ISL 2019-20: How Mahatma Gandhi played a part in new Jamshedpur FC coach Antonio Iriondo coming to India

Jamshedpur FC's new coach Antonio Iriondo talks abut his footballing philosophy, his research on India, his admiration for Mahatma Gandhi and the team's goals for the 2019-20 ISL season.

Ujwal Singh October 22, 2019 11:40:27 IST
ISL 2019-20: How Mahatma Gandhi played a part in new Jamshedpur FC coach Antonio Iriondo coming to India
  • Spaniard Antonio Iriondo is the third manager to take charge of ISL club Jamshedpur FC in three years.

  • Iriondo has had a 27-year-long career as a football coach in Spanish LaLiga, Segunda Division and Segunda B.

  • Antonio Iriondo says as a youngster he used to have posters of Mahatma Gandhi taped on his bedroom walls.

Change is the only constant and certainly so at Indian Super League (ISL) club Jamshedpur FC. The footballing side, which was founded in 2017, now gears up for its third season in the league under the aegis of their third manager.

ISL 201920 How Mahatma Gandhi played a part in new Jamshedpur FC coach Antonio Iriondo coming to India

Jamshedpur FC coach Antonio Iriondo attends a press conference. Image courtesy: Twitter/@JamshedpurFC

It was the experienced Steve Coppell who was handed over the reins in the first season while Spanish Cesar Ferrando took care of the affairs in the second season. This time around, the Tata Steel-owned club has another Spaniard, Antonio Iriondo, at the helm.

The 65-year-old manager arrives in India with a wealth of experience and a long CV which includes a 27-year-long career as a football coach in Spain’s LaLiga, Segunda Division and Segunda B.

Iriondo’s appointment is also an indicator that the Spanish revolution at the club, which was initiated by Ferrando last season, continues. The club has lost Michael Soosairaj, Mario Arques and Sergio Cidoncha from last season but have added Sergio Castel and CK Vineeth to their ranks.

Jamshedpur missed out on the playoffs spots in the last two seasons by a whisker, finishing fifth in the table on both occasions. Iriondo would start his tenure in the Jharkhand town with the expectations of doing better than earlier.

Firstpost caught up with the Spaniard to find out about his footballing philosophy, his research on India and goals for the 2019-20 season. Excerpts from the interview:

What's your footballing philosophy as a manager?

In football you have to contemplate the whole, the idea of attacking and defending, for that you have to have a good physical condition, a good technique, but above all, a unit cannot be a complete team if it only attacks or if only defends, we want to play what they call total football, attack, counter-attack, defend and defend counter-attacks. So, that requires a thorough job and that the player take notes every moment that improves his technique and I think we are in a good line to get it.

Cesar Ferrando induced a possession-based fluid system at Jamshedpur. Will you continue with same or will we see a separate identity for the team?

I will be very sincere with you. I have not asked what was done before, I have been trying to improve every day for many years and transfer my learnings to my players. The knowledge of the game and the emancipation of the player is my goal.

Can you elaborate on the research that you did on ISL and Indian football before coming to Jamshedpur?

Firstly, the reason I liked this opportunity was because of the idea of working in a country with a different culture and philosophy of life. I always admired (Mahatma) Gandhi and his peaceful revolution, when I was a teenager and had posters of him in my room. Non-violence and truth are inseparable. His view of the world was exemplary.

Coming to your question, most of my research took place after I came here and not before. I started understanding and bonding with the players as I met them. I did not want to form any opinions without seeing everything for myself with my naked eye.

You come into the league with huge expectations. How difficult is it for a coach to deliver in the first season?

It is a very attractive challenge. New people, new country, absolute uncertainty, just like Mother Nature. This is the most ideal challenge for me, and I love to deal with difficulties and challenges. It has helped me grow as a coach and I hope my experience will rub off on my players.

How impressed are you with the squad?

The boys are working with great enthusiasm. I am convinced that they will grow a lot over the season as well as in their career. We have a good mix of youth and experience, both amongst Indians as well as foreigners.

Looking forward to the season, what are your targets? What can we expect from the team?

With regards to football, the main purpose I came here for is to try and get to the top position and get as many points and most of all to send a message that we play the kind of football people like to watch. And it's very important that the players enjoy playing the game. If the players don’t enjoy their football it becomes very difficult for the crowd to enjoy during the game and to be supportive during a game. This is one of the main pillars of the game and this is a model I’ve been following since 30 years.

It is very important to succeed in the first few games. If we lose points in the first few games, it will be very difficult to make the playoffs. We are trying to get the players in good shape from the first game to be able to compete and win more points.

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