FC GOA has its head coach Sergio Lobera and staff retained after a good show last season in the Indian Super League. Here is the interview with condtioning coach, Manuel Sayabera. He talks about his ISL 4 experience, what consist of a typical routine and how Indian players have come about from the time he has been part of FC Goa.
1. Let’s begin with highlighting the fact you have been a key member of FC Goa Coach Lobera’s coaching staff beginning at the stomping grounds of Barcelona to Moghreb Tétouan in Morocco and leading to FC Goa? How has the experience from your first campaign in ISL4 been like?
M.S: Last year was great for me. When I came to India for the ISL, I had heard great things about the league and its professionalism. However, by the end of a few months into my role here, I was overwhelmed. I honestly didn’t expect the great standards that were being followed. Everything was just top notch.
It’s always a two-way process and I learnt a lot of things as well from the Indian guys. It’s totally been a blast working here.
2. Your role is that of training and fitness coach means you have to organize and conduct training sessions. Can you run us through a regular training session?
MS: First of all, let me tell there is no ‘normal’ training session. We change things every week and every day. We make a cycle and within this cycle we mix things around. We sometimes change the intensity and sometimes the volume. We have to recognise what the players need at a certain point of time and act accordingly.
If you want still want to generalise something as a ‘normal session’ then it would start with a good warm-up. Starting off with the activation of your neuro-muscular system is vital. The players enjoy the workouts more when they are working with a ball so we find ways to get drills done with the ball involved.
Then as we go along, the length and intensity of the training depends on whether the next game is two days away or if we still have a week to go before we are in action again.
For example, a day after the match we will focus on recovery. Two days after the game is normally kept as a day off. Then, we start again. We assess the condition of the player via different tests and then look to build on the strength of the players.
When I say strength, it does not mean what we normally see in a regular gym. Football requires different strength exercises and we look to build on them on the pitch.
We look towards working on let’s say, their jumps, their agility, and may be their change of directions. These are brought about mostly through various small games so that there is always a competitive spirit on the ground.
If the gap between two games big, we work on endurance as well.
This is a basic cycle. We can mix things up within this cycle. But per say, there is not a ‘normal’ day of training.
3. I would assume that there is a consistency and structure to every training session that applies to all team players including goal keepers that follow a slightly different program but do you also have a customized training schedule as per Players needs? Say for example, a technical ball playing center back is athletically on the slower side so design special drills for him to improve on his pace or a pacy forward lacks physicality so you have him do more gym sessions?
Yes, definitely. But we keep on making them play 4v4, 5v5 and 11v11 and in them the player is always aware of the position he plays. He gets prepped for what he will face in a real game.
Sometimes a centre-back may need to work on the height of their jump. Sometimes a striker might need to work on the strength and acceleration. We will look at what they need based on their performances and allot them drills accordingly.
We always present to the players an environment that will be similar to what they will come across in an actual game. That is actually something that is overlooked and really crucial.
4. The ISL is comparatively is one of the few leagues in the World that has a long layoff period. How do you ensure that your contracted players stay in shape, diet plans and also maintain their match fitness given they don’t play any games until preseason?
MS: Yes, we have a really big off-season. We are always in touch with the players during this period. We get their feedback and that is crucial. I give them specific programs and am regularly in touch with them.
They are certain devices via which we can monitor their health as well. To motivate them, we also keep a competition and have a leaderboard. These are very competitive guys and it will surprise you how motivated they get to see their names on top of these things.
5. You had your initiations in one of the best leagues in the World which is the La Liga. What are your impressions of the game India as to where it stands is there too much of a difference? Which aspect of the game our players need to work and improve upon?
MS: I was really surprised when I came here. The Indian players are very receptive and want to learn. They know that we come from a place where the culture of football is richer and want to take in whatever we are trying to teach them.
What they need to get better at is taking care of themselves away from the game at a very young age. The education in terms of nutrition as well as what is actually good for them in terms of physical exercises needs to be imparted to them.
Another thing that I feel they need to be better at is the understanding of various tactics and how they fit into the scheme of things. For this, we need good head coaches who are very clear about the philosophy of their games.
I feel there has been a age-old tradition of playing the game the English way. It’s a great way to play. It’s really intense, but very different from the Spanish way of playing – like what we do here at FC Goa.
We love to play with the ball, get possession. With the English game, it’s much more direct and there is not such an elaborate build up from the back. For the players, it’s really important that they learn different styles of football that will help them grow.
If you are limited to only one style they become very confined to one very narrow mode of thinking and how success can be achieved on the pitch. So, I feel the Indian players need to get more exposure in terms of different tactics in football.