Former striker C. M. Ranjith is on the panel of national coaches to mould the future stars of the game at a special campDisappointments were many in C. M. Ranjith's career as a footballer. A versatile player, a sharp shooter, Ranjith represented everything that the term `striker' in football denotes. He top scored in the 1983 Santosh Trophy nationals in Chennai along with Camilo Gonsalves of Goa and the media announced the arrival of a new sensation in the sport. But instead of recognition it was a sort of banishment that awaited him. "I was selected for the national camp prior to the 1985 Nehru Cup tournament in Kochi. The late coach Cyric Milovan was in charge and he definitely had a good word for me. But for reasons that had nothing to do with my skills, I was pushed to the national youth team to play two `Test matches' against a visiting junior Italian side. In many ways, that ended my International career," Ranjith recalls.
Strong backgroundRanjith, however, continued to make waves in the National championship till 1995, even as he shifted base from Kerala to Tamil Nadu once State Bank of India gave him a job. The ace player believed that it was his sports school background (he is a product of the noted G.V. Raja School in Thiruvananthapuram), his aptitude for athletics (a state sub-junior champion in sprint events) and the grounding he received in football in his younger days that helped him become a polished player. "I still remember the fundamental lessons that Olympian Simon Sundararaj gave when I was a member of the Brothers Club in Kannur. He stressed on body movements for shooting, trapping and passing," he says and believes many of the present day younger players lack these basics perhaps because they never had the chance of learning the skills from exclusive football coaches. The PT masters at school at best infuse enthusiasm in the kids but the players realise their inadequacy only when they take to serious football later. "The ills of improper learning surface and quite a few promising players fade away," says Ranjith, now a budding coach. Armed with an AFC `B' licence for coaches, the ace SBI player has already made a mark in the State for having taken two teams to zonal triumphs — the Under-16 team first and recently the Under-19 team.
Panel of coachesAs part of the AIFF policy, such successful coaches are listed for consideration at the national level and in the assessment of the current Technical Director, Colm Toal (at present the national chief coach in the absence of Bob Houghton, who is recuperating after a hip surgery), Ranjith deserves a `National coach' slot. He has just been named in the panel of coaches to train a group of national players at a special 45-day camp in Gandhinagar. Thrilled at the opportunity to make a mark in the sport he loves most, Ranjith has already begun to plan how he is going to mould the future stars of Indian football. "My experience with the Tamil Nadu players makes me confident that tangible improvements can be brought about through a systematic schedule," he says. He knows that it takes sacrifice to stay away from wife Shirly, incidentally the sister of Olympian Shiny Wilson, and two daughters. "But they are understanding and that drives me on," he says.As a player, Ranjith never got his due. May be as a coach, he will see better times and be able to impart that touch of class, which was the hallmark of his playing career, to Indian football. S. R. SURYANARAYAN