I always wanted to coach in India and be a champion here – Vincenzo Annese

Coming to India and winning the I-League on the last day of his maiden season never seemed easy.

Team FootballCounter went up and close with Gokulam Kerala’s Head Coach, Mr Vincenzo Annese and discussed about his love for Indian movies, time spent at Kerala, winning the I-League and much more..


What made you come to India, and how was your experience this year?  

The team called me and offered me this position to come to India. I couldn’t say no because since I was a child, my sister and I saw Indian movies and was always fascinated by the culture and mentality of Indian people. They are always friendly and understanding.

I always wanted to coach in India and be a champion here, so when this offer came, I saw the potential and was pretty excited about this. I’m pleased that I made it, and we Gokulam are the champions this year!


How were your experience with the team and Kerala’s football culture?  

It’s been fantastic; the guys they have played so well. Our start was a bit difficult in the first seven games, but they managed very well and believed in themselves. We were the only team in India who scored with ten different players, so you understand how involved the lads were, and everyone wanted to win.

Kerala has a different place for football in their hearts, and our team has many young players from Kerala; they all are exceptionally talented. We all stayed like a family, tried to keep our phones away and tried to stay together all the time because even they were away from their family.


Can you mention some things which you did differently than others that made you win the title?  

Concentrate more on Indian players. I have seen other teams and leagues who concentrate more on foreign players. I try to develop the team’s local players and give them a fair chance to prove themselves. We didn’t spend much money and believed in the squad. I think that was the key to our success!

I think Indian players have the same quality as others; they need to be appropriately developed. Believing in the local players changed the mentality of my squad. I trusted their quality, and they showed me the results. Some of my players also have the quality and talent to play in the national like I have a special player Emil Benny, who will indeed play for India someday.

One more thing I did personally was to understand the players’ mentality. I tried to stay with them and talk, ate the same food as them. In football, it’s not just about playing, and it’s also about your lifestyle, which I wanted to develop in them. I organised the lads in a professional way.


What was your main objective before the tournament started?

I wanted that people should know who we are; they should start talking about us. People should recognise who we are, what our talent is and how we score goals etc. And obviously, we as a team desired to win the trophy.

Being a coach I think about the club’s future and wish that this team will play in Asia someday, with the same players!


Some weeks ago, you commented, “I felt there is too much focus on defence and clean sheets in Indian football.” Why do you think so?  

Yeah, I think people here talk too much about clean sheets. I don’t why and how does it matter! According to me what you remember, in the end, it is the win, not the clean sheet.

I play to win those 3 points. I like to play attacking football, and that’s what my team showed. It seems crazy, but that’s how people think here. Maybe they are trying to follow England mentality, to play defensive and focus on a clean sheet. Getting the win should be the objective.

For me, 1-1 or 0-0 is also a loss, I prefer games with more goals like 4-3 or 3-2.


You have coached in many countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. So what, according to you, are the aspects Indian football is lacking?  

India is a top football side for me. If we talk about leagues in Spain, Italy and England, my opinion is even when England has top teams like Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal etc, they tactically lack to Spain and Italy.

The playing style of England won’t work here in India. Still, many teams here follow the English playing style, which also includes the formation of 4-4-2. 4-4-2 doesn’t always work; that’s why we tried 3 at the back and 4-3-3. That worked very well for us, and we have results.


Do you think India needs to give more importance to grassroots football?

No, I guess India is doing good in grassroots. What India need is to focus more on local players and have experienced foreign coaches. It doesn’t matter where they are from, maybe Italy, England, Spain, France, what they should have is quality and experience. Try to develop the skills of local players that will help.

Mister Vincenzo Annese is just 36 years, but he has an experience of almost a decade where he has managed clubs like Bechem United, Ahli Al-Khaleel, PSIS Semarang, Belize, JFK Saldus. He was appointed in August, and in just a few months, he has rebuild Gokulam into a championship side. He wishes to continue with Gokulam Kerala FC and aims to win the I-League again, being the first foreign coach to do so.


For Trial related updates: Latest trials updates in Mumbai Football

Also Read: AFC Champions League: FC Goa hold Al Rayyan to fighting draw in tournament opener

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