Interview Of Joel Richard Williams, Minerva Punjab’s Technical Consultant
Top flight football season in India is over and now Super Cup is in the centre of discussion. I-League has got it’s second fairy-tale two years in a row as Minerva Punjab has been crowned the champions of the tournament defying all odds, becoming the first I-League/NFL champion from Punjab since the first edition of NFL when a star-studded JCT lifted it. The victory has been credited to the players, the coaches and offcourse to the passionate owner of the club Ranjit Bajaj. But the success story of Minerva took place not by chance but due to a well-organized and professional backroom staff and some men behind the scenes who planned a road-map and made all execute it professionally.
TalkSports 24X7 caught up with one such ‘Man behind the scene’ for the glory of the I-League champions- Joel Richard Williams, the Journalist turned Manager from Gibraltar who played the role of Technical Consultant of the club and saw his ideas taking shape into reality. In a discussion with us, Joel Williams encompassed several topics from Minerva to Indian football.
?? Ladies & Gentelmen the trophy is finally home? Here’s our Owner @THE_RanjitBajaj ,Director @Hennasing along with their parents retired IAS officers B.R Bajaj and Rupen Deol Bajaj receiving our maiden @ILeagueOfficial trophy ⚽️ #chakdephatte #IndianFootball pic.twitter.com/i9gPHXBhdw
— MINERVA PUNJAB FC (@Minerva_AFC) March 22, 2018
● TS 24X7: What made you prompt towards the game of football?
○ Joel Williams : Since a young age I was always intrigued by the sport. Obviously coming from Gibraltar which is in Europe and bordering Spain, the love for football is inculcated in you since a tender age! Let’s not forget Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory so technically we are British by passport but a huge mix by culture (British, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Maltese, Arabic and others). Also adding to this, I have always been passionate about the coaching aspect of football and it became easier for me after I had two big knee injuries which prevented me from further playing football. This made my decision to remain in football in a different role all the easier to take!
●TS 24X7: You are one of the youngest managers in Gibraltar and one of the youngest if not the youngest in any UEFA nation. How much pride you take in that ?
○ Joel Williams: Well obviously it is a massive honour and privilege at that. Most important for me is making the people of Gibraltar proud of the work I do. With regards to being the youngest Manager, I was at the time when I was Managing in Gibraltar for a team called FCB Magpies. I was 24 at the time and inexperienced But with the right attitude and the right footballing brain, once can get to places others never imagined he can! At the end of the day, personal accolades don’t matter that much to me- it is the sense of self satisfaction one gets after he completes the mission one puts himself in his mind- that for me is the biggest sense of pride! The feeling of “I did it” after planning it beforehand- No other feeling like this!
●TS 24X7: You are associated with Arsenal Soccer School Setup and then moved out to Minerva. So you have now been in India for a good time. Can you ought to share your experience about India as a country and the people ?
○ Joel Williams : The experience here in India for this year and half has been fascinating! The people and the culture has really taken to me and I can safely say I have fallen in love with the country and the people! Whilst working for Arsenal Soccer Schools I was based in Mumbai and Kolhapur, one of the hotbeds of football in India. It was an amazing experience coaching the youngsters here and also at the same time learning from them how they view football and how their experiences with football was. It was a pleasure and I still keep in contact with some of my students from Kolhapur!
●TS 24X7: Joel As a Technical Consultant we know but we want to know more about your personal life and Joel as a person?
○ Joel Williams: Well back home in Gibraltar people know me due to my journalism work I used to do there. I travelled with the National Team around Europe covering different games against Germany, Ireland, Georgia etc. Even though we suffered defeats in every single one of these games, the mere fact a country of 30 thousand people managed to compete on the same turf as these superstars already filled me with joy and pride! Apart from my journalism work which mostly involves football I also represent Atletico Management here in India, a football agency. Again, as you can see, my personal life and work pretty much revolves around the same thing: FOOTBALL!
●TS 24X7: We want to know more about Minerva’s scouting process and long term plan. Tell us something about that.
○ Joel Williams: The scouting process at MInerva is second to none. They have some exciting young talents coming through their ranks and it is all down to the hard work of the coaching staff and Ranjit Bajaj who personally instills a level of professionalism in those that work with him that has undoubtedly made the team champions in various age groups!
● TS 24X7: How is your relation with owner Mr. Ranjit Bajaj and him as a person?
○Joel Williams: My relationship with him began on a professional side when I was in Kolhapur. I managed to get his contact via a third party and spoke to him regarding some players which were interested in coming to India. These players were all represented by the same agency I work for so I managed to get them here alongside an Estonian partner of mine, Alen Stepanjan. The players in question are Kassim Aidara, William Opoku and ofcourse, Chencho Gyeltshen. After the initial professional relationship we began a good close friendship based on trust and mutual respect which still continues to this very day and I am sure will continue for years to come!
●TS 24X7: Arrows took three of your best players. How much did it affect your team composition before the start of I-League season? And what’s your take on AIFF’s Arrows Project ?
