Guwahati, Nov 7: Left thoroughly "confused" by the sheer enormity of India at first, the country's first foreign coach for women youth boxers, Raffaele Bergamasco, says the "big hearts" and "sharp minds" of his wards have only added to his astonishment three months into the job.
Bergamasco, who has coached the Italian youth and senior teams of both men and women, took up the Indian offer in July this year.
"From 2001 to 2007, I was coaching the elite women's Italian team. From 2008 to 2016, I coached men -- youth and elite -- for Italy. I have participated (as a coach) in three Olympics -- Beijing, London, Rio," Bergamasco told PTI in an interview here.
Bergamasco's trial by fire starts at this month's Youth World Championships for women, scheduled from November 19 in Guwahati.
Asked to speak of his India experience so far, Bergamasco spoke fondly of the roller-coaster ride, which also included learning English and Hindi to add to the fluent Italian he is accustomed to.
"Being in India has been very very enjoyable. The first day I came here, it was very confusing. It's a very big country with a lot of people but after two days, I fell in love with India.
"I have been studying English for five days a week otherwise it would have been very difficult for me. I have to speak to so many people all the time in the camp, so it was important for me," he explained.
"I have also learnt some Hindi. I can say 'namaste', 'namaskaar', 'aap kaise ho? (How are you)," he said grinning. Bergamasco, under whose tutelage the Italian boxers have gone on to win world and European level medals, said he foresees a bright future for India.
"India is a very strong boxing nation because of two qualities which I did not see in my Italian boxers. A big big heart, and a very sharp mind. They have to work a little bit on the technical aspects such as coordination," he said.
"India's future is very bright. Boxing will be very big in India. The boxers in India have what it takes to get an Olympic gold medal," he predicted.
Bergamasco was also full of praise for the Indian coaches who are working with him, including chief coach Bhaskar Bhatt.
"I can only say thank you to the Indian coaches who are working with me. They are a very good team, they helped me in picking up English. Step by step I think, we are getting in sync in planning," he said.
Asked what the aspects he wants to improve in Indian boxing, Bergamasco said, "They have to change diet, change timing to ensure that every aspect of training is compartmentalised. They are adapting slowly although. I know it has been difficult for them."