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Indian women boxers get first foreign coach

In a bid to make up for the past four years Indian boxing has spent in the wilderness, the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) has decided to bring on board foreign coaches for both women and youth women boxers for the first time.

France's Stephane Cottalorda, who has formerly worked alongside both the Swedish and Argentinian national teams, is set to take charge of the women's team, while Italy's Raffaele Bergamasco has been roped in for the youth women boxers.

Explaining the rationale behind the decision, BFI general secretary Jay Kowli said, "We are ambitiously working towards bringing about a solid change in Indian boxing. It has to begin with strengthening our coaching system with minds who've worked at the highest level of the sport. This decision was primarily taken because Indian boxing has missed out on a lot in the last four years and we need some foreign assistance to catch up."

Ending four years of administrative logjam, the International Boxing Association (AIBA) granted the BFI full membership, to mark its return into the international fold, last year following elections in September. Drawing up a four-year calendar and setting up academies across eight zones in the country finds primacy among the BFI's future goals.

Besides being an experienced coach for women boxers in France which earned him a three-star rating from AIBA, Cottalorda has also been a certified coach in the AIBA Pro-Boxing and the World Series of Boxing. It will be only the second time that India will have a professional boxing coach in its ranks after Joe Clough was brought in for 'Mumbai Fighters', the Indian franchise for the World Boxing Series in 2012.

Bergamasco has worked with Italian boxers - men and women - at both the senior and youth level. Both coaches have been set a target of producing good results at the Commonwealth and Asian Games next year, based on which their contracts would be extended until 2020 Olympics.

"It was when our senior bunch of boxers were fading out and the fresh generation of boxers were finding their feet that this four-year absence from the international arena came about. So we lost out on crucial time there. Also, our boxers will benefit a lot from training alongside a professional boxing coach and it's something we've never really had before barring one brief instance," Kowli said.

In April this year, AIBA coaches' commission vice-chairman Santiago Nieva was brought in as the foreign coach for Indian male boxers, a position that was left vacant by Bi Fernandes in 2014. Currently, the men's chief coach position is shared by the veteran duo of Shiv Singh and SR Singh. Gurbax Singh Sandhu is the current women's chief coach, while G Manoharan is the chief coach for youth male boxers.

One of the main considerations while picking these coaches, Kowli says, apart from technical expertise and tactical wisdom was their ability to communicate in English.

"It was a non-negotiable pre-condition we set when we sat down to shortlist coaches. If you're an outstanding coach and not able to express your thoughts to the players it makes no sense."

The Asian Championships in November to be held in Vietnam will be the next major competition for the country's women boxers, while the youth women will be competing in the World Championships to be hosted by India in Guwahati, also in November.