Newly appointed Warriors coach KARIM BENCHERIFA has made an instant impact, after guiding his team to a 2-0 win over Hougang in his first match in charge on Monday. He developed a tremendous reputation in India, and here he tells DAVID LEE how he intends to plot more joy for the most successful club in the history of the S.League.
After almost 10 years in India, why have you decided to come back to the S.League? And why Warriors FC?
KARIM BENCHERIFA: I have never lost touch with Singapore or football here. I visit almost on a monthly basis and I go to stadiums to watch S.League matches.
Though I was very comfortable in India as I enjoyed lot of success there, I had to come back to be with my kids - an eight-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl - who are Singapore citizens and studying here, so Singapore is also home for me.
Why Warriors FC? The simple answer is that we are one of the best clubs, if not the best, in Singapore
The players you have inherited have had a good relationship with previous coach Alex Weaver and they won the S.League title together. What have you told them?
I am aware of the good work that Alex did here and I want to carry on from here and achieve good things at this prestigious club. It's not easy to take over a club in mid-season, and it's even harder when it's near the end of the season, but I'm quite lucky because there is very good unity, professionalism and team spirit in the squad and this creates a healthy atmosphere.
What is your coaching philosophy and what can we expect from your team for the rest of the season and in 2016?
My coaching philosophy is simple - a football team need four pillars to perform consistently.
They are quality players, high level of fitness, a good game plan that suits the players and a healthy team spirit.
To perform consistently throughout the season, it is not enough even to have three out of the four pillars.
My daily job is to try and improve each one of the principles mentioned above. And if we manage to make use of the four pillars in each game, then you can expect good surprises from us.
The Warriors are almost certainly out of this year's title race. How can the club win it back next season?
We are not thinking about the title right now. We just have to focus on each game without being distracted and try our best and let's see how far we can go.
As for next season, I don't think it's the right time to think about it as we still have matches to play this season.
Since your time at Tanjong Pagar United and Woodlands Wellington, you have earned a reputation for being a coach who is able to turn around fortunes of under-performing clubs. Can you share with us some of these results, including those in India, and tell us how you do it?
I joined Floriana FC in Malta in 2001 when they were doing badly halfway into the season. We then won seven games in a row, played and won the Centenary Cup final.
My first taste of the S.League was with Tanjong Pagar in 2004, who lost all the 11 games they played under two previous coaches. I took the team on two unbeaten runs and was nominated for Coach of the Year.
The following year, I joined Woodlands after they won only once in five games and we went on a 14-game unbeaten streak right away. We played in the Singapore Cup final and fought for the league title until the last game. Until now, it is still the best season in the club's history.
I also had success in India with Mohun Bagan in 2008. For almost a decade they didn't win anything, but I came in and we won three trophies, finished second in the league and played in the AFC Cup. I was also voted Coach of the Year by the media.
With Salgaocar, they had not won the I-League for 12 years. I took over in 2010 with the team second from bottom. We prevented relegation and won the league and cup double the following season and played in the AFC Cup.
Last year, I was in charge of Pune, who were a young team that had previously never played in a final in their history, and we made it to the Durand Cup and King's Cup (Bhutan) final.
There are some achievements which I am very proud of, but a lot of credit must go to all those players who were involved in the clubs I have coached.
Like I said, it wasn't just about me. To succeed, we need quality players, a high level of fitness, a good game plan that suits the players and healthy team spirit.
This article was first published on Oct 28, 2015.
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