Spreading the beautiful game across different regions of the country is one of the key objectives in Vision 2047, and the Federation’s plan to host the Hero Super Cup in Kerala, where both Hero ISL and Hero I-League teams will come together, is part of it. the-aiff.com is currently in Kozhikode to follow the Hero Super Cup closely in a series of stories.
AIFF Media Team
KOZHIKODE: The Odisha FC touchline was a sea of activity during the Hero Super Cup Final at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, on Tuesday night, April 26, 2023.
Most of the match, the head coach Clifford Miranda, along with his assistants and support staff stayed busy as they egged their players on with much excitement. They were, after all, 2-0 up. The last few minutes of the match was a nervy affair in the dugout, as Bengaluru FC pulled one back through a Sunil Chhetri penalty and threatened to draw level in injury time.
An animated Miranda was seen vigorously passing on instructions to his players, while also impatiently asking the match officials when the final whistle would come. Once it did come, the coach, who apparently wore his heart on his sleeves for five matches in the Hero Super Cup, rushed into the pitch to hug each one of his 11 players. They had just won the first silverware for Odisha FC.
“I am so happy, I can’t begin to describe the feeling. This is the first trophy for the club, and I hope there will be many more to come,” Miranda told the-aiff.com once the celebrations died down, long after the game. “This club deserves this trophy, the amount of work that has gone into building this team, every step of the way, makes this moment all the more special.”
Not soon after the final whistle was blown, did the players themselves surround their head coach and lift him in unison to toss him into the Kozhikode night sky, once, twice, thrice? Perhaps more. Nobody was counting. People were just busy enjoying the moment they had been longing for.
First Indian coach to win a major trophy for an ISL club
Miranda, who became the first Indian coach to win a major trophy for a Hero Indian Super League club, was very quick to transfer all the credit to his players.
“This victory is all down to the players, it would not have been possible without them,” he said. “The way they responded to the tactics was simply fantastic. They just did everything that we asked of them. Even in the final, where we asked them to change the way they play, with just one day of training, it was just amazing how they responded and came up with the goods.”
It was not too long ago that the 40-year-old retired from football in 2017 and immediately went into coaching, to take over the FC Goa Reserves side which won the Goa Professional League under him. The Hero Super Cup triumph, however, holds a special place.
“I had won the Goa league with the FC Goa reserves, which was my first trophy as a coach, but this win is the first for me at the national level, and I can’t describe how happy I am. It’s a wonderful moment, for the club, its fans, the players and staff, for myself and my family,” he said.
Maiden triumph for Odisha FC
Not many would have given Odisha FC much of a chance to even make it out of the group stage, let alone win the trophy. Yet, here they are, with their first silverware, and having a chance of making it to the AFC Cup next year.
“It’s a brilliant prospect for this club. We have to win one more match and we can play in Asia, which will be brilliant for everyone. It would mean a lot for everyone associated with the club to be able to compete at that level,” he said.
A huge thanks to Odisha Government
From being perennial underachievers as Delhi Dynamos, to shifting base to Bhubaneswar, where they rebranded themselves as Odisha FC in 2019, the club has come a long way. Miranda believes that the support his club has received from the Government of Odisha has gone a long way in pushing the club forward.
“Step by step, the club has built on a solid foundation in Bhubaneswar. The Odisha Government has helped a lot in terms of providing great infrastructure and training facilities. I believe they are the best in India,” said Miranda. “It’s not just football, but the state is supporting so many different sports like hockey as well.
“That, along with the step by step building of the team over the last year, has helped us a long way,” he said. “But this club still has a long way to go. Our youth development needs to be more robust, we need to improve our scouting as well. If we concentrate on these aspects, this club can go very far,” he said.
A word of advice for Indian coaches
Miranda has been leading the cause for the Indian coaches since taking over the reins at Odisha but believes that it is something that all coaches from the country should prove to the world, rather than to wait for their opportunities.
“I hope this increases the belief that club owners have in Indian coaches. Having said that, I also think that as Indian coaches, the onus is upon us to get better, and to work harder. It is one thing to say that we are not given opportunities, but we must be able to convince the club owners and the decision makers that we are capable of doing good things,” said Miranda.
“We will only start getting these chances when the owners see that we are capable, and for that, we need to do more than what we are doing presently. There are examples of foreign coaches that have come in, who are maybe not quite at the same level as the Indian coaches, but are able to convince the owners that they are the right people to take the team forward,” said Miranda. “So it is up to us to work twice as hard as every other coach out there, and to convince the club owners and officials that we are the ones that deserve the opportunities.
“We also need to be technically very well informed. It’s not just the owners that you need to convince, it’s the players too. They are very well informed these days, and they do ask questions about what could work and what could not – both Indian and foreign players. We should be able to direct them, to guide them in a proper manner,” he said.