NorthEast United FC coach Avram Grant may not have been a great player but his performances as coach probably makes him the biggest name to take charge of a franchise in the Indian Super League. The Israeli manager who steered Chelsea FC to the final of the UEFA Champions League in 2008 and took Portsmouth to the FA Cup final the next year is now pleasantly surprised with what he is seeing in India.
From steering Chelsea to the UEFA Champions League final and managing two other teams in the Premier League, do you find it hard to believe that India is now your port of call?
I'm always curious about developing places; that's why I went to Africa (to manage Ghana). I was curious about India, a country with more than a billion people. I know cricket is the main sport here but football is universal. I was happy with this decision to start the ISL and was in touch with some people (about managing a club). But to be honest, I didn't want to come for a year. Then my friend John (Abraham) contacted me and asked if I would come here for two months. I was happy, first to help a friend and second to experience Indian football from the inside.
What have you seen so far?
As a beginner, I have seen good things here.
On or off the field?
I see a lot of passion everywhere. It starts with the owner, the board, players and staff. There are lot of good things; pitches are good, which is important. Our training facility is good. The supporters are good. The ISL has attracted experienced (foreign) players, which is a good thing.
What about the Indian players?
I find them very hard working. They are trying (to improve). In my time here, I have not seen a single lazy player. There is lack of education (in a football sense) because they've not been to academies but the potential is there.
In the past you have spoken about Avram's triangle which includes talent, passion and mental strength. How much of that can you see in Indian football?
The triangle is my lecture around the world but mainly for business people. If I say the main thing is talent, nobody can survive on talent alone. I have seen less talented people succeed because they have the passion; passion to develop, passion to win games. Everybody wants to win but not everyone is a winner. If you have talent and passion, you need mental strength.
Do you see all of that in India?
I see passion. There is desire (from the players) to become good footballers, so they need to develop the talent and we need to give them the tool to develop. They need to learn how to be strong mentally.