NEW: STEVIE GRIEVE INTERVIEW!
Stevie Grieve, who’s 27, is assistant manager of Garhwal FC in the Indian second division. He’s also the head of coach education for Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools, based in New Delhi. Here, he talks about 20-hour train journeys, dodgy hotels – and why India is the opportunity of a lifetime…
My first game in professional football was last Friday. We lost 9-2. The I League second division begins with a round-robin, with all the matches played over a two-week period in one city. Our first game was against Royal Wahingdoh, who have a big budget. We played a high line, tried to press the ball, and they came right through us. But in fairness, we didn’t have the best preparation.
We set off for the game at 5pm on the Wednesday, and didn’t arrive until 8pm on the Thursday. The train from New Delhi to Dhanbad, where the games are being held, was due to leave at 7.10pm. It didn’t set off until 11.30pm – we weren’t told why – and what was supposed to be a 15-hour journey actually took 20 hours. There was no chance of sleeping on the train: there were two big guys snoring in the carriage, the train was rickety, and no-one in the country knows how to be quiet.
When we got to Dhanbad, I hated the hotel. I don’t have massive standards, but the rooms didn’t even have toilets – just a bit of wood with a hole in. I turned to my logistics guy and said: “I’m not staying here, and I don’t think the players should either.” So we went round the corner to another hotel, and it looked beautiful from the outside – marble floors, nice décor. But inside, it was horrible. Dirty, no hot water, electricity goes on and off. We’re here until February 18th.
Once we arrived, the guy from the AIFF (the Indian Football Federation) offered us a training field. When I saw it, there were reeds half way up my shin, there were no lines, and the grass hadn’t been cut for about four years. There was cow poo everywhere, and the goals were made from water pipes – they were all the wrong height and width. We were told it was a professional-level field, but I wouldn’t let my dog run around on it. The facilities can be an eye-opener, that’s for sure.
Having said all that, I love working here. Primarily, I’m the head of coach education for the Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools. My second job is the head of the academy, and I’m also assistant manager for Garhwal – which is part-owned by the BBFS. Working with Indian kids is fantastic – the talent pool is enormous – and there’s nothing better than being on the pitch, making them better.
I moved to India in June last year. I was working in Switzerland, and my boss at BBFS, Anurag Khilnani, had read a book I’d written about coaching the 4-2-3-1 formation. At the same time, I’d emailed him, asking about work. I was working part-time with a Swiss lower-league club, and I wanted something full-time. His wife was studying in Switzerland, so we met, and everything clicked.
My missus moved to India with me, but went home in December. New Delhi isn’t an easy place to live. It’s busy, chaotic, and you get plenty of power cuts – we had one that lasted three days. I get home from work at 7 or 7.30, make my tea, then sit on my own for three or four hours, working. I go to bed, then get up and do the same again. I live in a nice area, I’ve got a driver, and I’m developing a network of mates, so I’m comfortable. But at times, it’s not easy.
I started coaching when I was 16. I was playing futsal at my local sports centre in Perth in Scotland, when a wee boy came up and asked how to do a rainbow (flick over the head), because I’d done one in a game. I showed him, and one of the full-time coaches said “Do you want a job?” So I coached badminton for six months – I’m not even good at it – and then I moved into football.
In 2008, I moved to America to work for an academy for six months, and when I came back I worked with the youth teams at Dundee. It was a part-time job – I was still working at River Island to pay the bills, or selling electricity door-to-door. Dundee went into administration so I worked for Raith and then East Fife, before moving to Switzerland to work for the Inter Soccer academy.
I’ve written ten coaching books. Before I went to Switzerland, Mike Saif of World Class Coaching sent an email, advertising for a tactical analysis writer. I had no idea about tactics, so I thought “Let’s learn about it this way”. Mike asked me to submit a couple of pieces, so I wrote an article about Sergio Busquets that ended up being 25 pages long. Mike turned it into an e-book, and it went from there. Three of the books are in print, which is great at job interviews – I can say: “Here’s the book I wrote”.
The potential in India is huge – there are brilliant young players all over the country. We’ve got an 11-year-old kid who trains with Porto 12 weeks of the year, and he’s incredible. Last year, we trained at Feyenoord, and their coaches are saying: “We’d take three of these in our team”. So we’ve already got youngsters that are at the same level as European academy players. The worry is that they fall behind as the years go on ,due to lack of regular competition. But if the coaching is good, the conditions are good, the kids we have from under-11 and below have a chance.
The Indian Football Federation’s target is to make the 2026 World Cup, I think. If they get the infrastructure, invest in astroturf pitches, coach education, then yeah, they can make it. But even then, 12 years is a long shot. They’re competing with good Asian countries – China, Japan, the Gulf countries are investing, and Australia are there now. Unless FIFA offer more places, it will be hard.
You’ll see me moan on Twitter, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given. When I look back in 15 or 20 years, this could be the most important thing I do in my life. To work with a first team, to work in a professional league, to develop 80 coaches and 800 players, to have a ten-year plan – I could never have that anywhere else. There aren’t many coaches my age who’ve had this chance. In ten years, I’d like to think the BBFS and Garhwal FC will have the best academy in South Asia.
Two days after that 9-2 defeat, we played our second match in the I League. It was a complete transformation – we won 2-0. We worked on our defensive shape and pressing traps, and the way the players took it on board was fantastic. If we get through the round-robin stage, it’ll be little short of a miracle. But now, after that result, we’ve got a chance. Everyone is determined to leave a mark at national level, so that everyone knows Garhwal FC.