Fabio Nunes Ferreira – Our mission is to develop Indian Football

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Fabio Nunes Ferreira
Fabio Nunes Ferreira

Sreenidi Deccan FC, previously known as Sreenidhi FC, started their Indian Football journey differently than most other ISL clubs. The club started an academy in Hyderabad in 2015, intending to revive the lost glory of the city of pearls. They were successful in their bid to enter this season’s I-League tournament and look all set to make a strong push for the coveted trophy.

Sreenidi Deccan FC always had the intention of stepping into professional leagues in the country. But the club knew that in order to assist Indian Football development, they would have to create a world-class academy, develop players from a young age and get them to the highest levels of the game, and this is what they did in 2015. To know more about SDFC and their vision, IFTWC headed over to their football village in Hyderabad and had an exclusive chat with Sreenidi’s Technical Director, Fabio Nunes Ferreira.

Fabio Nunes Ferreira - Our mission is to develop Indian Football Management and Coach Fernando
From left to right: Fernando Varela Head Coach, Chairman Dr K. T. Mahhe, Executive Director Mr Abhijit Rao and Technical Director Fabio Ferreira.

Fabio Nunes Ferreira on whether Sreenidi has the upper hand in achieving their long term goals as they have put quality time on grassroots development:

“SDFC started in 2015, and it was in 2019 that the owners decided to take it to the next level. The vision of the owners was to develop football players on a professional level and a plan was designed to support the vision. Developing a football player is a long term process and it cannot happen in 2-3 years, so for the process to happen properly, you need strong foundations, and our priority was to build proper foundations.”

“Now to have proper foundations, you need to establish grassroots programs, youth development programs, coaching education, you need qualified staff and world-class facilities. This is what we have done in the past years. We have set up world-class facilities and have run many programs for the same.”

“We have now taken it to the next level and have started a residential academy. Now children who are five years old can come here and leave when they become 18 years old. All of this was possible only with the work of the people who are part of the club, with other Sreenidhi organizations and the owners’ commitment to Indian Football.”

Fabio Nunes Ferreira - Our mission is to develop Indian Football Dorm outside area 04 1
SDFC’s Residential Academy Dorm.

“Sreenidi is not only going to focus on grooming players, but we are also going to focus on referee education and coaching education. We have already conducted a 5 or 6 days seminar for the Telangana referees a few months ago, with all the hospitality being free.”

“A senior team in I-League was the last step of our plans and the timeline for it to happen was after we have established an academy and ran a few grassroots programs.”

Fabio on their project of developing footballers in India, Futsal team and the intention of starting a women’s team:

“SDFC’s project is to take Indian Football to the next level. We have run multiple programs like programs for kids from 5 to 11 years old and youth development programs for kids from 12 to 18 years old. We have also done an Elite Development program, we have conducted trials, and offered 75 full scholarships including a residential stay for the Elite Development program.”

“Regarding women’s football, it is in the plans of the club, but we are doing everything at a steady pace and in an organized way, it will be done once the other foundations of the club will be fully established and running properly.”

“Futsal is very different from football. It needs very distinguished facilities compared to football, so it is not in the plans of the club right now, but in the future, we might consider it too.”

Fabio on potential partnerships to improve grassroots and fan engagement:

“Yes, we have been planning for partnerships, and have already identified a few possible ones. We are assessing 2 to 3 partnerships, our priority with the partnerships will be to get the young Indian players and coaches to go abroad alongside fan engagement. The aim will be to build a bridge between India and Europe, we are not just looking for a logo on our social media handles.”

Fabio on the appointment of Fernando Santiago Valera as their head coach and signings of foreign players:

“We assessed a few profiles, and we understood that coach Varela fills all the needs perfectly. With his knowledge of the league, the players, the way he understands the game, his technical knowledge, his belief and his enthusiasm in the project and vision is the reason why we got him as our head coach.”

“This season, we are planning on getting 3 foreign players. Some of the foreign players will be I-League experienced players who were top performers previously. We have also signed another foreign player from South America with no I-League experience, but he won the Copa Libertadores in 2006. The foreign players we have signed will help the Indian footballers to grow.”

Fabio on the challenges of building a professional club right from scratch and assembling a competitive squad:

“When we took up the challenge of getting into I-League, we knew what we were getting into, we knew we would face a few challenges since we were building the team from the scratch and it was not easy. We started our scouting. Coach Fernando already had a list of players whom he wanted on the team.”

