Exclusive - Football - June 17, 2021

“Winning the youth I-league title will always be close to my heart” – Anthony Andrews [Exclusive]

We caught up with the coach for an exclusive interview. Here are a few excerpts:

Anthony Andrews has previously coached PIFA, Minerva Punjab & ARA FC. He is currently the head coach of Rebels FC. The young coach has several trophies to his name, including the I-League champions trophy with Minerva Punjab among many others.

Today, we look into his journey from a player to coach and what are the hurdles that came up in his way and how Anthony overcame them.

We caught up with the coach for an exclusive interview. Here are a few excerpts:

Q. You won the AIFF & AIFC Coach of the Year 2017. How did you feel after winning the award?

It was an absolute honour to receive the Coach of the year Award. It was a special award to win because it was all teamwork. An award like this is only possible if coaches are surrounded by top professionals. The owners and the staff also deserve the highest of praise because of them I have received these awards.

I was so lucky to have a team of people who give everything they have every single day to make individual better. My players have been fantastic – the dedication towards this beautiful game at that young age was remarkable. This award will be dedicated and shared with them lifelong.

Q. You have coached several youth teams including Minerva Punjab FC and ARA FC. What do you think is the importance of youth development in Indian Football?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that they’ll develop as young people regardless of our involvement and certainly physiologically. But, by offering appropriate care, support and challenge you can help in their development. Their experience of football and of being coached must be positive, enjoyable and memorable in order to foster a lifelong love of the game and a love of being active and healthy. Youth development is an important period in a player’s football development because when the player changes, so does their game.

There are over 100+ youth academies across the nation, which is an accredited academy from AIFF. They are also many academies that are not accredited.  All these academies should provide the opportunity to play the game while learning and growing as individuals, with more game time and more matches.

Every academy must have a model for the development of all players. The academy should also teach them the importance of education in their life. They must also build, maintain and expand its facilities as one of the key formulae of a successful players development. So when their turn 15+, their biological growth will be adolescence which will help them to be more focused on all aspects of the game.

Q. As a coach, how do you plan to create awareness of youth development/grassroots level coaching in Football and what steps do you plan to take in the coming future to ensure our country produces quality players?

Youth Development/Grassroots undoubtedly is one of the most important cogs in the wheel simply because it is the future of Indian football. Unless our efforts can create an Indian National team of international standards, any achievement will be nothing but superficial. To create youth development/Grassroots initiatives, a strong community of coaches and referees is a necessity. Coaches with the know-how of state-of-the-art coaching methodologies and tactics are an absolute must not just for the professional club teams but also the grassroots and youth teams so those bright talents are not lost, and we produce quality players.

Hats off to the AIFF and all the State Associations who are working on this project to promote grassroots and youth football by conducting Baby leagues and Youth Tournaments.

Q. You have guided teams to several trophies in various tournaments and league. Shed light on one such instance that is really close to your heart.

Winning the youth I-league title will always be close to my heart because I was 21 years old and it’s was very difficult for people to believe or trust in young coaches. In the same year, I won the coach of the year award from AIFC. I will always be grateful to AIFC for the acknowledgement. I will always be pleased with the owners who believed in me and gave me the opportunity. Even the staff who wear there with me in thick & thin and my boys who trusted in me. We wear the first club to win the title in India and it’s pure hard work of the team behind the success.

To win titles, I believe we need to invest more time in the cause with pure hard work, dedication and strong relationship.

Q. Tell us something about your Football career as a player and how & when you got introduced to the sport.

I was introduced to football when I was 8 years old. I was training in an academy, which was closer to my house where the senior players used to train me. Slowly & steadily I was developing my interest in the game without knowing the fact how beautiful the game will be. I studied in the Covent School, where sports was a part of a curriculum and then I made my spot in the school team. From there, I tried not to look behind. Convincing my parents was the big task but if you have strong siblings who fight from all the odds and help you to grow and give the best shot to what you love, then I think nothing is impossible.

On a good note, I started my football career by playing for a few academies and also representing districts, states and nationals but was lacking proper guidance. When I was giving trails for the professional setup, I struggled with injuries that forced me to sit at home for a longer period. I tried my luck to get back on the field after recovering from ACL, but I sustained ACL for the second time which made me sit out once again.

Then after thinking a lot, I spoke to the owners of PIFA and they suggested I take up the role of the coach and help to develop grassroots level football in 2012. They helped me understand the role of a coach and mentored me. They pushed me to take my Coaching’ badge and from there my transition from a player to coach started. After taking up the coaching course, I fell in love with the game and I tried my best to help all the players in whatever way I can. It’s very simple for me as I want to live my dreams by giving what I haven’t achieved to others.

Q. Among the young talented budding players out there, name 3 players you think will break into the Indian national side in the coming years.

Many young budding players are working hard to wear the national colour but if you ask me to name 3 players I think Bikash Yumnam, Himanshu Jangra and Maheson Tongbram can break into the senior national team in the coming years.

Q. Which Indian Super League (ISL) outfit do you support & why?

To be honest, I support all the ISL outfits as I love the game. Every team teaches us something new every season and every game.

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