is not often that you come across a person of Indian origin
that manages to achieve several firsts related to football
in North America. Sanjeev Parmar, stands out as an exception
and role model in that regard.
being a football player on his provincial team as a teen,
inducted into the National Training Centre in Canada, obtaining
a soccer scholarship to a college in the US, playing for the
Charlotte Eagles in the United Soccer Leagues (USL), coaching
kids in Africa, setting up his own football academy in Ottawa
and becoming the youngest coach in Canada to obtain the A
licence – Sanjeev has done it all before turning 30
Harmit Singh Kamboe caught-up with Sanjeev...
We hope you find this interview as enjoyable one to read!
Please tell us about yourself? Where and when were you born
and how big a part was sports, especially football in your
I was born in Campbell River, British Columbia on May 28,
1978. In 1982 as an under age four year old player my parents
registered me with the Campbell River Youth Soccer Association
into the under 6 league. Apparently I was pretty good and
made a name for myself through my ability to dribble and take
players on. At the age of eight, after the 1986 World Cup
final between Argentina and West Germany, I jumped on the
soccer bandwagon and decided that I was going to be the best
soccer player in the world like Diego Maradona. From that
day onwards, soccer become my true passion in life and I dedicated
my whole life to becoming the next Maradona or Pele (my idols
as a young player).
What attracted you to football over other more North American
sports like hockey, basketball, etc.?
I always participated in the various sports offered in elementary
school such as basketball, volleyball and track and field.
However, they were just fun things for me to do so I could
play with my friends and try to be better than them. However,
I had my mind set on playing for Canada in the World Cup and
lifting the trophy in front of the world. My whole life was
dedicated to the game and my daily schedule revolved around
playing soccer. Every day at school during recess, I would
challenge my friends to a match by playing myself versus who
ever wanted to play against me. At lunch time, I would try
to get in on a pick up game with the older kids and try to
dribble through everyone. After school, I would run home to
eat a quick snack and head back to the field with my bag of
soccer balls, so I could work on mastering the ball. Once
or twice a week, I was able to convince one of my friends
to come along and we would have crossing and finishing competitions
to see who could score the most goals.
would say the most important factor in helping me get a passion
for the game was my mom and dad. They always supported my
desire to play soccer by playing with me in the backyard or
going to the park with me when ever I asked them to. My dad
never missed any of my games and was always providing me with
encouragement to reach for the stars, but never pushed me
beyond what I was wanting for myself. He would constantly
remind me that he was supporting me fully, and this was enough
to inspire me to make him proud of me.
Were there other South Asian children on the provincial team
of British Columbia when you were there? What was the experience
and the learning like for youngsters like you on the Provincial
There were two players of Indian origin who were selected
on the BC provincial team. I was selected to the first team
and my friend was selected to the second team in our first
year with the team. However, for the next couple of years
we were both on the first team and ended up winning two national
gold medals in back to back years.
The experience of playing on the provincial team was extraordinary
for me because I was the only player from Vancouver Island
and had to travel 5 hours each weekend to get to a training
session. I learned to be independent and many life skills
because I was travelling by myself each weekend on bus for
3 hours and then by ferry for 2 hours to get across the ocean
before getting picked up by one of my teammates.
was a very dedicated player and realize now that I was by
far the most serious player in the program. For me, being
on the provincial team was a very important accomplishment
and was my stepping stone to get to the national team. I worked
very hard in training and always realized that I had to be
a little bit better than the other players if I wanted to
remain on the squad due to the fact that I wasn’t from
the lower mainland and was unable to attend week day practises.
at the provincial level taught me to work hard and leave everything
on the field each training session because there was always
a possibility of being released from the program.
Please describe the soccer scholarships that you received
for your college education?
I was fortunate enough to have many offers to various schools
around North America in my grade 12 year as I was training
at the National Training Centre. In the end I accepted a scholarship
to Houghton College, in New York State. My main reason for
attending the school was because I thought that the coach
Dwight Hornibrook, who was with the 1994 Canadian National
Men’s Team staff would be the right person to help me
develop my game to become a professional player. I also recognized
that Houghton College would provide me with exceptional education.
Attending Houghton College ended up being an excellent choice
for me because I was the star player over my four year career
and was voted as an All American All Star in my 1st, 2nd and
Was there a big difference in quality when you moved from
the Toronto Lynx to the Charlotte Eagles? What was it like
to win the USL D3 National Championships?
