Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A QUICK WORD WITH....MUNAF ABHRAM



FC LEYTONSTONE have had an amazing debut season in the South Essex Sunday League as they won the Premier Division title under the guidance of Chairman/Manager Munaf Abhram. The Cold End caught up with Munaf to get his thoughts on the season and football in general.


SOUTH ESSEX SUNDAY LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION 2013/14

POSTEAMPWDLGFGAGDPTS
1. FC LEYTONSTONE 22 14 4 4 70 52 +18 46
2. LONDON APSA 22 14 2 6 70 31 +39 44
3. LONDON HAMMERS 22 13 4 5 72 46 +26 43
4. WALTHAM ATHLETIC 20 10 5 5 55 53 +2 35
5. PLAISTOW 22 9 8 5 28 26 +2 35
6. RENAISSANCE SENIORS 22 8 6 8 45 48 -3 30
7.  VALLEY PARK 22 9 2 11 54 54 0 29
8. WALTHAMSTOW RED STAR 21 9 2 10 40 43 -3 29
9. HORSE AND WELLS 21 8 3 10 47 52 -5 27
10. LF OLYMPICO 21 7 4 10 50 61 -11 25
11. AC MANOR PARK 22 5 6 11 38 53 -15 21
12. AC MILANO 22 0 3 19 20 68 -48 3


WHAT IS YOU FOOTBALL HISTORY/EXPERIENCE?
I started out as a player for London Bari in 1990 and eventually switched to management. I then set up FC Leytonstone in 2003 working as a youth team coach and completed my FA coaching badges. I wanted to set up a structure for the youth within my community where I was brought up in an organised manner thus preventing them from being lured by the street life. I felt it was imperative to give them something to look forward to and somewhere they can channel their energy in the correct manner.
(As the FC Leytonstone website states the club was formed to bring together youngsters within the local community and provide them with a platform to express their footballing talents.)

HOW HAS YOUR DEBUT SEASON BEEN IN THE SOUTH ESSEX SUNDAY LEAGUE?
After Last season’s success in winning the Asian Champions Cup at Loftus Road we were all looking forward to the new season in the Premier Division of South Essex Sunday League. It was a real honour for us that the league recognised our ability and talent giving us the opportunity to play in the premier division as some other well established teams have been members of the league for four or five seasons and are still in Division One. We knew it wouldn’t be easy but relished the challenge, knowing full well that we would be facing some great teams with some players who compete at semi-pro level on Saturdays. We were in poll position by the end of December and never looked back, clinching the title in April against AC Milano with one game to spare. It was truly a great achievement to win the championship in our debut season as in the league's history this has never been achieved by any other club.

WHERE DO YOU SEE FC LEYTONSTONE IN FIVE YEARS TIME?
It would be great to see the club progress to onto one of the Saturday Essex Leagues. I'm confident my players have the talent and ability to do so. The club has been very successful on the pitch over the last decade and much more importantly successful off the pitch, attracting two hundred players over five separate age groups. I hope to see FC Leytonstone ranked top of the league for many years to come and I would love it if some of my players get the opportunity to further their career higher up the football ladder.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PLAYERS WHO HAVE POTENTIAL TO PLAY AT A HIGHER LEVEL?
With regards to players with potential it would be difficult to narrow it down to one or two as we have only lost three games all season. In order to maintain continuity throughout the season, the whole team had to chip in, especially when the strikers were having a hard time. Bradley Williams, Zulqi Khan, Justin Hountkapin, Sergio Garcia, Fesar Rafiq, Daniel Owusu, Ahmed Faisal, Levi Fletcher, Imran Patel, Ayaaz Alam, Micah Stenett, Kahit Raouf , Saad Wadia, Asif Malik, Obi Ekochu, Kash Shabbir and Dawid Opkara all managed to get their names on the score sheet in this campaign. The squad has an average age of only 19 and we set a new league record for most different goal-scorers in one season. 

WHO ARE FC LEYTONSTONE'S MAIN RIVALS?
My principal from day one has always been never underestimate any team and not to be over confident. Treat every team as a rival team as its 11 v 11 in every game. It's important to stick to the game plan and execute it in every match.

MANY OF YOUR PLAYERS COME FROM THE STRONG ASIAN COMMUNITY IN EAST LONDON.
WHY IS IT ONLY A FEW ASIAN PLAYERS HAVE MADE IT THROUGH TO FOOTBALL LEAGUE CLUBS AND WHAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION?
More focus should be placed on developing young Asian talent. Focus also needs to come from, not just the local community and football clubs, but also the families. From my experience, being a son of migrant workers, it was more important for them that I have a successful education rather than play football. However, the thinking has changed and the now the Asian community is full of  support and encouragement for the children to pursue their goals and dreams. No doubt the talent is there, and I am very confident that within the next five years we will be seeing a lot of young Asian footballers playing at the highest level. I believe the best way talent will be recognised is for the Asian kids to play in a good standard league where scouts can spot them.

WHO IS THE BEST TEAM FC LEYTONSTONE HAVE PLAYED THIS SEASON?
Most of the teams we have played this season have been great teams, but the only two that I can highlight simply for the reason that they beat us were London Hammers & London APSA.

WHAT PREMIER LEAGUE MANAGER WOULD YOUR PLAYERS DESCRIBED YOU AS?
I think if they had to compare me with a manager it would have to be Jose Mourinho, (Because of the grey hair… Lol!!) not because of my attitude and arrogance but for simply getting them to play good standard football and making each player realise how important they are in being part of this great club. This is probably why FC Leytonstone's most striking feature is the family feel to the club. Whilst many other clubs locally have formed and since folded we have continued to grow. The unique aspect of this club has been that it has maintained its core set of players over the last ten years. The current first team, having started at ten years of age, are now standard bearers for the club, mentoring and instilling the core principles of the club which are respect, attitude and determination within the new younger players. 

HOW WOULD YOU IMPROVE THE SOUTH ESSEX SUNDAY LEAGUE?
It's a great league with some impressive teams and with an excellent management committee. It's structure and discipline standards have been exemplary. If I had to change anything this would not only be for the South Essex League but for most Sunday Leagues, is an incentive giving teams (if they want it) a chance to play for promotion into a Saturday league. This can only be achieved with liaising with the London FA as I feel the current structure is somewhat unfair. I be FC Leytonstone have the ability and talent to play at a higher level of football but our structure doesn’t match with the criteria the London FA currently enforce. I think the rules need some updating and hopefully then you will see some real talent from the grass roots of football moving onwards and upwards. 


Thanks to Munaf for taking the time to answer the questions. The Cold End wishes him and his club the very best of luck for the 2013/14 season. They play their home games at The Leyton Youth Centre on Crawley Road, E10 just off of the High Road, Leyton. If your a local Leytonstone/Leyton resident why not take a Sunday morning stroll down to watch your local side next season?

You can follow FC LEYTONSTONE on twitter - here
Here is a link to FC LEYTONSTONE's website - LINK
Here is a link to the South Essex Sunday League's website - LINK

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