○ Joel Williams: The club coped extremely well without these 3 talented yongsters. In fact, it was credit to the club to have the foresight to loan these players out to the Indian Arrows so they could get invaluable match experience in the top division in India. Perhaps if they would have stayed in Minerva for this season they would have not had the same amount of minutes that they gained at Indian Arrows so it was a great move in my honest and humble opionion. With regards to the Arrows Project, it is a great initiative by the AIFF to include this team as this only bodes well for the future of Indian football.
● TS 24X7: In India, players with higher physical stature are preferred over small skillfull players ? Do you feel this is misagony of comprising the skills ?
○ Joel Williams: Ofcourse it is! Check out most young northeast players and they are skillfull and gifted. Name springs to mind Is Samuel from Lajong. Physically not imposing but on the ball he is different level. Shame he wasn’t included or even considered for the game vs Kyrgyzstan.
●TS 24X7: Recently we have seen lower budget clubs finishing in higher position in I-League and we have seen I-League clubs defeating ISL franchises In Super cup.
So does this show how competitive the league is and is there any arc of merger between two Top division leagues?
○ Joel Williams: Ofcourse there is potential for a merger to happen in Indian football- In fact, it has to happen sooner or later as FIFA wont allow for much longer to have two TOP TIER leagues in the same country, it just makes no sense! With regards to this, there will be a problem I foresee and that is that the ISL is a FRANCHISE LEAGUE whereby you buy your slot into the league whilst the I-League is done purely on merit! This will be an issue- finances should not be an obstacle to play in the top tier of any country and each club has to compete with whatever finances they can muster. That is the beauty of the game. If AIFF merge the two leagues and still ask for the 15 crore rupee ENTRY FEE into the league that will be a disaster and won’t be feasible. You can’t BUY football, it has to be earned. Teams like NorthEast United are proving time and time again that despite playing in the ISL and buying their way into football, it doesnt work!! This should stop..a simple two tier system in India will suffice, a premier DIvision and a Second Division and then the lower leagues which can be regional, something like Spain has or Italy! This will allow for promotions and relegations which in turn will boost the credentials of the league. A league without promotions and relegations is pointless and I have even heard that the MLS and the A-League are considering shifting from this franchise leagues to a promotion and relegation scenario. It is for the good of the game although unfortunately too much money has been invested in the ISL and the rich just want to continue getting richer so the AIFF has two options here: Either they succumb to the money based initiative and ultimately kill the hopes of the smaller clubs whilst satisfying the greed of a select few or they DO WHAT EVERY PROPER FOOTBALL FAN craves and gives INDIA the proper league system it truly deserves. Ball is in their court!
●TS 24X7: When we hear the world ‘Potential’, We hear India as potential power house in football in near future. Do you feel Indian football is on right track of the development and how much time will it take to reach the maximum potential we possess?
○ Joel Williams: I feel India will be better served with a Manager who is different other than Stephen Constantine. The fact he has chosen to overlook star performers this year like Soosairaj and Sukhdev Singh for his national team selection versus Kyrgyzstan just recently (others also fully deserved to be in the squad also) simply baffles me and makes me and others wonder whether he is really up for the job or not! India has the potential to play beautiful football but again, it is seen that they prefer the long ball route and that comes directly from the Manager. In my view, if India is to progress and compete against the bigger Asian Nations, there has to be a change at the helm and new ideas have to be instiled into the team. You can’t possibly be progressing when you struggle to beat the likes of Myanmar and Macau and still lose to Kygyzstan.
●TS 24X7: What’s your take on ISL ?
Joel Williams: To be quite honest and frank, the ISL in its inception was a good idea as it dramatically raised the profile of Indian football and players around to world of big renowned names flocked over here. It was great at the beginning and as a marketing stunt it’s fantastic. Truth be told, the level of football there is not different to the level of football in the I league and this is been shown in the Super Cup. Indian Arrows took a star studded Mumbai team all the way to extra time- imagine the outcry if they had won in the end and knocked this team out! Ultimately the ISL benefit from having money behind the franchises with good infrastructure so in that sense they are years ahead of most I league clubs. Still football is played on the pitch and if we focus on that exclusively then there is not much difference between both leagues.
● TS 24X7: This is the year of the FIFA World Cup. Your Take on World cup ? Which team is favourites to lift the World title this year according to you?
○Joel Williams: I think Germany and Brazil are slightly favourites to lift the World cup. The Germans purely because they have a classy team and Brazil is Brazil…expect anything from them! I would also like to add that France and Spain are also big challengers with England and Argentina also in the mix. It’s going to be amazing summer of football!
● TS 24X7: Do you want to add anything about the the standard of refereeing ?
○ Joel Williams: Referees have a very very tough job on their hands. My cousin is a FIFA and UEFA referee and trust me, it’s not as easy as people think it is! Respect should always be shown to the referees and officials- at the end of the day football without referees football can’t be played.
● TS 24X7: Thanks for your time Joel!
● Joel Williams: Thank you!