In The Spotlight – a new and in-depth look at some of the managers and their teams from the HTUM-federation.
The Zabardust – India’s Langer House – proved to be unstoppable the last two seasons as the team moved from Division III to the I-League, India’s top division. The back-to-back promotion did not pass by unnoticed among HTUM fed-members and Langer House’s manager, AzeemClark, was voted twice in a row ‘manager of the season’ in the federation. But who is the man behind the team’s rise to glory? The HTUM-fed blog-reporter met up with Azeem in Hyderabad, India.
Azeem, first of all I would like to thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the HTUM fed-blog and to congratulate you on being voted ‘manager of the season’ the last two seasons. I’m sure our readers would like to know a bit more about you, outside of HT.
“Thank You. I am 23 years old and a commerce student. I just finished my Bachelors and now I am trying for Masters. I lived most of my life in Saudi Arabia who are football crazy people and there is where I got interested in football as a kid. I was good at football but never took it seriously because my first love is motor racing. I am a big fan of Formula 1 and have been watching it since the days of Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, Eddie Irvine, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, etc. I miss the good old days of F1. So as a kid I wanted to be racing driver but your dreams do not always come true”.
You currently live in Hyderabad, India. Is there anything particular about the region, something you would recommend people to see/visit? What would you recommend people to eat and drink when visiting Hyderabad?
“Hyderabad is one of the fastest developing first-tier cities in India and the most important city for IT, education, pharmaceutics, etc. If you are a tourist then Hyderabad is one of the most visited places in India because of its vast history, architecture and mainly because it is on the cross roads between North and South India, which means you will encounter the mixed cultures of North India and South India here. Telugu and Urdu are the main languages in the city. I speak only Urdu but am trying to learn Telugu, which is a tricky language for me because it’s completely different from Urdu.
Hyderabad is world famous for being the ‘City of Pearls’ and was once the main producer of diamonds. Langer House’ stadium (Wittelsbacher Klasse) is named after a diamond found in Golconda, the neighbouring suburb to Langer House. Golconda is also where my brother’s team is based – FC Golconda (what he does with his team is a different matter). If I would start writing which places to visit it would take a long time, but the main things to do are visit Charminar and do some shopping at the Laad Baazar – taking good care of your belongings 😉
When it comes to food and hospitality, there is no competing Hyderabad. It is part of our culture that ‘Guests are next to God’ and it’s very important that what we prepare to eat is impressive and high quality. It represents a person’s status so everyone wants to do their best. Everyone in Hyderabad is a food lover and a lot of importance is given on what and how we eat. You eat with your hand not with any utensils like a spoon, fork, etc. It is part of the etiquette and in Hyderabad etiquette and table manners are very important. You might be surprised listening to all these things but this is Hyderabad and here food is a gift from god and you have to respect it. What things to eat? Specialities are Hyderabadi Biryani – a must – Chicken Curry, Daal Makhni, Butter Chicken, Mysore Bhajia, Paratha, etc. Drinks are Irani Tea, Lassi and Falsa. You’ll have fun. That’s for sure”.
How long have you been playing HT and what brought you to play Hattrick?
“I have been playing HT for two and half years. I heard about the game in another management game in 2008 but didn’t make the effort to sign up immediately and start playing. I think I have done well in these two and a half years of playing. Even though India is a small HT country it takes a lot of effort, time, thinking, planning, understanding and luck to get to the top league from Division IV in only seven full seasons”.
You won the HTUM-fed award ‘Manager of the Season’ the last two seasons. Did you expect at least one of the trophies?
“My award was such an honour keeping in mind that the voting was done by fed-members and that they voted me for the second consecutive time. It is a big encouragement that the whole group is carrying into new season. Yes, we were expecting at least one trophy because the seasons we had were incredible”.
Why do you think members picked you? Why do you think they consider you such a successful manager?
“HTU Managers members are a bunch of closely knit managers who are aware of what is happening in each others team – we can thank our respective blogs for that. It is why we are all together. We have been chatting, discussing, helping, sharing, etc. for almost a year now. We know all of us are playing this game to climb the ladder. Of course in India it is easier to climb the ladder, but still doing it in such a short space of time and beating some big guns to it, was maybe what impressed most”.
You promoted from Division III to India’s top league in a matter of two seasons. What do you consider to be the secret behind the success of the Zabardust in recent seasons?
“The secret is that we didn’t keep any money in our accounts for very long. The moment we had enough money to invest in a particular type of player, we immediately went for it. Looking at our recruitment of the last two seasons, we have some big signings. We were criticised for creating a big transfer difference in our transfer history. This isn’t a good sight for us, but that difference is because of my mistakes in my early HT life”.
Did you have a particular financial strategy for raising the money to buy the players you needed?
“No. There is no particular financial strategy. Playing matches every week allows us to see the weaknesses of the team – which part of the team needs to be upgraded – and thus we get the upgrades as per the requirement and at a good price. Hence we usually don’t keep money in the account. We are still a team that largely depends on sponsors and the income from the matches mainly. I would like to thank Mentor C (VFJ, Denmark) for his advice two seasons ago, which proved to be crucial. He was the one because of whom I bought Ibarra, Vlasenko and also Jenayah (even though he told me to buy a quick winger). They have been amazing since joining Langer House”.
Surely the successful run of Langer House is not only due to an aggressive transfer policy? What other aspects are in your view responsible for the team’s rise through the divisions?
“Indeed we are not a team that heavily depends on money to buy success. We intend to create great players. The fact that most of starting eleven are from our academy is a source of great pride for Langer House. The thing of concentrating on my youth academy crossed my mind in my second full season when I was planning to make some money. That is when I thought I should try academy players even if I don’t succeed. I didn’t raise much money, but I did get success on the pitch. The Yuva Academy created many champions for Langer House and is developing more as we speak. Our academy has played a huge part in our success, creating players like Vihar, Ariya, Nandini, Kazmi and of course Venkat Variar – voted ‘U19-talent of the season’ (GS 49) in the HTUM fed awards”.
You are playing the I-League for the very first time – how do you see the team’s chances in the first season? What do you think are its strong and weak points?
“I will be over the moon with a mid-table finish. We will have to fight a lot in the relegation battle. Langer House is clearly the least known team in the series at the moment because we moved from division III to the I-League in just two seasons. With me being non-active in the Indian forum, it also means our rivals might not have heard much about us – so we can be the ‘unknown’ team. Other than that our overall chances are looking a bit bad unless we get a major recruitment in the coming weeks, because our midfield is poor – very poor in fact. If we can put together a good midfield then we have chance to stay up or even fight for a spot in the top four since our defence and attack is not bad at all”.
What are your plans for Langer House in the long run? What would you still like to achieve with your team?
“Langer House is a club with big ambitions. Langer House wants to be a big club winning big trophies, national cups, playing the HT-Masters, etc. Even this season we are not here to making up the numbers in I-League – we are here to stay and will fight for it. Looking at the situation we have to do a lot this season but even if we go down, we’ll be back sooner than later to compete for the biggest trophy in India.
One thing is for sure. We are seriously looking to become the biggest club from India. There is no laughing or joking here. All this success of past two seasons has taught me a lot. I hope I can do well in achieving the big dreams of the club.”
Thanks for talking to us and best of luck to the Zabardust – a.k.a. Langer House – in the I-League!