BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Bibiano Fernandes from Goa is the only Indian coach to have got the Indian team a step away from qualifying for the U-17 World Cup, and after having nurtured football talent from U-13 till U-17 for eight years, the maestro is changing teams.
“Every coach dreams big, and Bengaluru FC has now provided me with the platform to continue my dream by resting the responsibility of training their B team with me. The Durand Cup is going to be my first test,” says Bibiano, as the incessant rains stop in his hometown of Saligao.
India and South Korea were goalless during the Asia Cup match in 2018, and just forty minutes away from qualifying for the U-17 World Cup through merit, but the latter scored once in the second to crush those dreams and snuff out the hard work that started a year before.
“I will carry the memory of that with me for a long time. It hurt because everyone gave their best and the belief was there. The whole country was behind us but I suppose we have to wait some more. But, it will not be for too long as football is growing in India,” avers Bibiano, as he prepares himself for his next journey.
The Indian Colts won two SAFF Cups with Bibiano, and eighteen of them are now playing for different ISL teams. In his eight years with his team, two years were slighted by the pandemic and that could have derailed his dreams.
“I believe, India will qualify for the U-17 World Cup because there is plenty of talent all over the country. We lost to Korea because they were better as they play more competitive matches than we do,” rationalises Bibiano, who was a tactful midfield maestro during his playing days with Sporting Clube de Goa.
Being at the helm of underage coaching for eight years, no Goan name ever made it to the team sheet, and Bibiano admits he “does not know why” because he could never find someone “fitting in the journey”.
“It is time Goa starts five-a-side leagues for U-10 boys in all constituencies, if possible. Local coaches and clubs should get their heads together and perhaps get their elected members involved to raise funds,” advises Bibiano.
“It is easy to get boys. You can have two matches playing on a ground during the weekend, and one does not even need a referee but just individuals with basic knowledge of football to conduct the game. Costs are minimal,” reasons Bibiano, who joins BFC on June 11.
Like in the West and other countries of Asia, every child plays around forty competitive matches a season. “The winning element is part of competitive football, and that is what will take talent in India to another level,” assures Bibiano, who believes that getting into the mind of players is one shortcut to success.
“I would give myself a seven out of ten, looking back at the eight years, and would have increased my score had we qualified for the World Cup. But I thank All India Football Federation (AIFF) for giving me this chance, and I think it is my time to move on,” is his self-assessment of himself.
India won the match against Vietnam and lost against Japan and Uzbekistan in the recently concluded Asia Cup, and Bibiano thinks it was partly because “his boys were not mentally in tune for the level of Asia Cup”.
“We knew what to expect as we were conversant, but the boys were not,” admitted Bibiano.
“I learnt a lot, not just about football, but life during my stint with the youngsters from India, and I hope to continue that learning with my BFC team now. I am going to enter a field where the mindset is different and am sure the learning will continue progressively,” says Bibiano, as the rain subsides in Saligao and it is time for the local hero to connect with his family.