Coach C.M. Ranjith has a lot to say about what the state associations can do to ensure a bright future for the game
From versatile player to coach with an eye for talent, C. M. Ranjith has come a long way. His fans now talk about him not for his sharp shooting abilities but for the way he has kept the State Bank of India team afloat in the premier local league, despite the ban on recruitment. Indeed, the talent he spotted and honed from Kerala was often grabbed by other clubs.
Ranjith's passion for coaching saw him pursue various courses which could help him turn professional. "I have to clear one more part to become a pro-licence coach," he said recently, after he returned from a tour of the UAE. He had gone there as deputy coach to Colm Toal, Chief Coach and Technical Director of Indian football, with the Indian U-16 squad for the AFC qualifying tournament. Prior to this, he travelled with the Indian U-13 squad to Iran for the AFC football festival. All this kept him in the national camps for months together and since they are mostly held in Goa, he had to be away from family and, of course, office.
"I am indebted to my bosses in the bank for, without their approval I could not have furthered my career," he said. Ranjith cherishes every moment of his long stint with Chief Coach Toal and the young players in the Goa camp and the tournament thereafter. Having benefited from the structured training at the G.V. Raja Sports School in Thiruvananthapuram in his younger days, Ranjith is convinced that the scientific training the young players undergo now is at a different level.
"It was about aggressive, defensive and midfield play which was taken care of in separate sessions and then organising matches by forming teams from the probables. Thereafter, a little foreign exposure too," he said.
Every aspect of the players was analysed. Again, it was not football alone for the boys. "The AIFF arranged special teachers in science, mathematics and English on a daily basis to ensure the boys were in touch with their studies. They were also given time for shopping and pursuing other activities, of course, under supervision. Their intake of food was carefully monitored. In short, the young minds were kept so busy that they had no time to feel homesick. It was a wholesome package that the AIFF provided, with the aim of nurturing quality players," he said.
The only sore point, he added, was the presence of over-aged players, which was revealed through MRI tests. Considering how strictly age violations are viewed by the world body FIFA (if two players are ejected from the side for being over-age, the entire team gets disqualified), it was mandatory for every federation to be cautious about this. Despite the federation's best intentions, the problem cropped up and, in Goa, as many as 17 players were ejected from the U-16 camp. Ranjith said this resulted in embarrassment. Besides, they had to start the work all over again by bringing in a fresh set of players. Precious time was lost as a consequence and this told on the team in the UAE tournament where India bowed out winning just one match in a group of six teams.
It is the State Associations that have to be blamed for this sorry state of affairs. Ranjith believes that when the AIFF had a good youth development programme on board, the onus was on every State Association to ensure healthy support. And for this, impediments such as age violations had to be rooted out, he said.