We recently caught up with Stevie Grieve – Head of Coach Education at Baichung Bhutia Football Schools and the Assistant Manager of Garhwal FC to talk about various topics ranging from his experience in India, the level of coaching and infrastructure in the country and the kind of talent he comes across in the country.
You have been here in India for more than 6 months, apart from the football scene, what do you like about India and what do you find challenging?
I like the enthusiasm towards getting better, most of the time I will be working to develop the coach education programs for BB Football Schools. And in this short period of time there is a massive improvement. That for me is a really pleasing thing.
The cultural mentality is a bit challenging. You have an hierarchy system – ‘I am better than you because I have this job and I am better than you because of that’ and so on. The challenge then is to get people to think differently.
Before the stint in India you have coached in Switzerland, and USA, how easy was it for you to choose India as your next destination?
Anurag, who is the boss, one of the bosses in fact, emailed me about my books and at the same time, we were talking about the possibility of working in India. I was talking to couple more of people as well. I could have gone to Japan and other countries but I liked Anurag’s vision, what he wanted to achieve over the short term and long term, and I was enthused with what he wanted me to do. I trusted them, their idea for the future, and I am excited to be a part of it.
Now, coming to football…How is your assignment with Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools panning out? What are the main areas you look in to as a chief coach in BB Schools?
Most of my time is spent developing the coaches. For example, we have field trainings everyday across multiple locations in Delhi, my job would be to go and monitor the sessions, ask questions to the coaches, look at the session plans and provide feedback on things that could appear in the session or make slight alterations to the practices, check how the trainings are organized, talk to them about how to make it more challenging or easy etc.
I try to get the coach as much help and information and work with them in separate training sessions. I took a session today on footwork and combination which developed into a counter attacking session, which was quite good.
Most of my time is spent mentoring the coaches but I do coach certain teams as the assistant coach, and on the game day I help the team coach with tactics etc as I am the BBFS Head Coach, so I am pretty much an auxiliary assistant coach at sessions & matches, there to provide some guidance and help the lead coach perform their work better.
I have also made a 3 stage coach education program to work in ‘The BBFS Way’ which we have just started our 1st level 1 course with 24 coaches, which has been received brilliantly.
How was the experience of taking Garhwal FC to the 2nd Div league? How do you assess your team’s performance in the 2nd div league?
I think the 2nd div league could be a lot better organized. They could have done it on a football pitch than on a cricket pitch! Organizational wise, I don’t think Dhanbad was a suitable venue for a football tournament, especially with the high pollution and lack of quality training venues. Gangtok may be fine as it’s a football area but im not sure Dhanbad is.
From a coaching point of view, Garhwal’s performance was fantastic. We were written off by the leading sources in Indian Football initially, probably quite fairly, to be honest. We have not achieved anything so far with Garhwal FC in professional football, it was last season we won the Delhi Senior League and this season we were 30 seconds from winning the league again, but have no history in National Level Pro Football.
The media predictions were used as a source of motivation and performance wise we were excellent in the 3 games we won. In the games we lost, the Wahingdoh match was a shocker and the conditions for the Kalighat game was very bad, especially for a team who play possession football – The field was almost a swamp! In the other matches, we did put on a good show with our exciting style of play and emerged 3rd best in that group which was deserved.
Everybody is quite happy and across the country we deserve some appreciation because not every year does a new club join a league and have the relative success that we had with a 60% wins ratio, with an average of 2 goals a game.
Infrastructure is an area that gets talked about a lot when we talk about football in India. What is your opinion about what you have seen so far in India?
In terms of developing sporting infrastructure, India is a nation where temperatures soar really high, if you see Europe there are indoor facilities that help beating the cold. India could focus on creating more indoor venues, where other version of the game like Futsal could also be played. We also need to invest on 4g astro-turfs as its better for players to play on flat fields than on bumpy grounds.
If that is not possible, we need to have good education for groundsmen. For example, BBFS hire fields for our BBFS sessions, when you arrive there you see a groundsman standing with a hose, full flow on the same patch for hours, before its about to be used! So the field gets damaged because of that so we need to educate people who can create or maintain grass facilities.
Are Astro turfs good for players?
