Sixty-three-year old Thomas Dennerby from Sweden is a cheerful person, whose talents have allowed him to perform many roles, including that of a distinguished midfielder, a competent police officer and even a television personality. Above all, however, he remains a top-class coach, who did wonders with his wards, given any opportunity.
Dennerby has coached the Senior Women’s Team and the U-17 Women’s Team in the past, is back after the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. Now back at the helm of the Senior National Team after 10 months, the Swede is training the players as they prepare for the AFC Olympic Qualifiers Round 1.
The amiable personality that he is, Dennerby spoke at length to AIFF Media and shared his thoughts on a number of topics about his team, the preparations, the players, and their way forward.
You are back at the senior national camp after almost a year. Your thoughts on it?
It’s a really good feeling. I’m happy to see the girls again. It’s been a long time since I had the chance to train the seniors. It was in March 2022 when we went to Jordan, to play a couple of games, and now I am back at work with the girls again, it’s amazing.
The team here is a combination of old and new faces. How do you feel about it?
Of course, as a coach, you always want to have the best players around, because that is the best way to play the games successfully, or to achieve success in tournaments. We’re still missing some players who are not here yet – like Manisha, Soumya, and Indumathi, who will be joining us soon. But of course, it’s a privilege to have the best players around.
You and Maymol Rocky are currently in charge of both teams. How is that working for you?
It’s good because both Maymol and I were closely following both the teams in training. So, you have the chance to compare the performances of the girls all the time and go to the training ground with fresh ideas. Usually, U-20 training sessions were held before noon, and seniors came in during the afternoon. We have the opportunity to judge both teams and see if the U-20 girls are able to close the gap.
Many of the U-20 girls have earned the experience of playing in the U-17 Women’s World Cup under you. What changes have you observed in them?
From what I’ve seen so far in training, I think they are honestly taking another step forward. That comes from the experience of the U-17 World Cup. Even if the World Cup campaign was not a success for us in terms of results, we gained considerably in terms of experience and learning by playing at the highest level. My feeling is that the girls look much more comfortable now and are not as stressed as they used to be before when they played big tournaments. It is of great help to Indian Football.
Vision 2047 has been recently launched and it attaches lots of importance to women’s football. What do you feel about the project?
Having a long-term plan is, of course, essential, and following through on that plan is the next step. And for these young girls, we must ensure that there are pathways for them to keep pushing forward. If all these things come together and we can ensure that players are practicing all year round, then, like I said before, I know that India can be a team who will play in the World Cup. We have talented players, no doubt, but we need to take care of them. And we need to keep on working very hard for 11 months a year. We can rest a little bit, maybe two times, two weeks each, but for the rest of the time we need to play football and play it professionally.
What is your realistic target for the upcoming Olympic Qualifiers in April?
We need to maintain the standard of the Indian team and keep playing the style of football that we want to. Personally, it would be a huge disappointment to me if we fail to handle the situations when we play teams like Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan. So hopefully, we will come out of the first round with a good result and then move forward to the second. We should win the group.
The U-20 team is travelling to Bangladesh today to play the SAFF U-20. Your message to the girls?
Keep working hard, because you all are talented. You’re really a bunch of good footballers — all of you. It’s totally up to you how far you want to go with your football career. But the harder you work, the better career you will have; there is no shortcut. You have to do it the hard way.
The success of the Indian Women’s Team is high on the Federation’s list of priorities, and as per the objectives in Vision 2047, they have begun the process of maximising the International windows in order for our players to play more competitive matches. The Senior and U-20 Women’s National Teams are currently in camp in Chennai, where AIFF Media is also present, delivering a series of stories about the best women footballers from our land.