Srinagar: Shahnaz Iqbal, the former skipper of the J&K Bank FC and a former player for the J&K football team, carries on his legacy by coaching the most successful football team in the Union Territory.
Shahnaz belongs to the elite group of accomplished athletes who went on to achieve success as coaches. The Jammu-born former J&K Bank star footballer has turned Bank FC into a mighty force that has virtually won every championship that was up for grabs in the local circuit during the previous season since taking over as coach.
In sports, it's a popular belief that successful players don't often make effective coaches. Shahnaz Iqbal is one of the uncommon J&K situations. The only other successful player in J&K who has also found success coaching is Mehraj ud Din Wadoo.
The other players have yet to demonstrate their coaching prowess, and the successful coaches weren't all-star players when they were playing. In past, one can remark that former India football team captain Abdul Majeed Kakroo was also one who turned into a successful coach.
Shahnaz Iqbal who hails from Jammu has captained both the J&K football team and J&K Bank FC during his playing time.
He started his football journey with Vijay Club Jammu and later was selected for J&K Bank FC. For Bank, Shahnaz played as an active player for almost 17 years and captained for around five years. During his captaincy reign, J&K Bank FC turned into powerhouse J&K football that shined both in J&K and outside J&K.
Shahnaz has also played for Mohammedan Sporting Kolkatta.
"I was sent for Kolkata trials by Kamaljeet Singh and I was selected for the team by none other than Indian football legend Habib sir. I went on play in B-Division League, I-League, Federation Cup, IFA Shield amoung many other tournaments for the Kolkata giants," Shahnaz said.
"Apart from that I played in Durand Cup and Santosh Trophy for J&K before hanging my boots in 2013. I was the captain of the J&K team when we hosted Santosh Trophy in 2008. It is the moment that I can't forget and can be described as the highlight of my playing career. Captaining the J&K team in from of home fans was dream come true and we went on to make the whole J&K proud that time by qualifying for knockouts," he said.
After retiring as a professional player, Shahnaz went into the coaching area and has been pursuing coaching courses under the All India Football Federation. He is currently the AFC B License coach and was last season appointed as head coach of the J&K Bank Football team.
"After earning AFC-B License, I was provided with the opportunity to be assistant coach of my home team, J&K Bank FC. I worked under head coach Hilal Paray for a couple of years before being appointed head coach. It was a great experience to work as an assistant coach under an experienced head before getting a chance to be the main coach myself," Shahnaz said.
Shahnaz said that since getting appointed as head coach of the team that is considered the top side of J&K, he has tried to turn the side into a force to reckon with.
"When I used to play as a player, everyone looked at J&K Bank FC. Everyone wanted to win against us and the same is the situation currently. It is still the same team and the same legacy continues. It is a huge responsibility to carry on that legacy and dominance. Last season there were not many events but still, we went on to win the 2nd Postive Kashmir Tournament, 1st Industrial Tournament in Baramulla and 1st Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Tournament at Jammu. We lost in the quarterfinal of the Police Memorial Tournament," Shahnaz said.
Asked about the difference between a successful player and a coach, he said, " When you are a player, you don't have to worry about a lot of things. You only have to focus on your performance and team strategy. But as a coach, you have to take care of every small and big detail, both in and outside the field. The responsibility increases so does the workload. The most important part is player management. But having been captain and having worked with top coaches is helping me in that," he said. Shahnaz said that it is the core team and support level of J&K Bank management that has made Bank FC a dominant team over the years.
"It is the core support staff of the team that is helping it to continue dominance. Also, the support of J&K Bank management has been top-level. Our team has been getting top-level facilities from the management and it has been helping players to perform brilliantly," Shahnaz said.