Kamal Babu has been coaching in domestic football for more than 15 years now. He is famous for guiding minor clubs from the lower divisions to top-tier football and during the course of his coaching career, he contributed immensely to Bangladesh football by bringing up many young and promising players who later joined the national team.
Kamal Babu is currently managing old-Dhaka outfit Rahmatganj MFS. The club started the Bangladesh Premier League this season with a draw against Mohammedan Sporting Club and followed it up with a memorable 2-0 victory over former treble winners Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra on Thursday.
Shishir Hoque of Dhaka Tribune managed to catch up with the 51-year old coach for an exclusive interview where he talked in details regarding his playing and coaching career and his philosophy, among other things.
Here are the excerpts:
Dhaka Tribune Sport: How did you get into football?
Kamal Babu: I always had interest since my childhood but I really got into this thing during the Pioneer Football League in 1980. The then Fifa president Joao Havelange came to Bangladesh at that time and a record 180 teams played in the tournament. I played there and it was a big experience for me. My playing career started with Wari Club where I spent six years. Then I moved to BRTC, Dhanmondi Club, Farashganj Sporting Club, Wanderers Club and Shantinagar Club where I captained the side. I played as full-back and sometimes as defensive midfielder.
DTS: What brought you into football coaching?
KB: I was always interested in coaching and I coached even when I was a footballer. But I started my professional coaching when Biplob [Bhattacharjee, former Bangladesh goalkeeper and captain) started playing. It was probably in 2000 when I was the coach of Dipali Jubo Sangha. I brought them to top-flight football from the third division in only 18 months which I think is a record in Bangladesh football.
DTS: Tell us briefly about your coaching career and the successes that followed.....
KB: I coached Wari Club for two years. And after that, I trained Sheikh Russel and Arambagh. Then, I joined Farashganj before moving to Sheikh Russel again. Sheikh Russel signed a foreign coach and I had to leave and rejoin Farashganj where I spent four-five years. Farashganj became champions in a professional tournament (Independence Cup in 2011) where my club defeated top clubs like Abahani Limited, Sheikh Russel and Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club. Most of the players were young and showed tremendous spirit. After that, I joined Rahmatganj where I’m still working for the last four-five years.
DTS: Before the start of the league this season, you announced your intention to fight for the championship title, despite being minnows. What made you think of that?
KB: I watched games of every team and I did a comparison. What I found was that no club is anything special that I cannot beat. Everyone says they are a big club but I don’t think so. It’s just a signboard put in front of them. When they played against my club, I had better ball possession and chances. Besides, my players listen to what I say and that makes me believe that I can fight for the title.
DTS: What is your coaching philosophy? Why do you always choose minor clubs to coach?
KB: I set my team a target – don’t concede a goal at the beginning and score later when possible. I believe everything is possible and that no club is small. I inject the belief in my players as well. The reason behind coaching these clubs is that I think I can produce players. There is no national team that didn’t have my players in the squad. Once, after winning the Independence Cup, the national team offered me to become the assistant coach. I replied what’s the use of an assistant coach in Bangladesh team and refused to join. As a coach, I believe my job is to bring out new, talented players and guide them.
DTS: What is your take on Bangladesh football and its future?
KB: At the moment, it’s neither bad, nor good. The way things are going right now and if it continues for a long time, I can be hopeful. If you look at the players who were called to the national team in recent times, you start to wonder how did they get the chance. The same players who have very little to offer get picked because of their name.