Welcome to our 7th edition in our series of GibLad #LlanitosAbroad, thanks for reading and following – the response has been fantastic.
This week we’re going to Kolhapur in India and speak to Joel Williams, who was the founder of 5Point4 Sports, covering local Sports news to a level that had not been undertaken before. He is now the Head Coach for the Arsenal School in SGI, Kolhapur, India.
What struck me about Joel – and left a profound impression – was that Joel has moved far from home, but taken something that is close to many of us with him. Football can bring such joy and passion to so many and if anyone could make a living, travel and chase their dreams with something they’re passionate about, then my hat is off to them.
We pick up where it all started for Joel, at home on the Rock with 5Point4 Sports and managerial football.
“5Point4 was my creation and it was possibly the hardest thing to do, but I can safely look back at the two years I had with 5Point4 and I can be proud of what I did; especially starting from nothing.”
GL: Why did you leave Gibraltar, 5point4 Sports and your football managerial career here?
Leaving Gibraltar was always part of my idea of progressing in life especially in a footballing career where opportunities are scarce in the Rock. Yes I agree that football in Gibraltar is progressing but to be frank and honest I did not want to wait for it to be at the level I needed it to be in order to progress as a coach. To put it into context, I was waiting over a year and a half to do a coaching course in Gibraltar and the Federation only had excuses and excuses to delay the course.
With this in mind and how they do things in Gibraltar I thought it was a better career move to simply leave it all behind and progress in another country where no silly excuses are made and things are run in a professional manner! The hardest thing to leave behind was my “baby” so to say. 5Point4 was my creation and it was possibly the hardest thing to do but I can safely look back at the two years I had with 5Point4 and I can be proud of what I did especially starting from nothing. I always wanted to conduct myself in an honest and direct way and I think, even though I garnered enemies along the way, I did a pretty damn good job at ruffling peoples feathers.
GL: How did you land the position in India?
I am lucky enough to have plenty of footballing contacts around the world and one of them from the Caribbean informed me that they needed a coach in India and he had highly recommended me for the job.
I remember I was sat down with Manolo “Chupete” Nunez (Manager of Gibraltar Utd) and Juanfran (Manager of College 1975) when I got the call from India. We were doing what we usually did on a Sunday afternoon and that was watch football at the Stadium so it was fitting that I got the call from my future employers doing what I love doing! I looked around at both of them actually asking myself if all this was some sort of prank but it most certainly wasn’t. “Chupete” simply looked at me and asked: “When are you packing your bags?” By the end of the week I was in London sorting out my Visa…
GL: What does your role there involve?
Basically I’m the Head Coach for the Arsenal School here in SGI, Kolhapur. My team is composed of two fellow coaches both of Indian origin who do a fantastic job and to be perfectly honest I was impressed when I first met them; the enthusiasm they have for football is fantastic and as a group we are slowly but surely spreading this love for football towards the kids.
We have over 1,000 kids per week and our sessions run from 08:50 am until 15:40 although during tournament preparations we also conduct morning sessions running from 05:30 until 07:30. Safe to say that working these hours under the Indian sun isn’t the most pleasing of things to do but to see the face of happiness these kids have during the sessions and after them just gives us all a refreshing sense of pride and satisfaction.
GL: What has been hardest thing to adjust to?
Adjusting myself to life in India has been easier than what I thought it would be. It all comes down to having an open mentality and always thinking positive. For the first 3 months here I did not receive my salary due to the whole country entering a demonetization period and even though it was tough on a personal basis I managed to pull through which only reinforced my willingness to succeed and make this dream a reality. With regards to the food issue, I have always had a soft spot for Indian Cuisine but lets just say the real deal is much better than the westernized version we get in Gibraltar.
GL: What are the most notable cultural differences?
There are plenty of cultural differences between India and Gibraltar that is for sure. For one, smoking in public is not seen as a normal thing and is widely considered a big NO-NO. Also holding hands or showing affection towards your partner in public is also a big NO-NO especially where I live in Kolhapur. In the big Cities like Mumbai and Goa it might be different but in Kolhapur these things are frowned upon.
GL: What footballing differences have you noticed between the two countries?
