Juan Maria Cruz Arias, who has been a goalkeeping coach for over a decade now, has served clubs in Spain, Morocco, and Iran. In an interview with IFTWC, Juan talked about his thoughts on the Indian Super League (ISL), head coach Sergio Lobera, and ex-goalkeeper Amrinder Singh.
The Spaniard was pretty impressed by India as a footballing nation but said, “The league is well organized, perhaps short and with a lot of time between the end of the league and the start of the league. This is very detrimental to the Indian players, who have a lot of downtimes. I think India, in a few years, will produce interesting players who can play in foreign leagues.”
“I had a wonderful experience, and it was very important to get the results so quickly. It is not easy to arrive and win titles. I am very proud to have helped to achieve the goals set from the beginning.” Juan responded when asked about his experience with the Islanders, winning the title in his first-ever season in charge in the Indian Super League (ISL).
Juanma, who has previously worked with current Mumbai City FC Head coach Sergio Lobera for a season in Morocco, had a wonderful time working with Lobera and praised the Spaniard. “He transmits serenity, confidence and knows at all times what both the club and the players need. He knows how to manage all situations successfully at all times. As for the goalkeeper, he gives all the responsibilities to me, and he likes the goalkeeper to be tactically intelligent and have a good way of handling the ball. Of course, what a goalkeeper has to do is first and foremost to avoid goal situations.”
“I worked with him in 2014, as all football evolves and we all improve day by day. Sergio Lobera today is a much better coach because he has more experience now.” He further added talking about the head coach.
The Islanders had conceded 29 goals in the 2019-20 season compared to 18 in the previous title-winning season. It is not only the goalkeeper who plays a part but also the defenders, midfielders, attackers, and coaching staff that put in efforts day-in and day-out. When asked what goes behind the scenes in improving as a team, he provided a glimpse of the process.
“When you think you’re able to achieve your goals, it is because you value that the effort, talent you’re going to invest is enough resources to reach the goal. To lead is to assume responsibilities and delegate them; the principal coach gives you this possibility, then you set the most appropriate objectives for the project and then agree with it.
Put talent at the service of your goalkeepers, deliver doses of passion and optimism. Encourage your goalkeepers to look for new solutions and create the right conditions for that to happen on a regular basis. Convince them that the strength of the group and the project is above personal goals and that it will be the group that will help you and provide the achievement of your own.”
“To convince are necessary good arguments, knowledge, and experience, knowing how to assume something is unknown. To make yourself heard, you have to practice empathy, know their needs and inadequacies and satisfy them. We must motivate with an analysis of reality and an optimistic view of the future. Being brave and providing solutions with operational tools to put the goalkeeper in action,” He added.
Juan also shared his opinion on ex-Mumbai City FC goalkeeper Amrinder Singh.
“Before coming here, I watched all of Amrinder’s games over the last few seasons, and we made a program to improve as quickly as possible all those aspects of the game where he was struggling. This season we saw a different Amrinder, more solid, knowing at all times how to act in the situations that arose in the match and that we had previously worked on in training.”
When asked what sets Amrinder apart from the others and how difficult it will be to replace him, he said, “The difference is his desire to improve day by day to be the best. We are studying the best solution for our style of play. However, we already have two excellent goalkeepers in Phurba and Vikram who have worked with me before and know the requirements we need.”
When asked what advice he would give to young up-and-coming goalkeepers, Juan answered, “First of all, to strive and work hard to achieve their goals. Set goals that are real and achievable. Being a professional in any sport is within reach of very few people. Be tactically intelligent and anticipate actions. Make decisions, and interpret them with clarity of thought. Many of the goalkeeper coaches we currently work in clubs were players before. Each goalkeeper has a different personality and motivation. Don’t copy what worked for them. Try to know what your group needs, and adapt to what motivates you.”
Talking about advice, he further added, “Criticism and error are something you have to know going to happen. You have to live with it, overcome adversity immediately. I don’t know of a single goalkeeper in the world who hasn’t made a mistake.”
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