I think we need to have more astro turfs. It is hard to grow grass, in some parts of the country. I have only been to Jharkhand, Delhi and Chandigarh, so I really can’t comment about the whole country. In a country where it is difficult to maintain facilities, including educating grounds-keepers and also considering the weather, laying 3 or 4 G astro-turfs is a more feasible possibility as they are easy to maintain and would last longer. You get better quality out of that surface unlike a bouncy, wobbly natural surface. You can coach as much of technique on an astro turf, it is much easier. I think in long term to develop technique and an attractive playing style, we need to have good astro-turfs.
Do you follow I-league? If so, what is your opinion on the standards of I-league? What could be the areas the league could look to improve?
Yes, I do follow some matches. But I cannot claim that I pay full attention to the league. I know that the Scottish player Darryl Duffy has done quite well in the league. The matches I have seen, I would say probably not much of tactics are involved. The matches are direct, straight and is pretty easy to predict what is going on, mainly due to the technical level of the players. In the matches that I have watched, I haven’t seen a coach shifting from a 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1, to get the team attack from the middle, to attack specific areas via making diagonal attacks from center and so on.
At Garwhal FC, we worked on attacking/defending specific areas in the 2nd div league and that got us 3 wins. It doesn’t look like it happens in the I-league and it baffles me when I watch the games, the lack of tactical awareness in the matches. Im not trying to be disrespectful to anyone, but the results of seeing the games leads me to this opinion.
I also think there is not many young Indian players playing. I haven’t noticed many. I think there is an over emphasis on big, strong powerful players and that means you have a lot Africans, particularly from Nigeria. Watched Odafa the other day, I believe he is the highest paid in India but he was not of the standard of a good British semi-professional footballer on that day.
So I take from the games I have watched of him, that we are wasting a lot of money on players who are not possibly so good for the money you pay them – you wouldn’t pay a shop assistant 3 lakh per month! So the money needs to be spent better on the players who provide quality.
We need to start identifying better players and also implement a coaching philosophy and stick to it. For the money the clubs spend today, on some players, you could get 3 good players from Spain. It is also not that all the players are bad, but an infusion of little bit of tactical nous could improve the league for better, and unearth some of the talent that exists in India.
India is slated to host the 2017 U-17 WC. As a coach who is involved in grassroots football, what do you make out of Indian Youngsters and where do they need to improve?
The first aspect that we need to look at, is to improve the level of technique. To do that, we need to improve coaches who can teach technique. That is what we do at BBFS and Garwhal FC. But despite the lack of proper coaching, there are good players in the country. I see so many special talents in this country. For example, Garwhal FC played Minlun Tunglung, who is just 16,in the 2nd div league. He was the best player on the pitch in the last game. So, there will be special talents across the nation, the difficult part is to find them and nurture them by providing good coaching facilities. With better coach education and talent identification (if the correct age) there is a good possibility that India will make a rapid rise in the FIFA Rankings in 10 years.
What opinion do you have about the levels of coaching in the country? How integral is it to provide good education to coaches for the development of football?
Take Japan for example. Twenty years ago, they would have been around 150 in the FIFA rankings (where India are now). They invested massively in grassroots coach education,which then developed into professional youth coach education and so on. This greatly helped the J-League and Japan’s football.
If India could devise a coach education pathway of its own, apart from the AFC A, B, C licenses that are the current norm, it would bring about massive changes. For a country of India’s size, it should have a National coaching pathway which is tailored to Indian conditions. I believe, this can bring about drastic changes in coaching quality which improves the talent output.
You have also authored quite a few books. A book on Sergio Busquets, another one on 4-2-3-1 formation. What is your inspiration to author so much? Can we expect a book on your experience India in some time?
If I make it big and write an autobiography, there will be quite a few pages dedicated to India! It’s been a great experience and I’ve seen and done some things that will stay with me for life.
Now, some personal questions – Do you have any favorite teams in World Football?
St. Johnstone F.C. , it is a small Scottish Club. Clubs that I love to watch are Arsenal, Dortmund, Barcelona, Roma and Bayern Munich.
Apart from Football and authoring, do you pursue any other interests?
I like to go to see music concerts, play poker, normal stuff! This week I will be watching Wolfmother at the Hard Rock Cafe. Otherwise, I am happy to visit museums, QutubMinar and other touristy places. Im also learning Spanish, Russian and Italian, which I enjoy doing.
So Stevie, few words on Football News India. You follow us on Twitter. Are we able to cater a regular dose of football news from India?
It is good,I think it is the best one I have seen on the internet for Indian Football. It is unbiased, it is informative and gives you up-to-date information. So, well played! Good one there!