In my senior year at university, I was in frequent contact
with the Toronto Lynx coach because he had let me know that
he would be drafting me in the USL A league draft.
was very excited about getting the opportunity to play in
the A league and had decided that would be my first choice,
however, I was invited by the Charlotte Eagles for a tryout
on the same day that I was being drafted. I was approached
immediately after the first training session by the manager
and told that the Eagles were going to put together a contract
for me. I made it clear to them that I my first choice would
be the Toronto Lynx because they played at a higher level,
however, I was so impressed by the Charlotte Eagles organization
during my stay, that I had a tough decision at hand once I
got back to Houghton. After speaking to Toronto and finding
out that they were unable to pay me very much, I made the
decision to sign with Charlotte.
first year at Charlotte was a very humbling year as I expected
to make a major impact in the league immediately; however,
I received very little playing time and was faced with the
task of winning a spot in the midfield from our captain who
had been an All Star in the league. As a 21 year old player,
it was very hard for me to understand why I wasn’t getting
playing time because the coach would always explain that he
was happy with my performance in training. I look back now
and realize that every coach looks for different things in
a player and needs each player to fit into the system that
best suits the team.
the USL D3 Championship in front of our home crowd was an
amazing feeling and a nice personal accomplishment for me
because it was my third national title (2 in Canada and 1
in the US).
What was it like to work with the children and players in
Africa when you visited them with the Charlotte Eagles?
We travelled to Rwanda, Ethiopia and Kenya with the Charlotte
Eagles on our pre-season trip for 2001 and turned out to be
a life changing experience for me. We played in front of 40
000 fans in the Rwandan National Stadium (the same stadium
where people got picked up in helicopters during the Rwandan
Genocide in 1994). To see the Rwandan army rolling into the
stadium with drums and chanting songs while we were warming
up is a experience I can never forget. I can still remember
how excited I was to be able to perform in front of such a
the opportunity to work with street children was by far the
best part of my three month stay. I developed an amazing relationship
with the kids in Ethiopia as we spent most of our time in
Addis Ababa (capital city). I would go out to the streets
each afternoon with a piece of paper and pen and educate the
street children by teaching them the English alphabet. I would
write the alphabet on a piece of paper for each child and
tell them they would have to keep it with them at all times.
When ever I ran into them, I would ask them to rehearse the
ABC’s back to me. Over time, the kids began to learn
a bit of English and I began to learn quite a bit of Amharic
(Ethiopia’s national language).
I was able to convince the SIM shelter home that we were staying
at to provide us with a little room where I could bring the
kids in to and teach them. By the end of our three month stay,
we were able to develop a school where kids learned math,
English, crafts etc.
I received a nice letter from the school about 4 years ago
to let me know that the kids were attending school regularly
and had gone through two whole years of schooling. It brought
total joy to my heart to know that we were able to help make
an impact to the lives of those precious children who had
no hope. This was all made possible through the soccer.
Please describe the circumstances under which you trained
with the Newcastle youth squad? What impressed you most about
the Newcastle training stint?
I had an opportunity to play against the Newcastle United
under 19s in an exhibition match with the Canadian Military
National Team (I was involved with the team for a year). It
was quite the experience as they beat us 8-0 and showed us
how real football should be played. At the end of the game,
Alan Beardsley the coach of the Newcastle team asked me if
I would be interested in joining them for a training session
the following day and obviously I agreed.
training session was a short high intensity session that involved
a bit of technical work at the beginning, with a progression
on a few simple small sided games into finishing at the end.
What impressed me most was the pace that they could execute
everything at. The decision making of each player was much
faster than anything I had experienced in Canada. The players
always knew what they wanted to do with the ball before they
would receive it. Their technical ability was no better than
mine, but they were just much faster in their decision making.
the end of the session, we finished with a nice and easy finishing
drill which impressed me quite a bit. The one thing that I
noticed was that the players very rarely would miss the net
and typically scored on most shots on goal.
You are one of the youngest coaches in Canada to achieve the
“A” licence? What made you switch to coaching
at such a young age? And why did you decide to focus specifically
on youth coaching?
I have been involved in coaching since I was 15 years old
because I love being on the field. However, I didn’t
get involved seriously until I was playing with the Ottawa
Wizards. I ended up getting a very serious head injury during
my second year with the team which forced me to take the majority
of the summer off. This allowed me to participate in a coaching
licence that was being held in Ottawa. After taking the licence,
I felt like I learned quite a bit and was very interested
in pursuing more coaching education and over the next four
or five years was able to quickly go through all the various
licences that are offered in Canada.
