(from Tamil Student Initiative blog – The Spaghetti Incident)
Given that the World Cup has just recently come to a close, we thought it would be good to bring in someone with a bit more football expertise. Luckily enough, we managed to find someone with exactly that. Ragesh Nambiar, head coach of the Tamil Eelam football team and coach at Chelsea FC, sat down with us and gave us a quick interview speaking about his path through the exciting world of professional football.
Ragesh: Yeah I went to City University at first, before switching to Brunel… because I got kicked out. [awkward laughter]. I studied Civil Engineering, and just graduated this year. I was part of the Tamil society originally, before settling down to concentrate on my studies. Now, I’m hoping to keep going with my coaching, and perhaps in future go back into engineering.
Sounds great! Let’s talk a bit more about how you got into coaching, and your love for football in general. When did it all get started?
Ragesh: Well, I’m from France, so seeing them win the 1998 World Cup was really when it all started for me. From that day on, it was all football for me. I was playing football non-stop, until I turned 17 and I suffered a serious injury. After that I started to stand on the sidelines and begin learning how to manage a team. After getting into Brunel, I managed to get my first coaching badge, and I’ve been working at it ever since.
And you’ve already begun coaching at Chelsea? That must be such a dream come true, how did you even manage to get such an amazing opportunity?
Ragesh: Well, when I was studying for my first badge, I met someone called Riz Rehman, whose brother (Zesh Rehman) was the first British Asian player to play professionally in all four divisions, including the Premiership. He set up a foundation to bring more Asian coaches into the game, which helped me get into different courses all of which helped develop my coaching abilities further. After a while, Riz gave my CV through to a number of different jobs,and Chelsea got back to me. So now I’m working as a coach for Chelsea Foundation.
So say someone wants to get into your position, how would they go about that?
Ragesh: You have to do your badges, and you need to gain as many contacts as you can. Just keep working hard, do a lot of volunteering, get as much experience as you can and then keep applying. That’s really the best route you can take.
So while you’ve been going to university, working on your badges, and coaching at Chelsea, you’ve also been the manager at Tamil Eelam Football team. How has that experience been?
Ragesh: Yeah, it’s been quite a rewarding and stressful experience, the team consists of players from the UK, Canada, Germany, France and Italy. I’ve been in charge for three international tournaments so far – one in Kurdistan, one in Isle of Man, and the recent ConIFA World Cup in Sweden. In terms of pure quality, the latest one had to be the best so far, so many amazing players pushing us to up our own game. It was a great experience for the players, and for myself.
Well as you know, we have our own TSI Legacy League, which perhaps isn’t quite at the level of the tournaments you mentioned, but there are some quality players amongst the Tamil scene. If they were interested in playing for the Tamil Eelam team, how would they go about that?
Ragesh: They can apply through our Tamil Eelam FA Facebook page, or even just get in contact with me, again through Facebook or through the Tamil Sunday league, as I’m a part of the committee there aswell. We are always looking for players who will improve the team, but it is crucial that if you want to play for the team you have to be playing 11 a-side consistently for a team, you need to be fit and ready to play in tournaments as big as these.
So where do you see yourself in say, ten years time? Where do you ideally want to be in the future, either with Chelsea or somewhere else?
Ragesh: With Chelsea it really depends on how far I can get, and more importantly how much I can learn. And if it comes to a point where I feel like I’m not learning anything and I’m not improving myself, then I will look to move on. I need to keep doing my badges while increasing the experience I have, and that just keeps on rolling really until another opportunity arises. With the Tamil Eelam FA, similarly it depends on how much I can contribute to the team, and whether or not I’m holding the team back – but they won’t fire me like Moyes, I’m better than that. At the moment,I’m happy with my position and hopefully I can keep on going.
Alright, sounds good. Just to round things off, let’s do some “what if’s” about the recent World Cup.
What if – Neymar wasn’t injured in the Quarter Final.
Ragesh: Brazil still would have lost, maybe 3-1 or something like that. There were just way too many weaknesses in the back, and it’s tough to say if Neymar could have kept them in the game.
What if – Netherlands had defeated Argentina in the Semi-Final, and played Germany in the final.
Ragesh: Germany would have won anyway. Their team is just too strong – best GK in the world, a decent defence, a midfield machine, and a lethal attack even with Marco Reus injured. Definitely would have won.
What if – Spain were in a different group.
Ragesh: Still would have been eliminated. Their best players weren’t performing at all, so it didn’t matter who they played. If you looked at the squad, they stuck to the Barca-Real core, and should have brought in more Atletico players after the amazing season they had. They are still possibly the best team I’ve ever seen play football, but they had no chance this year.
Alright and just a quick prediction for next year. Top four of the Premier League, and perhaps winners of the Champions League?
Ragesh: For the Premier League – Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool (even without Suarez), and Chelsea. Champions League… Arsenal? [laughs] Maybe not. They’re are quite a few teams who could win it, Bayern, Real, Barca perhaps. Alright, big predictions for Arsenal apparently, you heard it here first!
This was Ragesh Nambiar, potentially the next big manager to hit the Premier League in 10 years time. Keep an eye out for him!