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'My job is at risk if I don't perform':Sreenidi Deccan coach Carlos Vaz Pinto

Carlos Vaz Pinto, influenced by football luminaries and armed with a robust coaching philosophy, is driving transformative changes in Indian football with Sreenidi Deccan.

My job is at risk if I dont perform:Sreenidi Deccan coach Carlos Vaz Pinto

Carlos Vaz Pinto


Aswathy Santhosh

Published: 23 March 2024 10:50 AM GMT

Carlos Vaz Pinto's journey with Sreenidi Deccan commenced in 2021, heralding a new era of promise and ambition for the club. Under his astute guidance, Sreenidi came tantalizingly close to securing promotion to the prestigious Indian Super League last year.

"I understand that my job is at risk if I don't perform, but as a coach, I can't let that pressure dictate my approach," Carlos Vaz Pinto starts talking with that trademark smile on his face. Sreenidi is currently second on the I-league points table, eight points behind league leaders Mohammedan SC.

Sreenidi has shown trust in Vaz Pinto, unlike many clubs who changes every year if the trophy is not delivered. "Sreenidi's growth as a club relies on stability, and focusing solely on results won't facilitate that growth," Carlos says. "While success is a long-term goal, our primary aim is to continue growing and evolving as a club, both on and off the field," says Vaz Pinto.

Youth development

Like every other expert, Carlos also emphasizes the potential India holds in football.

"India's potential in football is undeniable, given its population and burgeoning interest in the sport. However, nurturing elite talent requires a concerted effort over time, with an emphasis on both player development and coaching education," he states.

A key aspect of Vaz Pinto's coaching philosophy revolves around the development of young talent.

"As for developing young players, it's crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it creates a competitive environment that fosters growth and improvement. Without competition, our youth players wouldn't be challenged enough to reach their potential. I recall my journey as a player, where opportunities given to me by my coach fueled my determination to succeed. I want to instill that same belief and drive in my players," remarks Vaz Pinto.

Despite many of the Indian players in the I-league performing well, none of them make it to the national team, Carlos says that it's up to the national team head coach Igor Stimac.

"Regarding the national team, I can only speak to what I observe and feel about my players' abilities. While I can't determine if they're suitable for the national team, I believe they have the quality to compete at the ISL level. Ultimately, it's up to the national team coach to make those decisions based on their assessment of players. However, I do believe that our league's growth, along with the improvement of players and coaches, benefits the national team as well," he states.

Financial challenges and strategic decision-making

Vaz Pinto sheds light on the intricacies of managing the club's finances while planning for the future and developing players.

"Looking back to December of last year, there were uncertainties about player contracts and the future composition of the squad. As a coach, I had to consider not only the immediate needs but also the long-term interests of the club. We renewed contracts for some players while acknowledging the challenges of retaining others, like Falguni, whose contract negotiations were complex," he says.

Making financial boosts from player sales is also a key aspect of club football.

"It's a mix of emotions for me. I'm very happy for my former players who have earned the opportunity to play in the ISL. However, at the same time, there's a sense of sadness because as a coach, I naturally want the best players with me. In India, when you develop players and they move on to higher levels, the club often benefits financially. However, the financial aspect in Indian football is not yet at the level of European leagues," he adds.

Transition into coaching career

Born on August 22, 1974, in Portugal, Vaz Pinto's affinity for football blossomed early. He embarked on his sporting journey in 1986 as a player at the Sport Club of Penalva do Castelo, laying the foundation for his illustrious career. His playing days culminated in 2007, at the age of 32, at the same club where he took his first steps on the pitch.

He embarked on his coaching journey immediately after retiring as a player in 2007.

Reflecting on his transition to coaching," I completed my playing career, feeling I still had two or three years left in me. While my playing days concluded in 2007, around that time, I felt a calling towards coaching," he says.

For Vaz Pinto, coaching wasn't just a career pivot; it was a natural progression fueled by an unwavering passion for the game. "Stopping at 33 seemed more fitting than continuing until 40. It felt like a natural evolution as if I were retracing steps from two decades earlier," he explains.

The special one and Portugal

Hailing from Portugal, a country renowned for its footballing heritage and distinguished coaches, Vaz Pinto draws inspiration from luminaries such as Jose Mourinho and Carlos Queiroz. He expounds on their influence, highlighting Mourinho's tactical acumen and Queiroz's scholarly approach.

"Portugal boasts many young football coaches, with notable figures such as Villas-Boas. Many of them have received college-level education. This trend isn't mere coincidence; it traces back to 2002 when Mourinho emerged. Mourinho's impact wasn't limited to Portuguese coaches; his methods were globally influential. He inspired a generation of coaches to start early, drawing from his beginnings as an assistant coach," says Vaz

"Another influential figure was Carlos Queiroz, who achieved domestic and international success. His coaching philosophy was rooted in academic study, contrasting with Mourinho's more hands-on approach. This dichotomy led to a competition between the University of Lisbon and the University of Porto, each fostering different ideas and methodologies," Vaz adds further.

Although Portugal kept on producing many coaches, Mourinho was the one who attracted international attention according to Carlos. "Mourinho's success popularized the tactical prioritization methodology developed by Vítor Frade, a professor at the University of Porto. This methodology revolutionized coaching, emphasizing specific tactical strategies tailored to football. It gained widespread adoption not only in Portugal but also internationally, with renowned coaches like Guardiola embracing it," he adds.

"The proliferation of Portuguese coaches internationally speaks to the quality of coaching education in Portugal. While the country has produced top-tier coaches, many have found success abroad due to the competitive landscape and lucrative opportunities. Nevertheless, Portugal continues to refine its coaching education, recognizing its importance in shaping the future of football, Vaz Pinto says.

The Portuguese model

Although Portugal is the home of the "special one and the number 7", it didn't happen just like that, there is a proper system in place.

"In Portugal, there's been a concerted effort to provide competitive opportunities for young players. The Portuguese Football Federation has established leagues for various age groups, including under 23, under 19, under 17, and 15," explains Carlos.

The club is trying to implement the same system in India. "We're advocating for a similar structure in Sreenidi and are in discussions with the federation to implement these levels of competition. We believe that better competition for our youth players will facilitate their development and contribute to the growth of football in India," Carlos adds.

He stresses the significance of the quality of facilities in player development. "Moreover, we understand the importance of facilities and organization in player development. Providing comfortable working conditions, timely salaries, nutritious food, quality physiotherapy, and appropriate facilities are crucial for players to thrive. Sometimes, we prioritize investing in these areas over expanding the squad size, as it enables us to enhance the overall environment for player growth," Carlos continues.

He adds that India's burgeoning football culture is a promising foundation, but there needs to be a balance that suits India. "The organizational approach we bring to the club is informed by our experiences in Portugal. However, we recognize the need to adapt these practices to the Indian context. India presents unique challenges and opportunities, requiring us to tailor our methods accordingly. While we import successful strategies from Portugal, we adapt them to suit the local conditions and constraints. It's about striking a balance between what works well in Portugal and what's feasible and effective in India," he says.

"I believe what sets Portuguese coaches apart is our methodology and leadership style. We're not necessarily better, just different", Carlos Vaz Pinto signs off with a smile.

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