The year 2008 must have been a good start for the football scene in Pune. Firstly, the announcement of Pune Football Club; secondly, the team participating in the 2nd division I-League; and finally, Pune being one of the two venues for the second division I-League's preliminary round.
It's not that this sport is very unpopular in Pune. Football
is played round the year in Pune, there are quite a number
of tournaments, Pune District Football Association (PDFA)
conducts division league, and also have few academies. So
what is it that's going wrong and preventing Pune to prosper
in the Indian football scene?
The emergence of Pune FC is what the doctor ordered. Promoted by the Ashok Piramal Group, Pune FC has massive plans for the improvement of football in Pune.
IndianFootball.Com's Subhajyoti Banerjee visited their practice session at the Bombay Engineering Group (BEG) ground, Khadki and talked with the coach, Irishman Bernard McNally and his assistant Vivek Nagul. Enjoy!
Hello coach, thanks for giving time to IndianFootball.Com.
It gives me immense joy to talk to someone who has played
with great Pat Jennings in the FIFA World Cup.
Bernard McNally (BM): Yeah, he is a legend!
Subhajyoti: As you start working on a project, you must have some short term and long term goals. What is the short term goal for Pune FC?
BM: Well to be honest, my primary focus is to qualify for the first division of the ONGC I-League.
Subhajyoti: And what about the long term goals?
BM: It's too premature to ask someone who is just few weeks old in Pune FC. I would like Vivek and the team management to answer this question. But what I heard from them is that nurturing football talents from Pune and building a football stadium are the two areas that Pune FC is focused.
Subhajyoti: Tell us something about your football life?
BM: I have played for Shrewsbury Town for almost a decade, then moved to West Bromwich Albion and played professional football till 1995. Later, joined Hednesford Town and Telford United.
Subhajyoti: How is the team responding to your coaching?
BM: The team is shaping up and responding well. We had a very fruitful tour to Bangalore, played with teams like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited SC, Bharat Earth Movers Limited SC, and Army XI. Team played excellent football against Army XI. Hopefully, team should perform similarly in the upcoming tourneys.
second division I-League fixtures are out; coach is informed
that Pune FC is placed with HAL SC, ONGC, State Bank
of Travancore, Vasco SC, and Chirag United SC.
BM: To be frank, I am not aware of the composition of our opponents. I have to depend on my assistant coach and support staff for the inputs.
Subhajyoti: You have three teams (HAL, SBT, and Vasco) in your group who have experience of playing in the first division.
BM: So, we are placed in a tough group, huh!
Subhajyoti: You team is staying together, how much stress do you give this aspect in the game of football?
BM: Staying together actually works; it is a team building exercise, raises team spirit and bonding. However, all my players are still single, so I am lucky that way! But in 3-4 years time, lads will be married and they will have their families. At that point of time you can’t actually force them to stay together (grins).
Subhajyoti: How is the team shaping up?
BM: The team is very spirited! The lads have gelled together excellently and performing like a cohesive unit. The team is a mixed lot, we have few locals, a few from far north-east, and you can say a mini India. We have two talented players from Nigeria. Local lads look up to them for certain skills and they are also well-built.
I see the Indians are not naturally well-built, physical ability is an important aspect in modern football. However, I have seen few teams from Goa with well-built footballers.I like to play very attacking football; it’s all about entertaining the crowd!
Saying that I am well aware of the plus and minuses of the team. I don’t want to promise something that I am not aware.
Subhajyoti: You have joined Pune FC for a short stint, provided Pune FC performs well in the second division I-League, do you look forward for a longer association with Pune FC?
BM: Very simple, I need to produce results! A good performance and I will stick with Pune FC.
comments on the facilities provided to the team?
BM: We have a long way to go as far as facility is concerned. But again, we have to get along with it. The ground is quite hard.
Need to see what develops, watch your space, and hopefully it should work that way we want it.
Subhajyoti: Have you interacted with any other club coaches in India?
BM: Yes, I did meet Karim Bencherifa, coach of Churchill Brothers. His team has consistently done well in the I-League.
Subhajyoti: One final question, Cyd Gray’s injury has forced him out of action, will you miss him?
BM: Cyd’s injury is very unfortunate and has upset my scheme of things. However, injuries are very natural in football. You can’t actually dwell on that, he will be missed, but we have to move on.
Subhajyoti: Thanks coach, it was nice talking to you, and all the very best for the I-League assignment!
At this point of time, assistant coach Vivek Nagul comes in. Vivek hails from Pune and has been a top football player during his days. He is associated with Pune FC since inception. He is the best person to answer the long term plans for Pune FC.
Subhajyoti: Hi Vivek!
Okay, the obvious question, what are the long term plans for
VN: To nurture footballers from Pune. It is very pleasing to know that the Ashok Piramal Group, has chosen Pune as a base. As the group is based out of Mumbai, Mumbai could have been the obvious choice. But the opportunity is bestowed to Pune, now, it is my duty to respond to the confidence shown by the management.
We would like to build the team through Football in the Community (FITC) program. Traditionally, football is played in few pockets in Pune, Camp, Deccan, Khadki, and Ghorpadi to name a few. We want to spread it across to the entire Pune and its neighboring areas.
Off-late, Pune has produced a national-level player in Paresh Shivalkar, I have seen his career shaping up while playing in Sky Hawks, also, I have mentored him. Pune needs ten more players like Paresh.
We want to generate interest among the parents. Typically, you don’t find parents encouraging kids to take up football as a profession. We want to break the myth. Now, there is enough money in Indian football. A top player earns much more than an IIM graduate!
Football needs to be started at the grass root level, because during this the stage you can develop the technical nuances, and later on you can concentrate on the other aspect of the game.
Our motto is to catch them young. As you know the club is in its nascent stage. In a very short notice period, we participated in the Manchester United Premier Cup (MUPC) qualifying round and performed well. So we have very high hopes about our under-19 and under-15 team.
Subhajyoti: Thanks Vivek! Great to know that Pune FC is doing a lot in developing football in Pune.