After a month of practice, heavy torrential rainfall and studies, the day had come for the students to test whatever they had learnt. Subroto Mukherjee Cup is an annual tournament for schools which start at the district level then at the state level ending with the national phase at New Delhi. For the boys it was a first time experience and the highest expectations for them to become the district champions. But our morales were low as soon as we reached the venue.
The above picture is a bit of an exaggeration but the field was something like it-lop sided. Our opponents at first sight looked like U-20’s (This was an U-14 event) but there was no way to prove this. Don’t get me wrong. There is a medical check before any games but the criteria for U-14 is the number of teeth must not exceed 28 which is ridiculous given that I am 24 and I have only 29 teeth. Consider the chances of illegal participation – I could just break one of my teeth to participate in an U-14 game. If that’s not enough, the field did not have marked lines which I recall is mandatory by FIFA rules. The grass was half-feet high. This seemed like a huge task but the boys had a great second-half and from 2 down we made it 2-1 and it seemed like it was going to penalties but I guess was asking too much. As a coach and a Football enthusiast, I believe that to reach a high level of football infrastructure is important but rampant corruption has stolen away the opportunities for the deserving. I have been criticized for fielding young players but I believe that long term development will yield better rewards.
To start with, it felt surreal watching Shillong Lajong FC. I remember those days when I coached Lajong fc – in Football Manager 2013-14. Names like Redeem, Pritam, Jacob, Rupert..etc were common in my virtual team and strangely it looks the same in real life. A pre-season match between champions of Meghalaya and Manipur was an opportunity for me to analyse Lajong FC – their players, style and all. Their opponents NEROCA FC have won the sate league undefeated and that is a morale booster.
THE FORMATION-Lajong FC
(The numbers I’ve left out is because I’ve forgotten it – Center Back, left winger- or my software does not have enough numbers – No. 25, 26. Striker and Centre forward.)
Both the teams came out in a 4-4-2 formation but Lajong were more of a 4-4-1-1 with No. 26 supporting the lone striker. And in some cases it became a 4-2-3-1.
NEROCA FC were undefeated in MSL because of their strong defense and their talented individuals which is way above the level of the rest of the teams. So this was going to be a challenge for them- against a club that has been playing in the highest league.
THE TACTICS – Lajong FC
During the warm ups, I noticed the Lajong players were practicing a pattern where in the defense would kick long balls to the wings. As expected, this same pattern was followed in the game. (As shown in the following picture)
The full backs would push higher to overload a side. The man-marking system of the opponent creates spaces in the wings of the attacking third. No.6 (Sana) kicks a long ball to the left shaded area which is space for No.19 to take advantage of. Neroca’s rigid man-marking defense makes them prone to such kind of patterns. Manipur State League did not have any team with such a dynamic tactic where movement, overloading of wings or off the ball movement by attacking players can result in goals.
Talking about movement of the ball, there was this moment when the ball was in the left side of the pitch. This attracted the opponents to that side leaving space on the right which the Lajong right back took advantage of. Basically, most of the opportunities for Lajong came through the wings but strangely, such a tactic was less frequent. And even if there was one, not many attackers were there to pounce on the ball in the penalty box.
The game ended in a tie-breaker with Lajong winning it but you would have expected more from a team playing in I-League. Anyways there were some important exclusions I guess. Rocus Lamare did not get play time and possibly there are some more foreigners yet to come.
But the way I see it, Lajong needs to ramp up its mid-field and forwards. Yes, they might have talented youngsters but you need consistency. If Singto can balance youth and experience, Lajong could have a better campaign than the last year. The chemistry between Centre backs is not smooth yet. But it is still early to comment too much on anything. All we can do is wait for the match against Bengaluru FC and hope the boys get some crucial points.
When it comes to formations in football, every region has its own mantra on what best tactic – formation wise – to follow. From my experience in Manipur , especially last year I have noticed that 3-5-2 is the most followed formation. I consider this to be a pro-attacking formation. Philosophies depend on the culture of the region and it is no wonder that kids here prefer playing in advanced positions rather than being goalie or in defensive positions.
The formation usually has 3 last line defense with the middle player behaving like a sweeper more often. There is one defense mid, two midfielder, two winger and two striker. Like I said it is more of an attacking formation with about six player who can position in attacking third when in attacking phase.
This is also a problem because no team is always in attacking phase. The wingers are isolated allowing for spaces on the sides. It is inevitable that side backs will press in a man-marking tactic. This will then create spaces between the last defenders unless the defense midfield covers which is rare when opponents are direct.
3-5-2 and black dots represent the spaces which opponents can take advantage of.
