Defending I-League champion Aizawl FC parted ways with Portuguese coach Paulo Meneses on Monday, citing a lack of wins in its seven games as the prime reason. The side has picked up only 17 points in 13 matches and is languishing in the sixth place on the table.
Talking to Sportstar, Meneses appeared to be miffed, to say the least, at the Aizawl Board’s dealings. “I was preparing the travel for our trip to Goa for Friday’s match against Indian Arrows when the board members came to my room at around 8 p.m. They told me that they were not happy with the side’s performance and that they have decided to part ways,” he revealed.
“I am shocked. I told them that if I saw that the team did not play well and that we lost matches despite having top players, I would accept the decision. However, that’s not the case. We have a largely inexperienced squad and young players. I cannot put the ball in the goal, that’s not my responsibility,” lamented the coach.
The Portuguese also felt that the board did not provide the players with the best conditions to prepare and neither did it do enough to support him. “You won’t believe it but for many practice sessions, we didn’t have water to drink. We did not even have bibs for our players to wear while warming up during the matches. Our coaches had to give them our t-shirts to warm up. And do you know who washed the bibs? The players! Can you imagine professional players washing bibs? The board didn’t give us minimum conditions,” he remarked.
He went on to add, “In the very first week after I’d joined, I had asked for some coaching materials. Till date, they have given me nothing. I haven’t felt any support since I joined. Even with such disastrous conditions, we did the best we could. ”
He also conceded that he wanted to sign a couple of players, which the board did not comply with. Aizawl lost the services of forward H. Lalmuankima when he moved to Indian Super League side FC Goa in January and was further hit by the injury of Kareem Nurain, who had been an instrumental part of the team’s defence. “I asked the board two weeks ago to sign new players. We lost two of our best players, one to FC Goa and Kareem to injury. We don’t have a big squad like Mohun Bagan or Neroca that we have ready replacements.
“The board, though, doesn’t understand anything about football and that’s the problem. However, I must respect the decision and move on. I hope to find a better club.”
“I had also requested the board to sign a striker because our main handicap was that we could not score. We dominated most games and had more chances but just couldn’t score. These are not the coach’s responsibilities. Our job is to train players.”
Asked if the pressure of defending the title got to the side, he said, “You cannot compare one season with another. They had a good squad last season and were very lucky to score a last-ditch goal to win the league. The current winger in the team was on the bench last season. Our right-back and left-back are 19 years old. They barely have any experience.”
Commenting on his tenure at the club, he said, “The old players completely side with me. There has always been a good atmosphere in the dressing room. The players believed in our plans and ideas. The board, though, doesn’t understand anything about football and that’s the problem. However, I must respect the decision and move on. I hope to find a better club.”
‘Result is what matters’
When contacted by Sportstar, Aizawl owner Robert Royte conceded that he was unable to meet Paulo’s request to sign new players. “I agree that I was unable to meet his transfer demands. I was unable to meet the demands of Khalid Jamil (former coach) and the junior team coach as well. However, what the club needs is that the coach makes the best use of the team given to him,” he said.
Royte, however, refuted Paulo’s claims of lack of facilities. “I don’t know what he’s talking about. Khalid had the same facilities and we won the league last year. It’s very surprising that a coach is making such comments about the club he is leaving. It’s a sign of immaturity,” he said.
Asked if he felt Paulo’s sacking was unfair, he said, “Paulo has been with the team for such a long time. He’s a very good man and he tried really hard but at the end of the day, the result is what matters in football.”