Robert Jarni: Commitment level of Indian players is unbelievable

NorthEast United FC exceeded all expectations last season as they qualified for the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) semifinals for the first time in their history. At the helm of their success was former head coach Eelco Schattorie and club captain Bartholomew Ogbeche, both of whom have since joined Kerala Blasters for the upcoming Hero ISL campaign.

The Highlanders, however, have not allowed these departures to dampen their mood. For the upcoming 2019-20 season, the club have brought in a string of high-profile players, including Ghanaian icon Asamoah Gyan. However, all eyes will be on new Croatian head coach Robert Jarni, who was former teammates with the current Indian National Team boss, Igor Stimac.

Communicating his ideas in a recent interview, the 50-year-old voiced, “(With the Croatian youth teams) we used to train twice a week and then play a game, so there were not many chances to train the players due to a lack of time. In India, I can inculcate my ideas into the team and influence the players, mostly because it’s a full season of football. Also, I had a few words with head coach Igor Stimac. He said many good things about the players and the league.”

More about the hard work than the pressure

When it comes to performance, last season was NorthEast’s best. Losing key players for the upcoming season might be a cause of concern for other head coaches, but Jarni seems hardly fazed. Speaking about carrying the burden of expectations garnered from last season, the Croat said, “It’s more about the hard work than the pressure. We have few more days, and hopefully, we will be ready for the first match. There is no pressure and the players are starting to understand my training methods. Every day we must improve a little and be ready for the season.”

The addition of Asamoah Gyan to the Highlanders squad was considered a move of intent and the Croat seems quite happy to have him around. “Everybody knows Asamoah, he has played in top countries. It will take a little more time to make him understand how we want him to play and keep him fit, but yes, we’re very happy to have him on our team.”

Jarni’s experience while working with youth teams will undoubtedly help in youth development. When asked about his opinion on how the country’s football scenario can improve right from the grassroots level, he said, “One of the biggest problems in India is that many of the players start to play professionally at a later stage. In Europe, players start their training when they are 8 or 9 years old, or maybe younger, and go professional by 14. In six to eight years, they learn a lot, which is easier when they go professional because their basics are strong.”

However, the Croatian coach was impressed by the hard work put in by the Indian players, “They are really focused on their training and try to learn as much as possible. Sometimes they cannot learn as much as they would like to, but their hard work and commitment is unbelievable”.

NorthEast United FC play current Hero ISL holders Bengaluru FC on October 21 in their season opener. The new head coach, however, didn’t want to single out the defending champions as a major challenge and stated, “We must play against everyone in the league. You must play every game as though it’s the last game.”

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