It has been a few months since I returned to Spain, and a lot has changed all over the world in that time. I felt now would be the right moment to get in touch with all of you, to make sure you were doing okay and to give you an update about the club, our players, the staff and the season to come. At the end of last season, when I traveled back to Spain the situation was not very good. There was talk about closing the border, but over the last few weeks, slowly, things have been improving.
I’ve had some time to reflect on the season gone by and I must say that to work in India, and in Bengaluru especially, is a privilege for me. I enjoy every moment spent in training, traveling and during the games with all of you supporters, but the price I pay for that is time with my family and friends here in Spain. These last few months have given me the opportunity to spend time with them.
Another advantage of this lockdown is that it has given me the opportunity to work on things in football that I normally would not have the time to. I have been taking part in some masterclasses for Academies in Spain, South America, EEUU and even Japan. It is surprising how people around the world know about Bengaluru FC and what we are doing. They are getting information about the Indian Super League, about our club and its success, and that should make every single one of you proud.
You may have seen how people have been sharing some of our set-piece routines on Twitter, because there are a lot of questions being asked about them. Clubs and coaches around the world see the number of set-pieces we convert, and they understand that it is unusual. Nishu’s goal against Hyderabad, Sunil’s header against Kerala, the goal last season from the free-kick against NorthEast – I even got a call from Xavi Hernandez’s assistant, Sergio Alegre, at Al Sadd in Qatar. We spoke for over an hour and a half about the work that goes on behind our set pieces at Bengaluru. The fact that they want to learn from us is something that should make all of us happy.
I have also spent a lot of time cycling over the last few months. I realised that it is a good opportunity for me to exercise, and since I have an old relationship with some of the stadiums in Madrid, I paid them a visit. I have played in some of them, some others have been the venue for some memorable games I have watched. Sometimes it was a six kilometre tour, and other times even more.
I went by the Vicenté Calderon, Atletico Madrid’s old stadium, that I had visited as part of the backroom staff during my time at Galatasaray. It was a very important European game and we came away with a 1-1 draw. I remember playing at the Santiago Bernabeu as a junior player from Barcelona against Real Madrid in the U18 Spanish Cup, in 1987. I was a spectator when Barcelona won 2-6 there in 2009; all great memories for me to go back and remember in a way.
While I am far from India, I’m never too far from the club. I am always thinking about our players, the club, what we must do and our plans for next season. These are difficult times, but we have made a system for our players to stay fit. Our S&C coach Mikel Guillen has given them plans that combine specific strength and endurance exercises with some free sports like cycling, padel, badminton or swimming. I am blessed to work with players who are professional, and I know that they will be taking care of themselves.
There was also an emotional moment for me, when Nishu sent me a private Whatsapp message to appreciate all the work we have done together. He was grateful for how much we have supported him over the years, to become a better player and to reach the national team. He leaves in search of a new challenge and I wish him luck.
We have signed a few exciting players and I am looking forward to seeing how well they integrate with the team in pre-season. While it is still a while away, I know that our players have started pre-season already. I can see on my Instagram that they are working hard with the intention of being ready for next season because we have a big challenge coming our way.
India is now at a difficult phase, and it is important that we put everything aside and look out for our safety and the safety of those around us. At the beginning of the lockdown, we decided to contribute to the National Cares Fund and that was a nice gesture from the people from the club. Everyone, from top to bottom, understood that this is a global concern. This club has always stood for sharing and caring, which is something that makes me proud.
Every gesture, small or big, is always nice and more so right now. If you see someone on the street and you can give them something to eat, there is nothing to separate the importance of that from a billion dollars, in that very moment. I know that a lot of supporters and the West Block Blues have been doing some great work to help during the crisis, and I am really proud of them.
I look forward to being back in Bengaluru, and getting to work with our players as we inch towards another season.
Until then, take care and stay safe.