As a sports fan I often wondered why there is so much hoopla surrounding appointment of coaches. Irrespective of national and state teams, the process has been surrounded by controversies, debates and gossips — very much on the lines of the aam aadmi trying to get closer to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal or chief minister Narendra Modi these days. But then, in the sports history appointment of any coach has never been a smooth process.
One more thing that unfailing baffles me, even today, is, why is there a constant demand of foreign coaches when we talk of national teams? Don’t we have enough potential among our own? In fact, India is blessed with some of the finest teachers in school and colleges.
In spite of having a rich legacy of teaching and having produced great gurus, how does the equation fail when it comes to sports? To say in the least, if they bug you, these questions irritate me too.
After becoming a sports journalist, it became all the more important for me to understand the debate in depth. However, instead of getting clarity I became all the more confused — almost as precariously balanced as bollywood hottie Deepika Padukone’s fans — in a quandary trying to figure out whether their diva is single or is Ranveer Singh her beau.
Finally I got an answer, even though the salvation comes to me after 10 years of dedicated sports reporting! It was at the Federation Cup Basketball Championship held in Ahmedabad. India women’s coach Fransico Garcia was seated silently in a corner watching match between Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Garcia kept a close eye on the proceedings and seemed to be making notes in his mind.
Not for a minute did his eyeballs change direction. Basketball Federation India officials were seated by him in the opposite table — all of them boasting about their respective achievements, contacts and understanding of the game, sipping on soft drinks and between crispy wafer bites — least concerned about the action on the court. The ‘guardians’ of the game even extended their conversation and forcefully involved Garcia, introduced him to all and sundry seated there. The poor Spaniard wasn’t able to focus on his job and was getting irritated shaking hands and looking really helpless. But it was lost on the Indian administrators, who I believe has to understand one very important thing — that these foreign coaches are thorough professionals.
Not surprisingly, after the match, girls who knew Garcia walked down to get his views about their performances.
Garcia shared his views gracefully attending to each player, individually.
Garcia reminded me of the professionalism that was personified by South African, Gary Kirsten, who played a pivotal role putting our Men in Blue on the top of world. Kirsten always worked behind the scenes. He rarely interacted with media and shared his intentions. His ‘throw-downs’ have become part of every coach’s manual.
The main reason to induct a foreign coach is that the individual is least bothered by the politics prevailing in sport federation. He just focuses on his job, on the progress of his wards and the overall development of the game. He is answerable to only the top brass.
There are a few limitations, like difference of language and culture, but that can be resolved.
Federation, which dared to appoint an Indian as a coach, has faced some or the other problem. Take an example of tennis in which, reportedly Eric Pepirno was held responsible for splitting Davis Cup team, and eventually illustrious pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.
India is doing fantastic in badminton these days. Unfortunately there have been some reports where coach Gopichand has been accused of favouritism. Nothing has been proved and Gopi might be light years away from such dodgy actions, but then being the coach of India and also running an academy simultaneously is dangerous game. It is quite natural that you tend to give more attention to someone you know.
Foreign coaches take extra effort to understand a player, and not judge everyone on one parameter. Kirsten did that and now Garcia is doing the same. If Garcia manages to replicate Kirsten-kind of a model, India will make a big impact on basketball map, globally.
We will have many Geethu Anna Jose, only professional player to have played in international league, in the future.
Now, let me clear my standpoint: I am not advocating for foreign coaches; but am simply putting things in the perspective. I wish administrators keep coaches away from politics.
In other words, administrators should also understand time and space of coaches and avoid throwing their weight around. I don’t think that’s too much for an asking, is it?