Like any other kid in the neighbourhood who loves football, he too wanted to be a star footballer and maybe to represent the country.
Growing up in the Kalhilipara area in Guwahati, Subam Rabha aspired to be like the charismatic Portuguese striker Luis Nani. Though he couldn’t be so, he stuck to the game. And now he is helping kids to realise their dreams of becoming star footballers.
That’s the story of Subam Rabha, at 26, probably the youngest football coach with an AFC-B license in Assam. Subam single-handedly set up a football training centre – Lutuma Football Academy – at his neighbourhood to train the local kids after an injury ended his playing career at an early stage.
It was in 2012, the then 18-year old Subam realised that it’s all over for him after he sustained a serious knee injury while playing inter-district football. But the love for the game didn’t allow him to stay away from it.
He went on to engage the community participation to create footballers.
And the reality, after a few years, some of his students are playing in the top football leagues of the country and one has donned the India jersey.
Birendra Rabha Singh, Nikhil Deka and Pragyan Medhi have been the star products of the academy. Pragyan has donned the India under-17 jersey and now in the youth national camp.
Recalling the days when injury cut short his playing career, Subam says: “It was tough. I had no idea what to do. We were not properly informed about how to approach an injury. I was depressed and sad to be sitting out.”
“But by any means, I had to be with the game I love the most.”
So, he decided to stick to coaching. Earlier, as a player, he also played in the Subroto Cup in 2010.
So the journey started as a coach in 2012. In the neighbourhood, the local kids used to gather in the afternoon to play friendly football matches. He realised that if these kids can be taught the basics properly, their game can be improved.
“That’s how it all started. I used to be with them and pointed out certain things to get their basics rights. They too responded well and the journey continued and later more kids started to pour in the ground,” Subam said.
Though the Lutuma ground was dusty and not properly fit to play the game, the youngsters continued to play there with the very limited resources.
Then Subam was helped by South Point School by providing the footballs.
“The kids who used to come to play or train were from a poor family background. So, I couldn’t charge them at the same time, I’m not that wealthy to provide all the facilities free of cost. I’m thankful to the South Point School for their cooperation,” he reckoned.
Subam joined South Point School as a coach in 2013 and later from 2015 he has been associated with NorthEast United FC (NEUFC), the Guwahati-based franchise of Indian Super League (ISL) as a grass-root coach. He, however, continued his association with the Lutuma ground.
Though initially, around six to seven kids turned out to practice regularly, now the number of young players has increased up to 70 and more.
“I have witnessed that the kids are talented and they are interested to play. It’s great to see the increased number of players. This tender age is crucial to shaping up a player. I’m also trying my best to give the best possible guidance,” he said.
The Coach: After he acquired the AFC B license, Subam has moved to the next level of professionalism. This is the highest level of coaching accreditation issued by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
This course is for coaches who already have the ‘C’ certificate. The course is designed to educate coaches in developing a playing style, planning individual, group and team preparation. It will also help coaches to understand coaching during training and matches. The duration of the course is 19 days divided into three modules.
Recalling the initial days Subam says he happened to meet Anju Turambekar, the instructor and assessor of All India Football Federation (AIFF) when he went to do his grass-root training.
She has been instrumental in motivating him. “I must thank Anju ma’am for the motivation. She inspired me,” he added.
Anju also happens to be an AFC grassroots panel member and technical expert.
Subam is also grateful to the NEUFC family and their coach Khalid Jamil for guiding him in the right direction. “I must say that Khalid sir and others at the NUFC have been extremely helpful in guiding me and making me a better coach. Last five years at the NUFC have been a learning experience for me,” Subam added.
Subam who hails from a humble family in the city is looking forward to bettering his record to be the first and also the youngest from Assam to have an AFC A license.
“The scene of coaching in the state is not very encouraging compared to the other states. States like Manipur and Meghalaya, there is a good number of qualified coaches. To have qualified coaches is very important to improve the overall scenario of the game. To play and to coach is two different things which we must understand. I’m looking forward to being the first from the state to attain the AFC A license,” he said.
Role model: Eelco Schattorie, the Dutch football manager who was with the NEUFC.
“Coach Eelco has always been very encouraging. I have learnt a lot from him when he was with the NEUFC. He was always available for any query or confusion. I liked his way of man-management and player development skills,” said Subam.
“Apart from Eelco, I follow Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool manager) and Pep Guardiola (Manchester City). I like their style of play. I think I can learn something from both teams.
Liverpool’s game is fast…and after winning the ball they would go for attack straightway and similarly after losing out the ball their swift transition to the defence.
Whereas, Manchester City play a possession game and they keep it very simple.
Favourite player: When I was playing, my favourite player was (Luis) Nani…though most of my mates were the ardent followers of either (Lionel) Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo.
Though Nani’s style of play is similar to Ronaldo, I just liked the way he carried himself in the field.