'Indian football teams have recognized the importance of analysis,' says FC Goa analyst
The Bridge caught up with FC Goa analyst Pankaj Jadhav and spoke about what's it like being a football analyst in the Indian Super League.
Cheering when your team scores, jeering at the opponent, shouting at the referee for controversial decisions. These are all the emotions, and more, that a typical football fan goes through during a match. However, there's one more person who emotes like a fan: the football analyst.
Perched right at the highest seats in the stands, often near the media boxes, are these analysts, patiently yet carefully observing each of their team's passes, crosses, and tackles. The Bridge caught up with ISL outfit FC Goa's performance analyst Pankaj Jadhav who was sporty enough to answer a few questions about his trade.
Increasing importance of analysis in Indian football
While the state of football analysis is still very nascent in India, Pankaj believes that it all started with a "bunch of individuals who were obsessed with the tactical and technical aspects of the game". Now, one can enroll themselves in many a courses to learn the art of analysing the game, but it was different earlier.
"A lot of analysts working in the ISL or the I-league back then were just doing match analysis of games on social media as a hobby before their work got noticed by the club authorities who hired them," the Gaurs analyst said. But, the growth in this field is visible.
In the I-League, at least in the past, the concept of having a dedicated person to observe the team's performance and accordingly suggest ways to better it was almost unknown to many. According to Pankaj, the likes of Derrick Pereira and Khalid Jamil were some of the first coaches in India to hire an analyst. With ISL coming into the scene, this changed for the better.
"Since the advent of ISL, the quality of players has increased over the years and most of the top teams are more or less evenly matched. The margin of winning is now down paying attention to the smallest of details can help you gain an advantage over your opponent," Pankaj, who first joined the U-18 FC Goa side as an analyst back in 2018, said.
"Almost every team in ISL and I-league is now employing an analyst full-time as they have recognized the importance of analysis," he added.
Matchday: the analyst's POV
On the surface, if one was to look at an analyst at work, they would just watch them switch on the camcorder and let it record the game. Yes, you heard it. A camcorder, a device so ancient aiding a profession so modern. However, Pankaj testifies to the usefulness of these obsolete cameras.
"The reason we use camcorders is because we want the full view of the pitch. The broadcast view is more focused on the ball carrier and only covers a part of the pitch. For example, if the ball is in the attacking third, most of the defenders will be out of the frame in the TV broadcast. The wide-angle view helps us in understanding how our team is behaving on the pitch as a group and as individuals," he explained.
The camcorder in question
So, once the record button is pressed, the analyst waits in anticipation. But the question begs- what if something has popped up on the screen that could potentially win the team the match? One would assume Pankaj could stroll into the dressing room and whisper the tactics into Carlos Pena's ears. Unfortunately, it isn't that easy for him.
"Unfortunately analysts are not allowed to enter the dressing room or have direct contact with the team or the coaches during the match in the ISL. So if I spot any problems or if there are certain spaces that we can exploit in the game, then I can pass on a message or a USB drive with the said clips to the integrity officer who will then deliver it to the coaches at halftime," he explains.
If there's no need for an intervention during the match, then a detailed report replete with notes and video clips is sent to the coaching staff the next day to use at their perusal.
FC Goa, who currently sit at 4th position with nine points from five games, have looked quite formidable under former player Carlos Pena. Despite encountering a hiccup against Kerala Blasters in their recent 1-3 defeat, Pankaj fondly remembers their home victory against Jamshedpur FC.
"We were playing in front of our fans after two years and it was very important for us to not just win but to win playing our free flowing style of football. We got off to a great start and controlled the game very well not allowing them a lot of chances to cause us problems. It was our best performance so far this season," he concluded.