No wonder games in which both teams employ this formation will always be entertaining because of its attacking benefits and the space that simultaneously is formed at the sides and back. I see this mainly in amateur games where it is all about direct play and it is frantic.
This year though there are changes tactically. Most of the teams in MSL(Manipur state league) have come out with 4-4-2 which brings more stability at the back meaning less goals.
Credits Lenlai Club.
Compare these two leagues where CC pur Super(CSL) can be said to be the amateur league. The average goals per game for MSL is 1.18 compared to CSL’s 1.63. Not a big difference you might say but if you look closer there are only 2 clubs in MSL (out of 12) that average 2 goals per game when CSL has 3 teams out of 7 with 2 goals per game. This means CSL is more entertaining than MSL but more chaotic.
Here is a link to warm up tips by four four two which I saw the other day and thought why not test it practically? Well I have been reading a lot on warm-up, the dos and do nots. Of the eight warm-up exercises four (tuck jump, lateral bound, single and double leg squat) are more like plyometric exercises which means they require explosive action. My leg muscles felt ticklish and I couldn’t do anything for a while. The lesson-no explosive action in warm up. Always dynamic.
Another thing that happened while doing rondos was I stressed my ankles which wouldn’t have happened if my warm-up had been more about warming up my muscles and not straining it.
Again be dynamic.
Euro 2016 was full of surprises none more so than Iceland beating the 2nd rank team, Belgium to qualify for the quarter-finals. If a country of about 3,30,000 people could achieve this why can’t India?
Right now India’s football system is in chaos with two different leagues ISL and I-League which is not helping Indian Football at all. Keeping the national debate aside what I really want is to highlight the system in the States (Regional) with Manipur and CCpur/Lamka district in context. Why? If we want football development it must start at the bottom (grassroots). Manipur is a sleeping giant overtaken by Mizoram- a region with limited resource compared to Manipur- when it comes to developing football talent. Some might blame the Infrastructure, Finance or the State Association but Iceland too had problems (Iceland is a land of active volcanoes) and it is time we put some thought to it. Here are some suggestions (after going through various resources on Football Development) which in my opinion are fundamental for growth of Football in India/Manipur.
Siggi Eyjolfsson Ex technical director/coach education director, F.A. of Iceland from 2002-2014
Indian Football regionally is headed by a State Association (All Manipur Football Association) but when it comes to Districts it is the District Sports Association who look after not just football but every sport. DSA could do with a Technical Director who is a person responsible only for one sport (here football) and its development. This Technical Director must be well versed in the sport category he heads and should have a good understanding of business. His role will be to create objectives for the district and decide how as to develop the level of football.
Being a land that receives snow for most of the year KSI(Iceland Football Association) realized the lack of football grounds that could be used all year round so what they did was build indoor stadiums. Now other than Imphal all the other districts lack Infrastructure. It is not necessary that we build many stadiums. For instance Lamka has Peace and Public ground that has potential to be upgraded. But two is not enough and so what DSA Lamka can do is partner with civil associations that maintain a ground (village play grounds) and they could co-maintain it. I estimate that Lamka Super division football would require at least 2 football stadiums with seating capacity and 10 – 15 simple fields for First division and below.
Iceland has around 600 UEFA B licensed coaches and around 200 UEFA B licensed coaches (comparable to India’s AFC A and B license) i.e 1 for 100 people compared to England’s 1 for 10000 people (The Guardian). Keeping the cost low (no profit, no loss) is one way how they have achieved it. DSA’s could inform interested persons and arrange for Coach training. It is not just coaches but also other roles like grounds man or management that could be encouraged. Institutes like SMRI (Kerala) and NSI (national sports institute) offer various diplomas related to sports.
All districts have their own leagues in a tier system with super division being the top league. The ‘model’ or ‘structure’ varies from district to district. The Technical Director role is to create objectives like say developing talent and based on this objective changes are made to the football system.
There are various factors that are inter-dependent like length of the league depends on the budget of DSA. Following are some factors that I would like to stress:
a) Finance: Often competitions in India suffer because of lack of funds and sponsors. This is why having a technical director or any other member with strong business knowledge is important. Most of the branded private companies are not going to sponsor a league with low brand value so focus should be on local businesses. For instance instead of asking Nike to be the ball sponsors why not collaborate with Indian business like Nivia, Cosco or Sahni Sports.
The DSA’s could arrange for a centralised revenue collection so that whatever the League gets in terms of sponsorship or broadcasting revenue will be shared with all the teams.
