The growth of India’s U-16 coach Bibiano Fernandes has been proportional to the growth of age-group football in India.
Goa’s Bibiano was entrusted responsibility to groom the U-15 by All India Football Federation (AIFF) in 2017 and from then on the teens have been responding with spectacular performances – the recent being the SAFF Cup 2022 in Colombo, Sri Lanka – the third title.
Bibiano started trials to select the team for the SAFF 2022 in March 2022 and had the team ready by June. “Age-group tournaments were yet to start in Goa and that is why there wasn’t a single Goan in my team. We got players mostly from the North,” states Bibiano.
“We were sent some players by the AIFF scouting team and some players were recommended by coaches. We had to literally push some state associations to conduct trials for boys. We first assess whether a player has the willingness to learn. Our training is focused on explaining to the boys why we expect a certain demeanour when off and on the field,” Bibiano further explains.
“Starting with youngsters is another ball game. I teach them football last. I first teach them about being good people, the habit of not giving up in the face of defeat and the virtues of being humble and able to share. Good players are those who know the essence of being good people,” Bibiano tells us as he runs through his training routine with his boys.
Bibiano Fernandes, U-16 football coach
Bibiano was the coach who nearly got the Indian team to qualify for the U-17 World Cup through the qualification process. Indian Super League (ISL) player Vikram Pratap Singh, who could not make it to the Indian team due to injury, is Bibiano’s prodigy, and like him there are many from the batch of 2017 who have made it to ISL and I-League teams.
“When I did my C license coaching course, I was not sure of my direction. Armando Colaco and some of my friends pushed me to take up full-time coaching, and I do not regret my decision,” says 45-year-old Bibiano, who is now midway in completing his Pro License.
“There is normally a communication gap between players and the coaching staff because of the diversity. However, we overcome such difficulties by passing on the message through players who can understand what we are saying. Understanding the language is always better, but language never creates blocks in football,” says Bibiano.
“Covid-19 was detrimental to the progress of many boys who were with me before the pandemic. Many players are yet to start playing in organised set-ups. There are boys who have still to play competitive football and all missed tournaments during the pandemic. That was not good for their talent, and it will take them time to make up for it,” opines Bibiano.
“Patience is what I have learnt from the boys through these years. One needs a lot of patience with youngsters. Their mindset is different when they are U-15. I have changed my approach towards teaching them, and it is a continuous process. I keep learning, and I think that as a coach through these years the boys have helped me look at life differently,” admits Bibiano, when asked about the lessons he has learnt.
“I do aim to one day be able to coach I-League and ISL teams. The progression needs to take place slowly. I hope AIFF will someday give me the opportunity to coach the U-19 and U-20 teams before I plunge into senior football,” says Bibiano when asked to enumerate on his future plans.
Football involves a lot of hard work and it pays through trophies and quality of players created, and Bibiano Fernandes has been doing both for India since 2017.