to be happening currently and it is quite difficult to shy one’s eyes away from it.

Crux of the Matter:

Alex Ambrose has been at the helm of affairs of the U-17 women’s team over the past year or so. He has had experience as the assistant coach of Mumbai City FC before taking over the U-17 project.

He is merely 36-years-old, a pretty young age for a football manager/head coach. However, having worked with the squad for the whole time in the build-up to next year’s World Cup until now, it is quite surprising to see his position being taken away.

The AIFF released the advert to invite applications for a new head coach, preferably female, to take the mantle from Ambrose by around next month. This comes within two months of some excellent performances by the girls under his tutelage against the Hong Kong U-23s and Tai Po FC.

Moreover, the other surprising aspect of the quest to find a new person to handle the team is the fact that the AIFF is looking for someone from a foreign country to do the job. Now, it is true that managers from other countries have more experience and footballing acumen than their Indian counterparts in the current day and age.

However, Ambrose, being someone who has diligently worked with the core group that will represent the country next year in the World Cup, must have developed a better bond with the players in the last one year.

For someone completely alien to the surroundings, the way of functioning and the structure of Indian women’s football in the lower age-group, to come and pave the way for the team to attain at least some success or development in just the next year seems a far-fetched thought.

Ambrose is currently working as a scout to pick talents for the national team ahead of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2020

‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ is a phrase that might divide opinions. But, the current scenario around the junior football team re=emphasizes the substance in it.

Firstly, in terms of caliber and exposure to such major events, the Indian side lags behind its opponents by a mile. It would arguably, be difficult for them to defy the odds and proceed to the latter stages of the tournament come next year.

As such, to take the World Cup as a possible learning curve and acclimatize themselves to facing better-skilled opponents should be the primary priority for the hosts during the build-up to the competition.

In such cases, it seems rather redundant to rope in a foreign alternative when you already have someone aware of the nitty-gritties of the Indian football scene at the helm of the proceedings. Sure, Ambrose isn’t the most remarkable of managers or coaches in the world right now.

However, he has assiduously built the base towards the preparation of next year’s event. To strike him off the position and replace him with someone half-heartedly taking control of the situation speaks of inconsistency in approach and short-sighted decision-making by the federation.

The financial repurcussions of such a move

Firstly, money does not seamlessly flow in Indian football. The infrastructure, especially at youth levels is still at a nascent stage.  In such a situation, to appoint a foreign coach only for a short-term purpose seems disturbing purely from a monetary perspective too. Any high-profile offshore manager would demand a sum that can instead be used to resurrect the feeble Indian Women’s League (IWL).

As of now, the league lasts for barely a month. Naturally, there is a lack of financial support to the players participating in it and hence they are unable to commit the required amount of time into honing their skills and talents.

For any game to progress and take impressive strides, the work should begin meticulously at the grassroot level. At a time when the breeding ground, the domestic structure of women’s football itself requires attention and economic backing, it seems rather redundant to lure an illustrious coach to cover up the apparent hollowness and drawbacks of the system.

Drawing parallels from the past:

The U-17 men’s team was already subjected to a sudden change of coaches within a year of the 2017 World Cup. Whilst there were many accusations of mistreatment of players by their former coach, Nicolai Adam; the truth of the matter is that a quick-fix solution doesn’t seem to work in favour of any team in a tournament that requires years of consistent planning and top-notch approach towards the same.

The incoming coach in that situation, Luis Norton de Matos, got considerably lesser time to work with the individuals and the team ended up suffering due to the same in the main event later that year.

Similarly, Ambrose has consistently stressed upon working on different tactics, formations and being flexible enough to adapt to varied scenarios with the team. What would all this work, time and energy invested into the preparation eventually come down to, if the former Mumbai City assistant coach isn’t allowed the time to try out his ideas in the World Cup next year?

From any viewpoint, letting him continue in the job seems like a logical move rather than drafting in a much more accomplished alternative and depriving the new man/woman of the necessary time and resources to imprint his ideas of the game in the squad.

Football isn’t a software that can be re-written, corrected and be ready to function efficiently well by a swift remedy. It requires hours and hours of attributes that are classified as clichés these days; namely, congruousness and perseverance.

What might conjure regarding Ambrose’s current position in the footballing circuit would be clearer by the end of September, but the AIFF’s deafening silence and the lack of any viable retaliation explaining the nuances behind this decision is baffling, to say the least.