By Debayan Mukherjee
Kolkata, April 17 (IANS) Gurpreet Singh Sandhu wants the Indian football team coach to be a good man-manager above all, as he feels that will push them to do well as a unit.
“As a player, I would want someone who helps us become better players and is a good man manager. Man management is very important for a head coach of any team,” Gurpreet told IANS in an interview on the sidelines of the Red Bull Neymar Jrs Five 5v5 football tournament.
India’s No.1 goalkeeper Gurpreet is a Red Bull Athlete and is in town to witness the national finals.
“We have senior and junior players and he needs to make sure that everyone is happy. Someone who knows the strengths and weaknesses and can push us to play better football. We know we can play better football,” Gurpreet said.
Since Stephen Constantine resigned as head coach following India’s exit from the Asian Cup, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has received more than 250 applications for the job with big names such as Raymond Domenech, former manager of the French national team and former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson also throwing their hat into the ring.
After further scrutinising, eight to 10 coaches could be interviewed through long-distance calls and finally, a couple of them may be called to Delhi for personal interviews.
Constantine not only helped India play the Asian Cup after a hiatus of eight years in his second stint as India coach, but also oversaw a period of resurgence in Indian football where Sunil Chhetri and Co. broke into the top 100 in FIFA rankings last year.
But his stay was sullied with rumours of senior players being unhappy with him and even asking for his removal doing the rounds.
Not wanting to delve into those issues, Gurpreet said Constantine did a good job with them, and now the team needs someone who can carry forward the legacy.
“He did a good job by taking us to the Asian Cup. We now need someone who can push us to play better football,” said Gurpreet who is the first Indian to play in the Europa League for Norwegian club Stabaek FC.
“We need to make sure that we have a procedure where we learn and play football as the coach wants us to play,” the 27-year- old added.
Gurpreet, who lifted the Indian Super League title with Bengaluru FC this year, also pitched for one league with relegation and promotion being the key, saying I-League clubs wanting to shut shop due to negligence is unfortunate and the issue should be addressed immediately.
“It doesn’t matter whatever you call the league. We should have a league where you have more than 10 teams and relegation promotion. Which is the main league and all is secondary. As a player, the way forward is having relegation and promotion in a league,” he said.
The Super Cup, which FC Goa won, was marred by many clubs pulling out of the competition. The likes of Minerva Punjab FC and Neroca FC have also wanted to shut shop due to the step-motherly treatment meted out to I-League clubs.
“Why have a situation where clubs are thinking of shutting shop? We need to understand why is this happening. If things need to be sorted then it should be sorted. The problem gets resolved by addressing it,” said Gurpreet.
India will be taking part in the Kings Cup in June ahead of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers scheduled to kick-off in September. Gurpreet said the aim is to remain consistent as it’s the hardest thing to do.
“The most difficult thing is to be consistent. I want to maintain that both for my club and national team.”
On the Red Bull Neymar Jrs Five, Gurpreet said: “I am very happy to be part of this. They are always very enthusiastic about sports.”
The 2019 World Champions will have the experience of a lifetime, with the chance to play against Neymar Jr himself in Brazil and meeting him again in Paris.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at [email protected])