Fabio Nunes Ferreira - Our mission is to develop Indian Football SDFC ground 2
11 a side Astroturf of FIFA Pro quality.

“In terms of staff, we also knew what roles were required, and also the roles of the players we needed in the squad. We had a proper plan on every role we required to run the club for the season.”

Fabio on the youth academy trials that Sreenidi Deccan FC had conducted:

Sreenidi Deccan FC conducted trials in the Telugu states which were planned before the second wave of the COVID-19 hit the country.

“The trials we have done were Youth Academy trials, we have done trials more than once in the academy, we got 600 people for the trials, it was a 5-6 days trials. It showed us that people are passionate about football in this state.”

“We had also done trials in Punjab before the second wave of COVID-19, then later we had to stop the trials due to the second wave of COVID-19. We had planned for trials in other states like Kerala, Goa, and states from the North East.”

“We are trying to create a good football ecosystem in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. As you can see, the ecosystem here is different than the ecosystem in Goa and Kerala, so we are trying to change it.”

Sreenidi Deccan FC was previously known as Sreenidhi FC. Fabio on the reason behind changing the club’s name:

“As a club, it is important to connect with the vision of the people where we have established our base. Deccan region connects multiple states, so the word Deccan covers multiple communities.”

“When the bid was available, there were multiple rules for applying. There was no chance to apply from Hyderabad, so we thought to take up the challenge to have our base in Vizag.”

“For a football ecosystem to be built, youth development, grassroots program, infrastructure, coach and referee development is important. Our focus is on players, coach and referee development, which will help in creating a football ecosystem in the Telugu states.”

Sreenidi Deccan had planned a few fan engagement activities but with the league set to take place in Kolkata in a bio-bubble, Fabio tells us about the halted plans:

“We planned a few initiatives but with the league being held in Kolkata this season and with the present COVID-19 scenarios, it will be hard to conduct meet and greets and many other engagement activities that were planned. We are looking to have a few online activities once the players get to Hyderabad and we start the pre-season.”

Fabio on their home base and opportunity for local players in the first team:

“Our focus now is Vizag, we have our center of excellence in Hyderabad and our home base will be in Vizag.”

Hyderabad has never seen a Telugu player playing in a top tier league in the 21st century. When asked about the possibility of local players playing in the first team, the Technical Director said, “Yes, we will be having a few local players in the first team but at the end of the day it depends on the player’s performance and also whether the player can please the coach.”

Fabio on the financial sustainability of the club and the stadium in Vizag:

“We are working on the sponsorship deals that we have been exploring. In the future, once we play our games in Vizag, if we get 10 thousand people per game, then we can self sustain financially.”

“The stadium only needs a change in the pitch, everything else is fine with it.”

With both the Telugu states now having their own professional football clubs, Fabio Ferreira tells us about the rivalry between the clubs and when fans can witness a match between Sreenidi Deccan FC and Hyderabad FC:

“Inside the ground, we are opponents but outside the ground, we are working on a greater cause to take Indian football forward. It is difficult for one club alone to help Indian Football grow, so we are not rivals. We are two organizations working on improving Indian Football.”

It is not possible to play a friendly match any time soon in front of the fans because of the COVID-19 situation and also as the schedules of our leagues are different – we have to play in Kolkata and Hyderabad FC will be playing in Goa.”

“Let’s hope everything goes all right next season, so we can play a friendly game in front of the fans.”

Sreenidi has put together a fine squad with a mix of youth and experience. SDFC’s technical director, Fabio Nunes Ferreira reflects on the objectives this season:

Fabio Nunes Ferreira
SDFC’s youth team.

“When we started, we planned on having a competitive team. We joined I-League, not just for the namesake of joining the league, we wanted to get a team which can compete, make our fans proud and create a good image.”

“In terms of the table, the objective will be to fight for the first place in the table. We will be going for every game with the mentality of winning and securing 3 points.”

With one of the finest facilities in the country, Sreenidi Deccan FC might be ready to take up a bigger challenge. Fabio on the possible plans to join ISL:

“Once the promotion & relegation system is in place, we will be aiming for the ISL on a merit basis. Once our project is solid and consolidated, then maybe we will be ready for the next step. With the facilities we have over here, we will be, of course, aiming for ISL but it will be only when the promotion & relegation system will be placed.”

Sreenidji Deccan FC is on a mission to build a wonderful football ecosystem in Hyderabad, trying to revive the lost glory of the city of the pearls. We wish Sreenidi Deccan FC all the very best for their debut I-League season and their journey in taking football to the next level in the Telugu states!

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