6/6/2018 10:26:23 PM (GMT+3)

I wasn’t a great player, says India football team’s assistant coach Venkatesh

I wasn’t a great player, says India football team’s assistant coach Venkatesh

MUMBAI, India: The soft-spoken demeanour of Indian national football team’s assistant coach Shanmugam Venkatesh contrasts with that of a time when he was one of the top attacking midfielders in the country.

“But I wasn’t a great player,” Venkatesh said in an exclusive interview to www.khelupdates.com here on Wednesday. 

However, the 39-year-old added that he had learnt to be a professional from his team-mates and that has strengthened his career both with the senior national team and top Indian clubs Salgaocar, East Bengal, now defunct Mahindra United and Mohun Bagan.

Nicknamed ‘Venky’ by friends, coaches and team-mates, he emphasised on the importance of professionalism and how it had helped him in his career.

“Everyone had a dream of joining ITI Bangalore in early 90s. After I signed, I realised there was a lack of professionalism. There was no system as we only practiced and played matches. But there were disciplined players. That discipline-infused professionalism helped me a lot. I saw how they trained and when they rested or their diet,” added Venkatesh.

Since he started his football career with the Bengaluru-based club Aeronautics Development Establishment (ADE), Venkatesh has strived to be professional. This keenness only strengthened in him as he signed for the Indian Telecom Industries (ITI) in 1996, a club which he still referred to as his favourite”.

His uncanny habit of learning from team-mates remained thick and thin with him during his impressive career as he made his way through the cut-and-thrust of club football.

Beginning with Salgaocar FC, in the four seasons he was with them, extending to Mahindra United with whom he had two stints, and then East Bengal and their derby rivals Mohun Bagan, before wrapping up his career in Pune FC.

Pune was his second-home where the ebony-hued former India captain had a six-year stint, longest in his career and appearing in over 100 matches.

“Pune played in the 2nd I-League and everyone was surprised when I decided to join them,” he reminisced when his team-mates and coaches raised eyebrows.

“I wasn’t bothered. I realised that if I sign for Pune, the juniors would get a chance to play in other top clubs,” said Venkatesh.

He, however, admitted there were challenges.

“I had to play in all positions except being a goalkeeper because I had to support a new team,” said Venkatesh, who helped and groom a lot of juniors.

In fact, his first-hand ‘coaching’ experience held him in good stead as he was picked by Stephen Constantine as his deputy in 2015.

“I’m very thankful to Stephen,” he added. “He wanted me to scout players to build the next generation Indian team.”

The Bangalore-born former midfielder general thanked Indian coaches Shabbir Ali and Syed Nayeemuddin.

“Nayeem sir helped me a lot in my initial years as a player. If I get a chance to work under him, I will be happy. There’s a lot to learn from him.

“I played under different coaches. But when I attained maturity as a player, I realised how my potential was brought out by them,” he added and also indicated that his priority is to do the same with the juniors.