Former India International and captain Gouramangi Singh who has had a career spanning 15 years believes that the mental health aspect has become an important aspect, as Indian Football moved forward together over the years.
The 34-year-old had announced his retirement from professional football, and is currently the assistant coach at FC Bengaluru United which is playing in India’s first sporting event post the COVID-19-induced Lockdown – the I-League Qualifiers.
Speaking to AIFF on World Mental Health Day, Gouramangi stated that the fact that players and coaches are now open about the mental issues that they face is a big improvement in Indian football.
“It is very good that players and coaches are open about the mental challenges that they face nowadays. We now have professionals who are there to help with these things, and they can be crucial to help players grow in their footballing careers,” said Gouramangi.
“Earlier people were not so open about such things. If you were facing such issues, or if you were uncomfortable with certain situations, you would mainly have to fight it out yourself,” he said. “But now people have realised that there is no shame in admitting that you are having difficulties in dealing with certain situations. This is a big step.”
Looking back at the earlier days in his own career, Mangi, as he is often fondly called in the dressing room, felt that the self-realisation of a player about his strengths and weaknesses could both make or break a player.
“When I graduated from the Tata Football Academy and started playing football at the senior level, it was obviously difficult. Everyone was suddenly expecting results from you. The scouts have picked you up for a certain reason, and if you don’t fulfil that, it could get tough,” Gouramangi stated.
“This is where the mental strength of a player comes into play. If he can realise early on what his strengths and weaknesses are, he can survive and flourish,” he continued. “Mental strength, at this stage, could make or break a player.”
He stated that it is important to trust the reason why a coach has selected him, and then work on sharpening those attributes. “Once you know why the coach has selected you, what attributes made him choose you over the rest, then it becomes easier to focus and sharpen that particular attribute,” said the 34-year-old.
“Every player is different. Some strikers would be an out-and-out finisher, while others would drop down and allow the rest of the team to come forward,” he started. “That is why it is very important to open up with coaches. That would allow you to know your own strengths and weaknesses.”
“I myself was not the fastest or the strongest or the tallest of defenders, so if I tried to play like a Van Djik, I would not have been able to play,” continued Gouramangi.
“So I spoke to my coaches, and seniors and figured out how I could survive, why they signed me. Trust the coach, work on your strength, and understand how to use that strength in the larger context of the team. That will help you survive.”