SRINAGAR: J&K’s legendary footballer Mehrajuddin Wadoo is all set to make his debut as a Head Coach with the Sports Council Football Academy’s (SCFA) senior team at the upcoming JK Professional League 2021.
The Pro League will kick off from July 12 and Wadoo will be seen scheming and plotting in the dug-outs of Synthetic Turf Ground at TRC in Srinagar with another legendary footballer of J&K, Ishfaq Ahmed, who is the Assistant Coach at the SCFA academy.
Head Coach Wadoo has worked for many years to reach this point. Even before retiring in 2017, having spent close to two decades at the summit of Indian football, Mehraj was quick to lace up his coaching boots and earn his badges.
“When I was in the national team from 2005 to 2011 we had a great English coach named Bob Houghton. I was highly impressed by him and his coaching methods as well as his way with the players, almost like a father figure. Simultaneously, me and Ishfaq were organising training camps for young footballers in Kashmir. All these experiences helped me determine my future without foregoing my passion,” Wadoo told Kashmir Observer.
“So while I was playing with Pune City FC in 2014 I did my ‘C’ license, then in 2016 I did my ‘B’ and finally in 2018 I did my AFC ‘A’ license. It would have taken another 5 to 10 years if I had waited for my retirement. Now I’m planning to complete my Pro license this or the next season,” he said.
Mehraj has spent much time gaining his coaching, training and managerial experience. After hanging his boots at Mumbai City FC, he went back to Pune City FC to take over its U18 Academy as head coach. Mehraj was also roped in by J&K Sports Council to head its football academy initiative in 2018. Then in 2019 he was with ISL team Hyderabad FC as assistant coach and in 2020 as its developmental officer.
“I would train kids in Kashmir and then leave for a few months and work with ISL teams to gain more experience. What I used to learn there I would implement it here. It’s a work in progress. You never stop learning,” Wadoo said.
Since March of this year, Wadoo’s full time focus has been Sports Council’s Football Academy. Where he not only trains the senior team but is also seen with U12 kids, loving every bit of it. Mehraj is effusive in his praise for the local Kashmiri talent, stressing that if the youth receive proper guidance, Kashmir might see many Mehrajuddin Wadoos. But the task at hand is tougher than it might look. He will be taking SCFA’s U18 team to the Pro League, competing with the likes of J&K Bank FC, Lonestar Kashmir FC, Kashmir Avengers FC, among others.
All this, for two spots at the 2021-22 season of I-League 2nd Division.
“SCFA will be the youngest team to compete at the Pro League. Whatever the result, we want these young boys to taste competitive football and understand where they actually stand,” Wadoo said.
“Ishfaq and I have stayed outside for decades. We have worked with great coaches and top teams. We have experienced the best of facilities as well. Our motivation is to bring football in Kashmir at par with the same level,” he added.
“But this is not possible with just one football ground. Every team trains here at TRC. It becomes congested with all the competitive matches and training sessions. We need more grounds to fully explore, unearth and nurture the talent here in Kashmir,” Wadoo lamented.
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