A conducive culture is key to win titles – Azhar Ansari

Bank of Baroda (BOB) beat all odds to clinch the Mumbai Football Association’s Elite Corporate League 2022 title while also finishing runnerups in MFA Harwood Champions League.

Income Tax, which finished with equal points (28) alongside BOB, lost eventually in Goal Difference (GD). Meanwhile, in Harwood League, Bank of Baroda gave a tough fight to the invincible Ambernath Utd-Atlanta FC to finish runner-up in the competition.

Team Football Counter went up and close with Azhar Ansari, the Head Coach of Bank of Baroda, to discuss the season that went by, their campaign in the Harwood Premier League and much more.

Here are the excerpts:

Tell us about the season that went by.

Overall it was a season of learning. The Bank of Baroda management focused on sports development. Although the season started late due to COVID-19, we managed to maintain momentum and get closer to our goals.

For me, it was a great learning curve. We had limited resources initially, and the focus was to groom youngsters. We had a few U-21 age-category players. Throughout the season, we applied new strategies depending on our strengths and weaknesses.

Name a few key players who helped BOB win the title?

It is difficult to name a few players who helped us win. Football is a team game, and every individual has a role. If we speak about leaders, there were aplenty in the team. Anas Khan, our defender, led the team from the back alongside Caltano Fernandes, who ran havoc in midfield.

Hardik Bhatt and Rakshit Pillai added vigour and kept our ship steady with their attacking prowess. Lastly, Denzil Mascrenhas, our striker, was exceptional. He became the top scorer in the league.

What was the biggest challenge this season, and how did the team overcome it?

Our biggest challenge was Income Tax, which remained unbeaten for nine games. They were topping the league table during their winning streak. I made it compulsory for my players to analyze the opposition. We created a personalized strategy around their team, and it bore fruits. Our match against them ended as a 3-1 win.

How did you keep the team motivated throughout the season?

For a coach, motivating the players is an important role. It is necessary to ascertain every player about their capabilities. As a team, we believe in a conducive culture where each player could extend suggestions to the team. Our sessions were fun-filled, although we duly punished candidates who seemed to rest on their laurels. It was also crucial to create an environment where players had a healthy competition. It led us to push for more and never settle for less. We made it a point to support each other when the situation turned against us. If we win, we celebrate together. If we lose, we bounce back together.

What achievement would you like to highlight apart from winning the Elite division?

Alongside winning the MFA Elite League, we came runners-up in Harwood League. And the most amusing update is that four of our young players have an opportunity to join Bank of Baroda as full-time employees. We hope they get the job.

What are your plans with the team for the forthcoming seasons?

The management’s trust and job offers to talented footballers is a great boost for us all. We will look for more tournaments and continue the winning momentum.

For Trial related updates: Latest trials updates in Mumbai Football

Also, Read ‘Invincible’ Ambernath Utd – Atlanta FC lift Harwood Champions League title

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