Football is a universal thing. All of us that have played, play or are somehow associated with Football know and understand that no matter where you are in the world if you show a ball most people will know what to do with it! India is no different and the perception we might have back home regarding Football in these parts of the World is wrong. Football is growing and the level is increasing drastically. This past year the ISL (Indian Super League) saw the likes of Diego Forlan, Florent Malouda and John Arne Riise (to name a few) don the shirts of their respective clubs whilst in the Managerial dugouts we had the likes of Gianluca Zambrotta, Marco Materazzi, Zico and Molina (Deportivo and Atletico Madrid Keeper) produce top notch entertainment week in week out. We don’t get these names coming into Gibraltarian Football to be honest so one must argue the point that Indian Football is perhaps a tad above what Gibraltarian Football is currently in. Perhaps not in the level of football or playing but most certainly behind the scenes with how everything is developing ranging from media coverage for the games to the marketing Indian Football is developing. Just to add that the FIFA U17 World Cup will be hosted this year in India so most certainly they have had to step up their Footballing presence in the world scene. It is an exciting country to be in especially in Footballing terms.
GL: Do think football would ever catch up to Cricket as the countries national sport in India?
Cricket is the mother sport here in India and tbh why wouldn’t it be; India have a cracking team, they have just beaten England 4-0 in India and have demolished sides recently so the crowds flock to the games. The IPL (Indian Premier League) is the biggest Cricket League in the World and moves plenty of bucks with gates soaring year after year. It’s hard to fathom an India where Cricket is NOT the main sport and to be honest I doubt Football will ever be as popular or loved as cricket is in this part of the world. Perhaps one day it will eclipse it, but for now Cricket reigns supreme…
GL: What is the best thing about being a GibLad/Llanito abroad?
There are plenty of good things being a Llanito Abroad with the best thing telling people over here where I’m from and what Gibraltar is all about. Some know Gibraltar due to their years in the Merchant Navy etc and my coaches most certainly know where Gibraltar is after constant corrections day after day. Since I speak Spanish they thought at first I was Spanish but ever since that first error from their part (we have since then made peace LOL) they have actually understood the concept of Gibraltarian and what Gibraltar is.
GL: What has been your proudest achievement since your move?
My proudest moment? Can I just say that absolutely everything I’m living currently here in India is a proud moment for me? There are no moments right now that stand out more than the other.
We managed to reach the Final of an U12 National Tournament which was held in Bangalore which we unfortunately lost on penalties. Still I was extremely proud of the kids and the coaches involved since it was the first ever taste of competitive football for them. On another note, I also was invited to be the Chief Speaker at the Indian National Conference For Sport which was held in Kolhapur. That was a truly humbling moment for me to be able to share my views and knowledge with other members of the National Sports Scene. Safe to say networking is of utmost importance and it is at events like these where u make the necessary contacts to continue progressing up the ladder of success.
GL: What are you goals for the year?
To continue learning and developing myself as a Coach and Manager is the main aim of the year. My Visa runs out in October although I am calm and assured that it will be renewed again if I wish to continue living here. To be frank I want to climb the Indian Footballing Pyramid, do my Football Licenses here and continue learning from seasoned professionals. Football is not just a European thing anymore and here in India it is the perfect climate for footballing development at the present moment in time. I know that if I continue learning and progressing it will only be a question of WHEN not IF I move up that ladder of success.
GL: Do you see yourself staying there, or eventually coming back?
I see myself here in India for some period of time. Gibraltar like I have always said is home for me but sometimes one must leave home in order to mature and grow, firstly as a person and then as a professional. This is exactly what I striving to achieve here in India and for the foreseeable future I plan on staying put chasing my dreams, even if it means standing under the sweltering Indian sun for 7-8 hours a day! If I do return to Gibraltar it’s because the GFA have called me and need me to take Gibraltar to the World Cup Finals.
GL: What would you say to any GibLads/Llanitos who are thinking of making a move abroad to travel or chase a dream or experience something new?
I encourage each and every single person who CAN actually do this and leave the bubble that is Gibraltar to give it a shot. You will be surprised by how adaptable and strong willed we Gibraltarians are. We are certainly a community who has weathered storm after storm, siege after siege… It will also give u a massive understanding on how the Big World works and will make you appreciate the beautiful community we have. If you have a dream, just like I did, pursue it no matter what! I always have one of my friends words in my head, something which has shaped me completely: “El Limite lo pones tu, acuerdate…”
@Reader: Leave comments below for any questions or thoughts you have!
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