‘We’re looking forward to the competitive season’

Naushad Moosa Discusses Youth Development And Hands Us An Update On The Season So Far Ahead Of BDFA Super Division Opener…

On beginning the campaign as defending champions…

It’s a nice feeling when you kick off the League as defending champions. Winning the League requires you to be consistent throughout the season and that’s what we achieved last year. But that’s all in the past and we know that. We have a few players from last year and quite a few new faces which means we have to work hard to maintain our level of consistency. This year the League has already kicked off and from what I’ve seen so far, the teams have improved. We are beginning our campaign belatedly because a few of our players were part of the Karnataka State Team taking part in the Santosh Trophy.

On handling pressure of the ‘Defending Champions’ tag…

I have never put a lot of pressure on my team. In fact, I have always tried to inculcate a team spirit that helps them play without pressure. It’s about being brave when you are on the field and constantly giving one hundred percent. They have to learn to take a win or loss or a draw in a positive way and continue their learning process. They are still quite young and I just want them to enjoy their game and play good football. Although we will be the ‘defending champions’, we will play for the new season so we are not focusing on that aspect too much.

On the season so far…

We played the Durand Cup in August when we were still in our pre-season. It helped all the youngsters get high-level competitive games against big teams. We even played two games during a small break there against Southern Samity and CCFC, with U18 players in both games. The U18 squad then played the Vedanta Youth Cup, which was a great experience for the technical staff and the players to understand our strengths and weaknesses. We lost that tournament in the final, but it served as a good lesson for the team on the importance of staying focused and avoiding complacency.

Apart from that, we have been playing a lot of friendly games during the weekends, against the Super Division teams and our U18 players have shown great improvement. They understand the philosophy and are adapting to the style of play. A few players have been training with the first team and even participated in a recent friendly game against East Bengal which was a good experience for them.

On the packed schedule and back-to-back Super Division and Elite League games…

The situation is a little difficult considering the proximity of the games, but we have to cope with it. This year we have only seven players from last season’s reserve squad, while 22 of the players who have come in are the U18 players. We will have to rotate the squad and every single player will be getting playing time. We have to analyze the opponent that we will be facing and find the right balance. A few senior players will also be part of the squad during the Super Division, so I don’t think it will be that much of an issue.

At BFC, we not just have a pathway for the players but we work heavily on the education and progression of the coaches as well. Diwakar who was part of our BFC Soccer Schools staff has graduated to the U18 and BFC B side where he has been helping me with the Strength and Conditioning aspect. He is currently doing his Module 1 in the AFC ‘B’ Licence which means I have a good staff to rely on. The Physios in Suhas and Rahul, and analyst Karthik have also been doing a fantastic job which has helped us prepare well.

Given my involvement in the ISL, apart from the Super Division League and the Elite League, there will be a few games where I may not be present. But I am confident in the able staff who can handle the team in my absence. Sandesh Bhoite has done a wonderful job and he will be managing the team when I am away. He has recently completed his AIFF A Licence and is a confident coach.

On fielding youth against senior-level sides…

The majority of our squad in the U18 team comes from last year’s U15 side. They will be at this level for at least two more years and that gives us a good amount of time to groom them. The reason we shifted the U18 to Bengaluru is to provide them more competitive games which wasn’t possible in Bellary. The fact that we now have fixture congestion actually means we get to play more matches and that’s something that will help in their development. Of course, the number of fixtures also means that all players will get enough opportunity to play. Last season as BFC B, we got 28 competitive games under our belt, and this year it’s going to be even more with the 2nd Division League to follow.

The requirement for any youth footballer is to be playing competitive games because it helps them understand various aspects of the game. Situations that arise in the game help them improve their decision-making skills and ability to deal with different scenarios and opponents. Over the last few months, their confidence level has grown by leaps and we have seen a lot of improvement in the squad, especially the youngsters. I’m really excited and looking forward to the competitive season.