From being good enough to be a part of J&K Forest playing XI for the major part of 16 years to coming up with an instant hit Jammu and Kashmir Football Academy at Eidgah, Srinagar, Showkat Ahmad Masoodi has made a profitable transformation, taking over as Forest XI coach that has saw him fashion two back to back Super Division League title triumphs to give his CV a star power attraction
Polo Ground, Srinagar provides a picture of serenity on a lovely Sunday morning with Jammu and Kashmir Forest XI-one of premier soccer clubs in the Valley-squad going through the paces to prepare for the upcoming All India Invitation Football Cup under the keen eyes of a very friendly yet attentive coach Showkat Ahmad Masoodi.
Masoodi, a young coach in late 30s, is in the third year of his Forest XI job having an impressive CV to show off; two back to back titles to power his side ahead of more sophisticated JK Bank XI in both the seasons.
Having played for the Club for a major part of 16 years, Masoodi’s approach to coaching is simple; ‘help players identify their skill level and provide them with enough opportunities to translate talent into results.’
And, that is very much evident from the Forest XI preparatory camp with Masoodi’s directing his troops, and sermonizing them with the importance of skill level, fitness and team spirit.
Masoodi’s legend as a coach with a winning punch has grown every match, having transformed Forest XI from being also-rans to a side that starts among top three title favourites as well.
Hailing from Eidgah area of Srinagar, Masoodi took to Football as fish to water, starting his playing career with Friends XI Jamalta.
A season with his native club in 1989 with a good show meant Forest XI were calling and he continued on playing with the department till 2006.
“It was quite natural for me to be a soccer player early in the piece as I belonged to Eidgah where the sport is a big hit. We used to go to the ground and there will be huge crowd watching us in action,” says Masoodi whose ever promising career as a soccer player coincided with turbulent period in the valley.
But, playing with Forest XI landed him with a job and acted as a harbinger for successful coaching stints.
“Those days Forest XI wasn’t as strong a side as it today. Even facilities wise we didn’t have much to boast about,” says Masoodi.
After calling it quits in 2006, Masoodi’s first brush with coaching came about when Brazilian coach Marcos started his academy in Kashmir. Masoodi was his deputy for a good part of a year which proved to be a treasure trove of knowledge.
“I learnt so many things from Marcos. He was a professional whom from I learnt nuances of coaching,” says Masoodi.
Masoodi wanted to be himself than working under someone’s shadow. He started his own academy at Eidgah: Jammu and Kashmir Football Academy which has proved to be a breeding nursery for at least five J&K players.
“I wanted to work at a grass root level and starting with an academy turned that endeavour into reality. We have soon great response with young kids showing great enthusiasm for the sport,” says Masoodi of his academy.
With aid of his friends’ pocket money, Masoodi provides uniforms, shoes and refreshment to his wards.
He added to his credentials doing an AFC C license course in 2007.
And, it was in 2012 he got a big break with J&K Forest XI appointing him head coach.
His maiden Super Division League saw him remain unbeaten before guiding his side to another title in 2013 to make it two in two.
What clicked for Masoodi and his wards? “We have got a good mixture of young talent and experienced players with everyone in team eager to contribute his bit to the winning ways. We have a management that comprises of former soccer players which helps in making them understand about various requirements.”
For a successful club, Masoodi says, it must have both money power and manpower. They have certainly got the latter in the Forest XI setup but working to boost the former.
What are the areas Masoodi tends to work on with his players? “I make sure players are loaded with four S’s: speed, stamina, skill and shoot. If players make these points strong, there is no doubt he will be a successful player.”
Adding to the skill level of players is every coach wants, but Masoodi’s key focus is bolstering fitness levels as well; a naïve concept in this part of the world.
“Anyone who wants to be a soccer player has skill levels. I try to work on the fitness levels of the players as this concept is yet to take full flight in Kashmir. Plus you know we a long off-season thanks to the winters, so we have to make sure players remain fit and well prepared for the soccer filled summer. I am trying to introduce concept of giving players fitness regimes and introduce diet plans and players are responding to it big time,” says Masoodi of his coaching methods.
Masoodi’s immediate goal to ready his side for high profile All India Invitation Football Tournament which he feels will be an appropriate prelude to the title defense this season.
He wants to oversee the growth of a couple of players who would not only represent J&K but become a regular feature in some soccer clubs of India.
“We need to produce some quality players like Ishfaq Ahmad and Mehrajuddin Wadoo so that future generations are encouraged to take up the sport. I wish and aim to help young talented players to make a big in the game as football is the de facto game of our state,” he says.
As of now, Masoodi would want a good show in All India Invitation Cup before he sets his sights on the hat-trick of Super Division League titles.