India should develop its own style: Harry Kewell
Much-admired Australian footballer Harry Kewell, who was part of European giants Leeds United and Liverpool, is currently coaching the Under 21s of English club Watford FC. For the last two weeks, Harry is in Kozhikode with his team to attend the Sait Nagjee International Club Football tournament. As his team is preparing to play Ukrainian side FC Dnipro in the second semifinal, Harry shares with Mathrubhumi his Indian experience.
What was the key motive behind Watford FC’s decision to partake in a tournament being conducted in Kerala?
The reason why Watford took this opportunity to come here is to see the difference in other styles of football, especially the game of different u-21s and to see how we are progressing. It is a good chance for us to come here and play teams coming from Europe and South America. It is quite interesting to have this experience. That is why we accepted the invitation.
In the first match, you lose to Athletico Paranaense. Then you come back with a win and a draw and now in semis. So have you found your rhythm?
Yeah. I believe we played the three games well. In the first match, we had chances, but we missed, I was bit disappointing. In the next game, we came back. In the last game, it was difficult as we conceded lead and they smartly tried to keep us away from scoring. I am proud of my boys and the way they tried to stay in the game and create chances. Eventually the chance came in and we got through.
Europe and Kerala are having entirely different climatic conditions. How well have you adapted to the conditions here?
You adapt. It’s the job. Its football. Everyone has to adapt. In 2022, the FIFA World Cup will be played in Qatar. Football is the no 1 sport in the world and everybody wants to host- major tournaments and competitions. Players ideally would like to play in certain degrees, pitches certain level certain wetness, certain type of balls The teams have to adapt. It’s part of football.
You earlier said that the decision to join Watford was a ‘no-brainer’. How do you look at the last few months with the side?
It’s been perfect. After I took UEFA licences, Watford asked me if I would like to take charge of their u-21s. I accepted the offer to work for an upcoming club. That’s exciting. We had the opportunity to play work under an exciting manager Quique Sánchez Flores. And I liked the whole structure of the club. So again, the decision was a no-brainer. The U-21s are young men waiting to step into the senior side. it’s a pleasure to train them.
How is the Indian experience for the English side?
I wouldn’t call it inexperience; I would call its own experience. In the first match we played against Athletico Paranaense from Brazil. The conditions were more suited to them than us. I think we handled it right. As far as the players are concerned, it was something different for them from they get used to. Then the next two games were played the first teams. For us, the experience of playing first teams is phenomenal. Hopefully now the players can go on and do something special for the club and themselves.
You represent your country, clubs and now a coach. How do you rate these jobs?
I love this job. More than a player, I love coaching. I loved playing football and didn’t think anything can be better than this. The way it has gone; the way I’m enjoying it; the way I’m getting out there full day, coaching, learning, testing my own abilities, theories my ideas. I’m really enjoying it. Because as a footballer, you play for yourself and for the team and you know your movements. As a coach it’s your ideas. it is the pleasure when you see them learning because you taught them something.
How do you rate Indian football?
I guess, as much as football is growing, the no 1 sport here is cricket. So more people love to play cricket. In Australia also the condition is similar. If ISL grows, it can attract better people and you can use the opportunity to train younger kids and give them ideas; may be they can grow. It takes time to build things. See Rome was not built in a day. When the Major League Soccer (MLS) was launched, everyone said it will crash. As time moved, it went on to become a formidable league. You can’t rush things. You have to make sure that you get the right people, right coaches at the right time.
Can you recall the biggest sporting moment in your life?
Its football for me. Not this moment or that moment. For me, it didn’t matter which game I am playing. I took every game as if it was my last.
Is there any point in India adopting European or Latin American style?
I believe every team should develop their own style. You should ignore it. I believe Australia, Spain, England and all have their own styles. You have to work on it. Once you find a style, stick to it.
Are you satisfied with the facilities here?
It’s been perfect. The hospitality, food and hotel are nice.
What about the ground facilities?
They are not perfect. But we understand that. It’s okay for us. The stadium pitch is fantastic because the manner in which the games are played its still holding up.
Is the ground support encouraging?
Everyone has really got behind the tournament and it is fantastic. I expect more supporters in the stands as we reach the semifinal.
So you will be here for the next season too?
Hopefully we can be the cup holders (laughs) and you have to come back. We _my players, my staff _ thoroughly enjoyed the competition.