GETTING BACK UP
The injury most footballers dread the most is the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury. Many a superstar has suffered this injury and faced a dramatic decline in their performance. The likes of Ronaldo and Roberto Baggio suffered serious ACL injuries to their knee during their playing years. After my injury, I started focusing on sports academics and football coaching. I worked hard and was fortunate to get an opportunity to coach the University Team in 1997, and in my very first coaching stint, we won third place in the All India Inter-university competition in both Men and Women.
“I worked hard and was fortunate to get an opportunity to coach the University Team in 1997”
While I was struggling with the injury I had made up my mind to work in football and that too in football management areas but the career opportunities were limited, and that too within the coaching sphere. In 1996 I qualified for the UGC fellowship exam and was granted a research fellowship to complete doctoral studies thus I went on to do my research in Indian football.
FOOTBALL IN INDIA IN THE 1990s I
n the early 90’s working full time in sports was a rarity, and as far as my knowledge goes there was no sports firm or company at that time who were employing professional talent. As a coach, I believed I could learn and use my knowledge as a stepping stone to further my career in sports.
“I was eagerly looking for an opportunity to work in football, but faced disappointment”
After my doctorate in the year 2000, I was eagerly looking for an opportunity to work in football, but faced disappointment as there seemed to be virtually none. After 8 months of fruitless search, I happened to read a news story about a plan to start a football academy in Chandigarh by the Chandigarh Administration. I jumped at the opportunity and contacted my teacher and Asian Games Gold Medal winner (400m, 1966), the late Prof Ajmer Singh, Director of Sports Punjab University, Chandigarh. I landed in Chandigarh the very next day, and within a week I started training at the academy. However, the ad-hoc 89-day contract was initiated after 6 weeks of hard work.
MY FIRST PROFESSIONAL BREAKTHROUGH
I’m indeed grateful to Prof Ajmer Singh for my first meaningful break in football coaching and administration. He even allowed me to stay in his residence for the first three months as I couldn’t afford a rental with the salary I was paid by the academy. The work was superbly satisfying as I could achieve a set target as a coach and administrator in the academy. In one go 6 of our players were selected for the India U14 Football team in 2004 and during my stint at the academy, 8 players represented India in U13 and U14 teams. Even now few of my players are playing in different top clubs in India and the I-league.
“The work was superbly satisfying as I could achieve a set target as a coach and administrator in the academy.”
By now I had the confidence and knowledge to attempt to stand on my own two feet, and to take the risks I had always wanted to take. I look forward to telling you more about my journey in Part III of My Journey with Football.
“I had the confidence and knowledge to attempt to stand on my own two feet, and to take the risks I had always wanted to take”