Coach Carles Cuadrat has been one of the fondest names for every Bengaluru FC fan out there. Right from leading them to their maiden Indian Super League title to achieving a historic feat of reaching the playoffs in every single appearance, Carles had a penchant for doing it all !
This article is the Part 1 (of 2) where will be covering IFTWC‘s exclusive interview with the man himself.
Coach Carles succeeded the legacy of Albert Roca to whom he also assisted beforehand. What seemed to be an absolute fairytale of a journey, had some very humble beginnings. Speaking about the same, Carles quoted – “It was a natural journey for a Football Man like me. I’ve been through all the positions. From a player for La Masia del Barça and a ball boy for the Camp Nou games, to being a professional player in Spain and then a Physical Trainer for giants in the likes of FC Barcelona and Galatasaray. Then I was Assistant to Rijkaard at Arabia National Team and Albert Roca at El Salvador National Team and Bengaluru FC.”
The gaffer always had a nose for challenges and soon he got an opportunity and how! Coach Carles assumed the position of leading the Blues. “The normal thing was at some point to put myself to the test as a Boss. Being the one who makes all the decisions. It was wonderful that the test went well and we won the ISL in the very first year and fought for the title in the second. Honestly I think that this season we would also have made it to the playoffs with this group of players,” he added.
A couple of hiccups followed in but that never stopped the La Masia graduate. “About my temporal drop out in 2017, I had to go to recover from my knee surgery in Barcelona, but I returned back after 3 months to accompany the team for the ISL semifinals. And I suffered the Final that we lost against Chennaiyin in the stands of Kanteereva just like any other fan. So Club and players knew my involvement. After 5 years in India you go through many situations. I had to urgently operate my knee in Bangalore, my father passed away in 2019, many human experiences accompany a 5-year journey, and the club have been always very kind with me,” he said.
Coach Carles Cuadrat was pretty much a fan favorite throughout his tenure at Bengaluru FC having had a stellar start, contrary to how it ended. His departure from the club was a shocker for many, speaking about the same Carles said, “This kind of thing happens in football. The longer you are in a club, the closer you are to your end. We work in an industry in which people want news, new illusions, all teams want to win,”
“The 3 coaches with the most time followed in the same club in India are, in this particular order, Sergio Lobera in Goa, me with Bengaluru, and Antonio Habas with ATK Mohun Bagan, although he was in 2 different stages. Neither has served 3 full seasons in a row. Everyday in the field of football brings a lot of wear and tear, there are many difficult decisions to make and changes are normal. And that happens all over the world. FC Barcelona fired Valverde in 2020 being first in La Liga. Goa had to forgo Lobera despite of being first in the ISL. And we decided to part ways with Bengaluru being only 1 point from the playoff and the team finished 9 points away from fourth place. Management decisions must be respected and each club’s vision for its future must be respected. I think Bengaluru wanted to end an era and try to bet on young people for the future, and it seems perfect to me. But of course that takes time, and along the way you will surely not get results right away.”
Bengaluru FC have had a lot of triumphs in their heydays with Carles at the helm, many fond memories, many more awards and accolades. When asked about the same, the Spanish coach said, “Every little success is remembered. We accomplished many things in a short time. Participated in many Finals and Semifinals, at the national level and also at the Asian level. You are not always going to be able to win, but getting to those games is something very special.”
“This core of players have marked an era in Indian football, getting 3 trophies for the club (Federation Cup 2017, SuperCup 2018 and ISL 2019) and reaching a few more finals. Indeed, we were the first team to win the regular League and the Final in a single season. Only now has Mumbai City FC done the same. And there are still records that have not been broken, such as the longest streak of consecutive games won (6), games with a clean sheet (11), or games without losing at home (17), which we achieved thanks to that great complicity with the fans that we created in Kanteereva. There are small achievements that show the strength of a group. It has been criticized that most of our goals last 2 seasons came from set-pieces, but for me it is the opposite. It is a compliment. Because every corner or free kick or throw in goal showed all the coaching work behind it and how the players believed in what we were doing. When success in front of the goal in open play is not what you would like, at least the work in strategy will give you the points that you do not get for lack of fortune, quality or talent.”
Bengaluru FC barged into the Indian Super League 2019-20 as straightforward favorites having won the title a season prior. They even made to the playoffs but missed out on the Finals spot narrowly. A hard fought semi-final tussle at the VYBK against ATK saw the Blues go down, and as the ex-gaffer recalls, he mentioned, “That day there was a great atmosphere in the stadium, and it is true that the crowd in Kolkata led ATK to victory with their passion. They are to be congratulated for this. It reminded me of the previous year when our Bengaluru fans led us to a 3-0 win against Northeast United FC in the second leg of the Semifinals. We had prepared for the game against ATK very well. We wanted to catch them early on the counterattack and we did it at 0-1. But we knew it would be a long game with obstacles to overcome. We got 0-2 in a corner kick, but the linesman made a mistake when he signaled an offside from Erik, which was not the case. Narrow margins. We showed to the players videos of how his forwards fell into the box with any contact, to avoid our players being too naive, but one of our young men made a mistake when putting his leg. These things happen through inexperience. Then, with 15 minutes to go, we knew the game was going to get intense and emotional. Williams’ quality defined for them 3-1, when we had more clear chances to score 2-2 or 3-2, that would have led us to the Final. The group did a good job and we were only 1 goal away to play a 3rd consecutive ISL Final. No one has done it yet. But we must accept the result. It was a great night of football, in front of 58,000 people, and the 2 teams made more people from India love the beautiful game.”
As we were dissecting the reasons for the mutual parting, that too after a grandiose career lasting 5 years in the subcontinent. When asked about which dart exactly went off-target, Carles said, “There are different ways of looking at it. My team always competed well and achieved good results. With the lack of goal that we suffered the last 2 seasons, we won many games 1-0 or 2-1. The guys knew what they were doing and they were very competitive. 11 clean sheets in 20 games (55%) the previous year. It shows a lot of tactical work, compromise and strength. This season, the 2 strongest teams in the competition reached 10, but with more games played 23 (so 43%, quite less percentage). And when we beat Kerala 4-2 on matchday 5 last december, everyone appreciated our attacking game.”
He added, “The team was always competing for the points. Sometimes with excellence, like shows that during my time, 3-0 have been quite a common result (be it against Goa, Odisha, NorthEast, Chennaiyin or Pune). Another times it was not so brilliant in the game, but we were trying to link some new elements in defense and attack at that moment, and it takes time. In my penultimate match, we have 3 very clear chances in the 1st half against Jamshedpur but miraculously didn’t score. Situations of a free player against the goalkeeper. These things happen in football. And the next match against new current champion Mumbai City was already my last. I must accept it. The team lost 3 matches in a row, but they always fought for points. The club understood at that time that the dynamics were not adequate, but I had already lived a streak of 3 games in a row lost when Roca was coach in January 2017. And it also happened to Ashley in May 2016.”
“I will be always grateful to Bengaluru FC and Parth Jindal for the trust put on me. There are dynamics, moments, and management must decide what to do. All changes have consequences, and to part ways was a shock for everyone and perhaps for that reason unfortunately the team only managed to win 2 of the next 11 games once I was gone. We would never know what could have happened. But it is a consolidated club. BFC will fight to comeback to be at playoffs level.”
Stay tuned on IFTWC as we unravel some more insights in the Part 2 of this interview.