The Croatian also feels that Indian players are very focused in training.

After the departure of Eelco Schattorie to Kerala Blasters, NorthEast United appointed Croatian Robert Jarni as the head coach of the side in the summer. Robert Jarni, whose last assignment was coaching the Croatia U-19 football team, had an exclusive chat with Khel Now during the Media Day organized by the club.

The 50-year-old joined the Highlanders this summer. Engaged in pre-season training, Robert Jarni spoke about his team’s preparedness for the campaign ahead, “Players have been arriving every week. At the beginning, we didn’t have the full squad, but since the last 10 days or so we have them. We are working together very hard to have the strongest possible team for the first game of the season.”

The Croatian has had coaching stints in Bosnia and Herzegovina along with Hungary, apart from Croatia. Speaking on what made him take the plunge in Indian football he revealed, “Before this, I was coaching the U-19 and U-20 teams and there you get only two training sessions and then a game after. So, there wasn’t enough time to do good things with the team.”

“So, when I got the opportunity to work here, I was interested because I had the whole season to work with the team. My ideas and visions can be better implemented in a longer time frame,” Robert Jarni added.

“Also, I had a few words with Igor Stimac, who told me good things about the Indian players and the league and the people here. I am very pleased that all the feedback I have received are all turning into reality,” the tactician went on to say.

Thoughts On Asamoah Gyan

Having secured arguably the most high-profile signing of the season in Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan, NorthEast United have made a statement of intent going into the term.

“Everybody knows Asamoah, who has played for many top teams at the highest level. We need to ease him into the style we want to play football and also to get him match-fit. We are very happy to have a player like him in the team,” the NorthEast United head coach quipped.

Thoughts On ISL

Ever since the ISL started in 2014, some argue that the domestic football in India got a much needed boost. On how the league is perceived overseas by coaches like him Jarni said, “I saw around eight-nine games of this team last season. In the first couple of seasons, the big signings in the league were just only for star-value, but nowadays the signings have improved the quality of the teams and have made the league very tough and competitive.”

“There are no easy games in the league here. The table-toppers can lose against the team at the bottom of the table,” Robert Jarni opined.

Comments On Gameplay In ISL

Because of the existing foreign coaches rule in the ISL, teams have been adopting distinct styles from around the world, otherwise not experienced in Indian football. The former Juventus man feels this is a beneficial trend.

“It is good to see such philosophies make its mark here. I like the passing style of play, but not to the extent of being boring. I would want to see my team playing vertical attacking football too.” He further added, “It is very good for the Indian players to gain knowledge of different philosophies of football from experienced coaches from all around the world.”

Youth Development

Having coached the U-19 teams of Croatia and Hajduk Split, Jarni is no stranger to working with youth. Hailing from a successful footballing nation, he feels academies are the bedrock upon which success at the senior levels are built.

“In India, players start playing the game later nearly at the age of 14-15, whereas the boys in Europe are incorporated in the academies at the age of six mostly. So, in this gap they already gather a lot of knowledge, which is fortified into their game at that young age.”

Though the Indian players lag behind their European counterparts in that regard, the coach has been impressed with their work-ethic.

“The Indian players are very focused in training. They listen to advice and instructions very earnestly. They try to learn in every session and every game, as much as possible. Though, time may not permit always for this, but their hard work and commitment is unbelievable.”

The former Croatian record-holder for appearances, felt that the pre-season friendly against his former teammate Igor Stimac’s Indian Football Team gave him a good measure of his own side.

“For us, it was an important game because it was against a tough opponent. It gives us a measure of where our team stands now,” Jarni quipped.

“I think we were good defensively and also in attack, but we want to be much better than now. So, we need to keep working and improving everyday. We dearly needed such a game before the start of the season.”

On being asked to rate the Indian talent at his disposal and which among them would make their mark this season Jarni said, “I am surprised looking at 3-4 players in the team, but I cannot reveal their names because I don’t want to put any pressure on any of them, which may have even the slightest effect on their performances. But, you will see these players play regularly and then you will be able to find for yourself.”