I moved back to Canada from the States, I recognized a real
technical weakness in the Canadian game and realized that
the problem starts at the grassroots level. I therefore, began
to concentrate most of my energy on coaching 8 – 13
years old and over the past five years have seen a huge improvement
in the technical ability of the players that we at Parmar
Sports Training have been working with. I feel that my knowledge,
ability and energy levels are best suited for developing young
children as I am very good with providing children a fun and
challenging environment to learn in.
How is Parmar Sports Training different from other football
clinics and academies? When was the academy formed and how
many children attend the academy at any given time?
Our whole training philosophy is based around the long term
athlete development model and provides our players with the
proper training that is required at each stage of their careers.
Our staff is very aware of the fact that children love to
have fun, therefore everything we do is wild and exciting.
All of our training sessions are geared towards mastering
the ABC’s (agility, balance and coordination) and the
ball. We feel that an athlete who has control of their body
and the ball is able to learn simple tactics when they get
to 11 and 12 years of age, hence the reason we focus solely
on technical skills (receiving, running with the ball, retaining
the ball, and releasing the ball)
formed my company at the end of 2003 after being inspired
by my friend who suggested that I should run evening training
sessions as a part time job. I took his inspirational challenge
and decided that I would give up my playing career to start
up a full time academy and called it Parmar Sports Training
Inc. Since the inception of the company, it has grown from
a few individual players into a little over 500 kids a week.
We presently run development programs throughout Ottawa and
are going to be expanding into Montreal this winter.
programs include under 5/6 skills development, ball mastery,
small sided games, position specific programs, elite programs,
SAQ (speed, agility, and quickness), summer camps and team
Have there been any children from your academy that have gone
on to do noticeably well in soccer in Canada and beyond from
Presently I have quite a few kids who are playing at high
levels in North America. I have two 12 year old players who
have presently been selected to the Danone Cup National Team
who are in the final round of tryouts to represent Canada
at the Nations Cup Tournament in France. Over the past three
or four years we have produced almost fifty percent of the
players who have gone on to represent the Eastern Ontario
Region at the under 13 level. Presently we have three Ontario
Provincial team players as well as the under 17 Canadian National
Team Captain who had a successful tryout with a Brazilian
club earlier this year. For the past three years I’ve
sent a player on to my alma mater at Houghton College on a
soccer scholarship as well as other universities in America
Have you had much chance to see Indian football? What are
your thoughts on the standard of football in India?
I was able to watch the Indian national team play in New Delhi
last year and have been fortunate to catch a few National
Football League matches on television. I have to say, as a
soccer enthusiast, it was extremely difficult for me to keep
my attention glued to the television as the standard of play
was very poor. I found the technical ability of the players
to be at an unsatisfactory level which lead to very sloppy
What kind of things do you think would make the most dramatic
impact on Indian football?
It is very obvious that the greatest injustice that is being
done to the Indian footballer is the lack of grassroots programs
that exist in the nation. Young children need to have a football
at their foot from the age of 5 so that they are able to get
a feel for the ball and manipulate it to do what they want.
Kids need to be mastering the basic techniques during the
golden years of learning between the ages of 10 – 12.
If kids haven’t had exposure to the ball and 1v1 /2v2
situations by the time they are 10, they are way behind most
kids around the world.
feel that it is very important to be able to develop the knowledge
of coaches in India because there is such a huge difference
in working with kids at the various stages of development.
Coaches have a much more valuable role to play than just being
good soccer instructors who can demonstrate proper technique
to their players. Coaches are role models to the players and
each Instructor needs to understand their responsibility as
a teacher, leader and counselor.
Your thoughts on how South Asian children are faring in soccer
in Canada, please. Do you see any breakthrough players that
will change the perception of Indians not being good football
players (in Canada at least).
Over the past 15 years, I feel that the Indian community has
continued to develop a number of very talented players, however,
I have seen a growing trend amongst most young athletes. Majority
of the young talented Indian players end up ruining their
soccer careers in their mid-teenage years as they get involved
in drinking alcohol, doing drugs and other mischief. I saw
much of this happen to the Indian players who I grew up with
in British Columbia.
would love to see some young Indian players come through the
system who could wear the maple leaf with pride and honour,
but feel that we as a community have to do a much better job
in raising our kids and making sure they are guided properly
in their teenage years.
Many, many thanks for taking the time to speak to us and share
your thoughts and ideas.