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Meet Anup Nag: An unheralded goldsmith of the Maidan who moulded the likes of Pritam Kotal and Debjit Majumder

Meet Anup Nag: An unheralded goldsmith of the Maidan who moulded the likes of Pritam Kotal and Debjit Majumder

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The story of Anup Nag is that of a man who remains committed to the grassroots and refuses to be allured by the glitz and glamour of football

Anup Nag was a student of psychology. After a failed football career, he wished to remain connected with the sport by becoming a mental conditioning coach. But, in the late nineties, sports psychologists were a rare breed in India and the coach was the jack of all trade. 

Nag, an avid follower of European football, soon understood that it would be impossible for him to convince club officials of the importance of a sports psychologist. So he started going to the local ground and in the afternoons, he would just help a bunch of kids to get the basics of the sport right. 

“It was not coaching of any kind. It was more of casual guidance for my own satisfaction as I cannot live without going to a football ground even for a single day,” Nag told Goal, drenched in sweat, after finishing a four-hour-long morning training session in his regular stomping ground at the Young United Football Academy. 

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So it was destiny that lured him into coaching. For the next two years, he would continue with these casual stints with various small local clubs, until 2006 when he decided to take up the job seriously. “It was always spontaneous. People said that I was doing well with the kids so why not do it more seriously.”

Soon he joined Netaji Brigade, an academy that has helped him produce several players who have gone on to play for Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. He spent close to 13 years with this outfit, before moving on to Young United, where he has nurtured the likes of Pritam Kotal, Debjit Majumdar, Narayan Das, Sourav Das to name a few. 

“For me, the hunger to learn is the most important thing. Then comes the players’ quality and skill. I believe that whatever I am today is because of my players. I am saying this because, after the ISL 2016 final, both Debjit Majumdar and Pritam Kotal praised me in front of the media, and then other people came to know me. 

“There were other Bengali players as well who were trained by other coaches but they did not come into the limelight. Most players forget the coaches who trained them in their formative years. I am really lucky that way. It is always a bonus if your successful players remember you,” he stated. 

Over the years, his routine has hardly changed. By 7:30 am, he would reach the Baksha Sporting Association ground and start working with his senior players who are vying for a break in the major domestic leagues like the ISL (Indian Super League) or the I-League. After a gruelling morning session, he would stay in the academy premises, have his homemade lunch and get back on the pitch at 3:30 pm to train the U13 and U15 batches. The afternoon session will go on for another three hours and around eight he will gingerly get ready to return home. 

“It is not too much. Even a private sector employee slogs for 12 hours a day. And I do overtime so that I get paid more. And the payment is not monetary, but more players in ISL or I-League.”

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Several offers come his way to coach teams in the Premier Division and he turns them down with the blink of an eye. When quizzed what about East Bengal and Mohun Bagan? Don’t you dream to coach the Kolkata giants? 

“Never,” he quipped immediately. “I will never go to a big club. You don’t coach in big teams. You manage those teams. And I am a coach, not a manager. My dream is to produce quality players and work at the grassroots. If everyone wants to coach the big clubs, who will work at the grassroots.” 

The dream goes on…

As mentioned before, Nag has hand-held many players who have gone on to play for several top clubs across India. And yet he has no intentions to stop in the near future.

In this season, Chennaiyin FC has signed Subhajit Majhi who plays in midfield. And there’s Rahul Paswan who is tearing it up in the ongoing Calcutta Football League (CFL). The young striker has three goals in two matches including a brace against Bhowanipore FC. In the 2019 edition of the CFL, he was the highest Indian scorer with five goals, and in this campaign, he might as well break his own record given his rich vein of form.

“His best quality is that he is clinical in front of goal. He knows how to score. Hopefully, he will get noticed by some I-League or ISL club.”

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Nag is happy to stay away from the glitz and glamour. He has not even pursued a licensing course as he never wanted to coach a football club. However, he feels that it is time he pursued the courses, not because it would make him an eligible coaching candidate, but to become a better tactician.

“Now in academies also you need to have a licensed coach. It’s good in a way because you get to learn. Let’s see what happens.”

The clock reads eight past 10 and he languidly gets up from his chair to collect his lunchbox and clothes. It’s finally time to call it a day. 

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