One of the reason why I-League did not meet expectations is their lack of popularity. Management of Indian clubs are orthodox or old-style with no initiative to communicate with fans or society. The art of communication and use of modern tools like facebook, whatsapp must be taught to clubs and DSA (They could hire a professional Community Relation Manager). Optimizing available mass-media like TV, Radio and Social Networking Sites is a must. After all you need an audience and if you have that the value of the competition increase and so do the revenue stream.
c) League structure:
Depending on the objectives of DSA the league could be structured. So if DSA’s objective is to produce young talents, rules stating teams to feature young players in the first team could be enforced.
Another topic I would stress is the fixture of games. Mostly games are cramped and finished in a week or two which will deteriorate the level of football. It is a fact that at least teams get 3 day break otherwise there will be more injuries which hinders development. The reason why football games are usually played in the weekends and Sundays is to see higher attendance and enough recovery time. If there are financial constrains then the league could be improvised. Example, Teams in Lamka/CCpur‘s Super Division could play once and the top four could go through a knock-out. But note must be taken that if the duration of the league is short, then the level of the game will not develop. I think Super Division must have duration of 3 months so to give the teams an experience of State League. I have noticed that in places like Lamka and Sadar-hills there are many un-official tournaments. This can be chaotic and not a positive for football development (Zomi Nam Ni, Khanglai Meet, Dog Sport…etc). Instead DSA could collaborate with organisers of such competitions to arrange an official competition. Again in the context of Lamka a competition like ‘Lamka Cup’ could be arranged where teams from all division could play against each other. With such a change Football will be organised (more professional) and there will be no unwanted long gaps between competitions.
Other things like the time of the year to conduct sports and the time of the day could also be considered to make it favourable for players, supporters and development of football over all.
NOTE: The four factors that I have outlined are the principles for good development of any sport. There are many ways to develop football but in my opinion the above four factors are important and universal which is why I have been brief. If you feel that there are some points I have missed or you just want to discuss football, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Messi’s decision seems justified when you think the number of times he has gone through the same situation-what must he do to win a final? Not to mention the level of confidence that must have been drained out of him losing each final. But looking back there seems to be a pattern in which Messi is too good upto the semi-finals and after
it’s just the same old story. On Sunday (here in India) Chile were without Jorge famed for the ‘chaos’ tactics. This time Chile kept the ball more often with less chaotic displays-One of the reasons why I felt this was the year for Messi and Co. That was until both the sides were reduced to 10 men. After that it was just slow tempo play but Chile seemed relaxed and threatened Argentina. It was at this moment I though to myself if Messi offered the team anything at all? He is creative and skillful but we are talking about 10 v 10 where every lads must work hard in every phase. Argentina looked like they were playing 9 men without the ball. With the ball you need not be creative as long as you’re fast as most of the attacks were counter-attacks. Yes,there are voices saying that Messi is indespensable but in the name of efficiency Argentina is better without Messi.
Hmm… How many times have they met and what’s with Messi and Arsenal? It’s like such games gives him that ‘supernatural’ strength and for reasons brings the best out of him.
I expected it to be a tight game and the first half was fantastic especially from Arsenal. But it takes just one error and all the hard work comes crumbling. The first half was great and every one who witnessed will agree with me. Both had their chances and I was happy for Arsenal and their strong display. Their tactics clicked. When playing Barcelona it’s always advised to play deep and overloading players in the middle. Yes this allows Barcelona to attack more but then again that’s the whole idea. Take on waves of attack and then when opportunity arises counter attack swiftly. But this calls for individual defense brilliance which Arsenal showed especially in the wings and backline. Messi couldn’t work his magic and this meant well for the team.
The turning point came about when Arsenal pushed players higher up and the fatal mistake if you’d watched the game was when Arsenal began to tiki-taka on the right side. Ramsay could have changed the possession to the left side and I believe it was a back pass to Coquelin who was way up and on the right that it turned into a Barcelona counter attack. The rest is Messi scores and makes Cech look bad who by far was playing the best game of his life. Barca gets confident and play their usual tiki-taka which was smooth counter to the nervous passing from them in the first half. A silly mistake from Mertesacker earns a penalty and a goal for Barcelona la Messi.
Could Arsenal have done better? Well they were until the first half. A sloppy attacking move was an error enough to put their hopes of a quarter final game disappear AGAIN. It’s just stupid of Arsenal players to take the ball into the attacking third and not make an attacking move. A cross or a move to the left instead of a back makes sense. I for one blame Ramsey who could have moved the ball to the huge space on the left instead of pulling up Coquelin and leaving space behind. But fretting makes no sense either I guess after all this is Barcelona. Another note of significance would be that Barcelona is dangerous not when they tiki-taka but it’s the counter attacks that make them lethal.