Each time Wim Koevermans,the Indian football teams new coach,tries to enter the various sections of the building of the All India Football Federation,the towering Dutchman has to make some adjustments to fit in the standard Indian door-frame. Koevermans first moves as the coach of the Indian national football team have also involved a lot of adjustments albeit of a different kind.
Koevermans managed to squeeze out a 21-day camp for the Indian team,cajoling I-league clubs to release their players for a week longer than they were initially willing to. It was a tough first task but I am glad it came through, said an excited Koevermans. His booming voice will be what the Indian team will be hearing in times to come as he hovers around the touchline of the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium during the Nehru Cup in August.
The Nehru Cup will be Koevermans first assignment after he was named the coach of the Indian football team on July 1. However,the Dutchman has not been able to interact with his new charges as the season is not on and that is the reason why he insisted on a three week camp. It is imperative that I get three weeks so that we can forge a rapport. I am looking forward to meet all the guys together at the camp, he said.
The national duty vs I-league clash is not new to Koevermans. He admits differences between clubs and national federations are common all over the world and says that it is up to the sports association to bring in a system which communicates to clubs when players have to report for national duty. We cant always fight over such things,Technical Director (Rob) Baan is already creating a system where clubs will be intimated in advance as to when to release players for international commitments, said the Dutchman.
The Dutch effect
Coming from a country where kids start playing football at the age of five and six,Koevermans believes that the incentive to just grab a ball and start playing is missing in India. In Holland,kids are playing organised competitions from the age of 8,we have leagues for kids which go on for a good six months, he said.
Koevermans believes that if India wants a steady supply of talent then the state associations and the AIFF need to encourage kids to simply start playing the sport. Koevermans also admitted that lack of tournaments for youth was a factor worth worrying. One reason teams in Europe are successful is because children there play a variety of tournaments,however India has just a couple of tournaments and that too not on a national basis, he said.
Since the time Koevermans said that he wanted his Indian side to play possession football instead of the much reviled long-ball game,the question,that will India mimic the Spanish style of play just wont stop. Everywhere I go people ask me whether I am producing a replica of the Spanish team,I cant really give them an answer,can I? he said while admitting that comparisons between the all-conquering Spaniards and the Indian team lying at 163 in the FIFA rankings were definitely bizarre.
Koevermans believes that India can adjust to a style of play where holding the ball is of tantamount importance. He says that this philosophy of holding the ball is optimum for doing well in football. Once you have the ball and hold it the other team cant score,that is the way I want my Indian team to play, said Koevermans.
I played under (Rinus) Michels and his message was clear,guard the ball with your life,hold it,get your short passing right and you will be able to hold your own, Koevermans says of the famous Dutch coach who introduced the concept of total football to the world and produced impressive results.
Koevermans featured in the 1988 European Championship winning team of the Netherlands and he says that he was truly privileged to play alongside legends. That team was built through a lot of hard work,I have seen how much the players wanted to win and that is something I can definitely try and transfer to the Indian squad said the Dutchman.
However it is pretty clear when talking to Koevermans that copying a style just because it has been effective in one country is not his preferred method. I interacted a lot with Trappatoni when I was in Ireland,that does not mean that I come to India and just tell my players to park the bus on the field, said the former high performance manager for the Irish FA.