AIFF Media Team
Hero I-League Champions Bengaluru FC have come up with an ambitious Academy Programme within three years of their inception. The Academy as their Head Coach John Kila points out is to develop the Academy wards “physically, tactically and in terms of technique.” In a freewheeling interview with www.the-aiff.com, Kila speaks at length about the project, the yardstick, his experience in youth programmes, the future road map and much more. EXCERPTS:
The selections are a process that allows young Players to come to our Academy and I think the younger the better because when you start with young Players you can develop them. At the end of the day, the aim is to get them to the first Team. We look forward to developing them physically, tactically and in terms of technique. We are starting with two age groups, the U16s and the U18s as they are very close to the first Team.
In the first year, what is the yardstick to get selected to the BFC Academy?
Indian Players are not the same as European Players. Every Player has a different character and style. InIndia, it’s about seeing Players from different states and finding the best ones. We are looking for Players who are athletic, quick, and good technical skill. There are some points which we use to select Players but for me, it’s a challenge to get the best Indian Players.
I’m looking forward to knowing what the level of Football is elsewhere in the Country. Next week we begin our travel to different cities and it will be an eye-opener for me. The Bengaluru leg of selections was a great success as we had a lot of Players coming in for both age groups. It gave me a good view about the Players and their abilities. As I said, a lot depends on their positions and what you want to ask from the Players if they want to be part of the Academy.
From Europe to Africa you have vast experience in dealing with youth programs. How will you implement those experiences at the BFC Academy?
As I said, you cannot compare an Indian Player with an African Player because the way they are built is already very different. But the programs that you use to like going to the field to work on your technique, speed and tactics can be used for both. The question is how much time is needed to get those Players to understand what you want to do with them. One thing I told the staff here is not to rush with the Players. We are working with human beings, not with robots.
But we are looking for talented Players. There are a lot of good Players out there, but we are looking for that something special that we can build and improve on. From my experience from Africa and TheNetherlands, I think we can manage that. We are looking to give them a program that will help them improve in the right way and make it to the first Team. I am 100% confident that with the program and with the kind of facilities and Coaches that we have on board, we can produce Players for the first Team.
What are the challenges you face in the initial days at the BFC Academy?
The first two or three weeks were spent with the Players who were already a part of the academy. We trained the U18s, the U16s all the way down to the U10s. I had a good insight about what kind of Players were already a part of the Academy.
Secondly, I gave the Coaches a task to handle throughout the session in terms of warming up, the technical part, tactics, etc. I was able to see what type of characters the coaches were as well. After a month, I have a good view of the quality of the Coaches who are part of the system.
We’ve brought in a new physiotherapist, strength and conditioning trainers and an academy manager and we are in a fantastic moment. Every day we are on the pitch for six or seven hours and then off the pitch, we are talking about how to improve the system. I am getting a good view of the Players, the coaches and what I am in for here at Bengaluru FC.
The Netherlands is renowned for nurturing prodigies, how can India benefit through such youth programs?
The Netherlands has a rich Footballing history. India has a lot of potential but it will take a few years to get there. It’s not about starting a project and expecting immediate results like The Netherlands. It takes time but the initiative by Bengaluru FC to start a youth academy to give them special attention with regards to education and nutrition is great.
Not all the Players will reach the first Team. At the end of the day, the BFC Academy is not only about the Football. The parents will not have to worry about their child’s education as they will have a future ahead of them if they do not make it as a professional.
BFC are going to start from scratch with Albert Roca and John Kila. How are you two going to plan the future roadmap?
I met the Head Coach (Albert Roca) last week when he arrived for the press meeting. We had a short chat about coming here. Having worked with Frank Rijkaard, he knows a lot about Dutch Football and we discussed a bit about bringing the youth Players closer to the first Team. He is very keen on bringing young Players into the first Team which is good for the club and the academy. I am looking forward to sitting with him after the AFC Cup game to discuss a structure that we can put in place to bring youth Players to the first Team.