Batram Suri: succeeding as a player and coach

Recently, one of the most important football players ever of Solomon Islands helped the Ni-Vanuatu outfit Galaxy FC to qualify for the knock-out stage of the OFC Champions League 2020 in their first appearance in the regional competition; we are talking about the former forward of teams as Amicale, Koloale and Canterbury United and the Solomon Islands national team Batram Suri.

Suri reached the impressive mark of 48 international matches for Solomon Islands national team, including being the team captain in several opportunities for his country. Suri also represented the former New Zealand-based side Football Kingz that played in the former Australian top-tier league, the Australian National Soccer League.

Suri (right) playing and captaining Solomon Islands national team

The Solomon Islands football legend also has tight bonds to Vanuatu football; he last played for the Amicale, a historical giant of Ni-Vanuatu football and currently coaches the national powerhose Galaxy FC. Suri also had a stint as coach of Ifira Black Bird in the country.

Suri talked to Oceania Football Center among his experience as player, as coach and his expectations for his upcoming challenges in football. Suri also gave his views about how football is developing in the region.

See the complete interview with Batram Suri below:

Galaxy FC impressed in O-League matches, a very good tactical discipline from the Vanuatu team. How did you implement that in the team?

Yes, the group A was a very tough pool. When I was preparting for our first match against the current champion [Hienghène Sport], I was watched and analysed their previous games in the last OFC Champions League. I worked on the areas we need to defend them and also to attack against them as well in discipline manner. Regardless we agave two penalties away we won, but we need to discipline on the field of play.

Against Eastern Suburbs both teams played 4-1-4-1 and we started very well by scoring two early goals. I thought we could win easily, but our turning point was when the referee gave a red card to my defensive midfielder for second booking which I thought was a fair challenge.

The match of Galaxy vs Hekari I thought the pressure was on their side and we expected that they would come and played their guts to score all three goals they need, but it did not happen. I watched and analysed Hekari about their previous OFC Champions League matches, but what could come to my mind was they would have many different players now except for three or four old players. We lost 2-1 but qualified for the knock-out stage, that was what our boss and team wanted to.

What are your expectations for the quarterfinal match? Is there any team you would want to play against?

I think it will be great game and every team wants to win because it is only one game. We want to win to go through to semifinal. So far I do not know which team we are going to play against and also when, the unexpected Coronavirus introduced in the whole world made we to stop training, so I do not know whether the team is fit or not. Before that I want to play against any team that we would draw to play against due to well preparation for the quarterfinals because I saw the team spirit was high, the fitness, technical and tactical work on the team was there with the good attitude. The fact that we will play only one game in quarterfinal is also good for our team.

From your experience in Oceania football, do you see any development of the game in the region in the past years?

Yes, I think so. The likes of the Samoan club [Lupe o le Soaga] which beat Ba FC and Malampa Revivors which beat Lae City FC unexpectedly. The other things too, it is just like a random… Other teams which qualified for the last OFC Champions League they were out and the others who were not qualified were going through to quarterfinals. Just few teams still consistent with their qualifying for 2nd stage. I think it was very impressive and the standard rised.

Do you see some improvement in Solomon Islands football as well? How important is to have players like Raphael Lea’i and Leon Kofana trailling and training abroad?

When we look at the last pool games for both our [Solomon Islands] teams I think it doesn’t change much from the previous O-Leagues especially defending and creating – too many mistakes at the back. Both teams are great attacking sides but less defending so they need to improve that and reduce mistakes. When looking at the two young players, the best for them is to go for training abroad which I believe they will learn and improve alot from it, they are young and once opportunities for training abroad comes your way why not go for it? They have a long journey in football if both humble and honest with good attitude, they will a bright future.

What are your expectations for the next OFC Nations Cup, despite we are still unsure due coronavirus situation?

I always support where I belong, to my country and the introduction of the overseas coach to coach the national team will be great because he will be mean business with the team. I expect the majority of the team are young players from the U19 and U23. However if they mixed up with few experienced players on those lines in the team I think they will be a great team to watch. Anyway we will see how things work well regardless of this bloody Coronavirus which kills the human life especially my football. [See more: The most important tournament of Oceania is cancelled]

In your view, what is necessary to be done to develop faster football in Oceania? There’s talent, there’s passion, what is missing?

In my opinion, it is needed more of coaching courses to be conducted especially the A licence. Better facilities for the clubs for instance; Academies are a must for all the clubs. More competitions must be organised more from league organizers and the federations – more games for youth especially. Each federation should have an academy and establish a relationship with professional clubs to send their young players training for two or three years under professional environment and under government scholarship.

Batram Suri – OFC Media

How do you feel about having your son Alden pursuing the same career of yours in football, already taking part of U17 world cup and playing in New Zealand college system?

I am feeling great about my son following my footstep. He has an opportunity to develop step by step, age by age in his development pathway. I always mentioned him about that, for me it was not like that: from Solomon Cup, then selected to the national team without follow the youth level program pathways, but I reached professional competition because of hard work and dedication to myself and the country. Sometimes I rated him when watched him playing and said he is not reaching my level of performances yet. Even his mother could support me, I say: tell our son he is not yet catching his father’s level of performances because I want him to push himself more to reach his goal or to catch up with my level of performances.

How would you describe yourself as a player and as a coach? What have you achieved as a player you aim to achieve as coach as well?

As a player in my days, at first I wanted to play for the national team because when I was in high school people giving assurances that if I kept performing like that one day I would be in the national team, so my aim was to play for the national team. When I played in the Solomon Cup in 1992 I aimed for the golden boot – top scorer – and I got it… So I trained harder not only in the fied but also at my own time. It made me looked fit and always stayed focus all the time. I played for national team for a year and half after that I went abroad to play football. However, I achieved a lot of trophies and awards personally at home and mostly in New Zealand, for some of the clubs that I played for and as well as the national team. Well during my playing days after training I went home without worrying about anything, few minor things to think about: 1. My fitness; 2. How coaches want me to do; specific movements; 3. Get to know the next trainings; 4. Follow coach instructions – the path to get to selected in first eleven; 5. Discipline and 6. Consistency with your high performances.

Now as a coach, after trainings you are just like a teacher or mentor who come back home planning training sessions after sessions for the next match at weekends, go to the matches for analysing or if competition abroad then have to search for the teams in the last OFC Champions League to analyse, plan, prepare, conduct and evaluate the sessions so you are not free like as you were as a player. Yes, coaching is not an easy job! Bosses expected good results all the times, during the matches you always stay under pressure for the 90 minutes – if the results are good then it is fine, but if the results are not good then you are the one to be blamed and then you are more under pressure again. But you have to challenge them no matter what people say about you, you have to get over it and go again. I love it with passion of the game! As coach I also achieved few small awards for the teams and I enjoy working as coach.

Oceania Football Center thanks Batram Suri for his responses and wishes the best for his future!


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