Former India captain and current Blue Tigers Assistant Coach Shanmugam Venkatesh lauded the “contribution of sports science in helping current players improve their knowledge.”
In a live chat with AIFF TV, Venkatesh, a former Indian National Team captain and currently employed as the Assistant Coach of the Indian National Team lamented the lack of proper grooming of players off the field during the early days of his career.
“There was no sports science back then which is why we weren’t so strict with our diet. We only got physios and doctors after 2000, and then began to learn what we need to do to improve our game,” he continued.
“The off-field knowledge of professional players back then was lacking. Of course on the pitch, they were all great. Players like Bhaichung (Bhutia) and (IM) Vijayan come once in a lifetime,” said Venkatesh.
“But if you look at the current crop right now, you will understand that they have more knowledge of how to handle things, take care of their body in the off-season, put emphasis on diet,” he averred.
“I would also like to mention that the current crop is also extremely lucky to have an idea of how to deal with the media. This awareness has had a very big positive impact on their game,” he stated.
“Nowadays the number of exposure tours and friendly matches have increased quite a lot,” Venkatesh said. “Teams nowadays get a lot of exposure. Even the junior and the women’s teams play so many exposure matches,” he opined.
Venkatesh, who also functioned as the head coach of the Indian Arrows, AIFF’s developmental team, in the Hero I-League, went on to draw the example of two Arrows products, who are doing well because of the exposure they have received.
“There have been a lot of exposures in the last few years. Especially if you look at Narender (Gahlot) and Amarjit (Singh), who were in the U-17 World Cup, they played close to 50 friendly matches before the main tournament,” said Venkatesh.
Comparing thigs to back in his own times, the 41-year-old stated that the Blue Tigers only started getting exposures after the turn of the millennium.
“We used to hardly get around two friendlies a year before. It was in 2000 that I think we got our first tour when we played some matches in England,” he continued.
The India assistant coach further went on to explain how different things were, back in the 90s. “In 94-95, most of the players had to travel via trains. And even the accommodations and facilities were not close to what they are today. When we used to have the camps in Kolkata, we used to stay at the SAI complex,” he recalled. “But that has changed since 2000.”
“At that time a lot of the players even used to wear their own club jerseys in National Camps. Some would be wearing East Bengal, some Mohun Bagan, or other clubs. But all of that has changed. It’s so professional now,” Venkatesh continued.