Category: Feature

Mohammedan’s problem is not with the coach but approach

KOLKATA: The crisis that Mohammedan Sporting Club is in right now should lead to the club doing serious introspection in how they do business as they are lagging behind their rivals and they will continue to do so if they don’t change their approach.

Mohammedan have so far played three matches in 2018/19 2nd Division League preliminary round and managed to garner only a one point; it’s a crisis for the Black Panthers.

Although fans shouldering the blame on coach Raghunath Nandy, he isn’t the only problem for this dreadful performance; he is part of it. The bigger problem will remain with Mohammedan even if Raghunath Nandy leaves tomorrow. That problem isn’t a person but rather how Mohammedan do business.

Mohammedan’s approach in finding talent, whether it’s a coach or player, relies more on luck than sound scouting and analysis. You just have to look at the high turnover of players who have been signed and then released midway through the season to show how much the club has been struggling in this department.

Years ago Mohammedan’s biggest pull was that they were one of the biggest clubs in the country with the biggest fan-base. They used that status to draw players as it was a dream to play for them.

But that power isn’t that effective alone anymore. Money and success also contribute to where players want to go which is why Mohammedan haven’t been as strong as they used to be in the transfer market.

Leave aside their opposition in the “big three”‚ East Bengal and Mohun Bagan‚ even challengers such as Peerless Sports Club and NBP Rainbow AC‚ spend more than them in each transfer window. If the Black Panthers can’t compete financially in the transfer market, they need to invest in a good scouting network instead of relying on agents.

The most important person at United Sports Club in the last decade has been Nabab Bhattacharya whose eye for talent has brought the club success to some extent, despite financial limitations.

Mohammedan need a person like Bhattacharya who will travel the length and breadth of the state and country to find talent. The market has just gone so insane that it’s hard to compete in it, especially for a club which is competing in 2nd Division League for last 4 seasons.

The way Mohammedan look for talent shouldn’t end at players but also at coaches. Truth be told the current incumbent Raghunath Nandy isn’t of Mohammedan’s stature. One can only wonder why they chose to appoint Raghunath Nandy whose CV is less than impressive, without much of a coaching pedigree.

It’s not just Raghunath Nandy whose appointment at Mohammedan was shocking. If you look at the club’s list of coaching appointments in the recent past you will realise just how much they have “gambled” with the people they have hired.

Most of the coaching success has been through luck rather than Mohammedan identifying an individual who understands their culture and fits in well in their vision.

Since 2014, Mohammedan have been trained by Fuja Tope, Ananta Ghosh, Mridul Banerjee, Subrata Bhattacharya Jr, Ranjan Chaudhury, Biswajit Bhattacharya and Raghunath Nandy. That is a staggering seven coaches in less than five seasons. Does this mean the management does not know who or what they are looking for, as such they pick this one today, another tomorrow? At which stage will ‘heads roll’ in the management? At which point will they take the blame? Consider this, in 2014/15 and 2015/16 Mohammedan finished fourth in 2nd Division League before failing to make it past the preliminary round in 2016/17 and 2017/18, this season (2018/19) they are most likely going to miss the final round again. That is clearly a club in decline. What has management done? They fired the coach. They have not done anything to the person who appointed the coach, or the person who bought players, let alone the person running the club.

Mohammedan is a big brand in Indian football and has fans that are used to success, but they have no divine right to win football matches.

Matches are won on the field, but they must be backed by good coaching and solid recruitment. Certainly, in either departments, they have been badly let down of late. There are a few other factors that Mohammedan can do to improve on the success on the team however the above mentioned would do a world of difference to the team. Nonetheless, the problem is that Mohammedan officials have consistently said they want to do this, and then they go the opposite direction.

India must believe in Indian coaches

KOLKATA: Stephen Constantine stepped down from his position of Indian football team’s head coach after the Blue Tigers suffered an exit from the group stage of the AFC Asian Cup 2019. So as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is currently searching for a national team trainer, here we discuss why AIFF should go for a local coach instead of hiring yet another foreign coach, who will led the Blue Tigers to nowhere.

My opinion is that I do not believe that one can buy success by buying an expensive coach. If that was the way it worked, every team in the world would just, in effect, buy a place in the World Cup.

Clearly, we have coaches who have the potential to lead Blue Tigers to great success. But we don’t afford our coaches sufficient opportunities to realize this potential. AIFF has not kept a coach long enough for it to conclude that local coaches are not good enough for the top job.

Foreign coaches are not messiahs. They are not superior to local coaches by virtue of their foreignness. Foreign coaches, like local coaches, are only as good as their record. So if we absolutely must hire one, let us at least make sure he has some degree of success on the international stage.

Some of the national team players also have scornful tendencies toward local coaches. In most cases it is hard to detect these disparaging propensities, yet they exist, overtly or covertly. Let AIFF hires any foreign coach, irrespective of his average resume, the players as well as a considerable number of Indians will begin singing his praises as the so-called master tactician and savior of Indian football. Sadly, many of the players and Indians as well normally don’t extend the same morale-boosting accolades to a local coach.

If possible, AIFF can go ahead and hire the services of Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp and it may not translate into any extraordinary accomplishment for the national team.

By the time any person reaches the status of achieving a place in any national team, such a person knows how to play the game. One does not need to teach a national squad the fundamental skills of the game – these they know by the time they make it to that level.

So what does a national squad need? They need two interventions: the first is to mutually discuss tactics and the second is team spirit and self-confidence.

The tactics and general strategic game plan can alter with every game because each opposing team is different. So a competent team should have watched as many videos of a potential opposing team as possible and should have studied as much of its game plan as possible. Then the whole team decides on the tactics to be employed, with the coach providing a guiding function. Compare this with a board of directors deciding how a company should carry out an expansion plan. It is not only the CEO who should make the decisions – all members of the board should bring their individual experiences and talents into the debate. A football team is no different.

The coach is not a god – he will not have all the answers. A professional team must come up with a tactical plan together, the result of team interaction. Now we look at the other issue, team spirit and self-confidence. A football team cannot be seen as 11 individuals; it is one team, one unit. If the team does not play as one cohesive unit, it will lose.

It is well known that, if one chooses the apparent best 11 players in the world, from 11 different teams, which then plays against any other top-class team that has been playing together for a while, the World 11 will almost always lose. The cohesive team is better than 11 individuals. Our guys need self-confidence, which means feeling like one unit. So, to my mind, we need a Indian coach, a guy who can say to the team: “Okay, guys, let us win for our country.”

AIFF needs understand we have people in the country who can make a meaningful contribution to our football, our problems are known by us and we can solve them. Local coaches have developed all the Indian legends like IM Vijayan, Bhaichung Bhuita, Jo Pual Ancheri, Renedy Singh and Sunil Chhetri, they were not groomed by people from Europe, local coaches have a good record in the national team and local clubs. That should get recognition.

Why without addressing these issues India may never play the World Cup

MUMBAI: Every FIFA World Cup reminds us Indians of our limitations in the sport, some of which may be inherent. Is Indian footballing system capable enough to produce top footballers? Is the nation physically not fit to play such game of stamina? Is the lack of mainstream media support preventing us from reaching our potential? These and many other questions come to our mind and become all the more pressing during the World Cup, while cheering for our “doosri” and not “pehli” country.

It is not that Indians don’t love football, they do. Despite India’s well-documented love for cricket, there are many places in India where football comes before everything. We have a professional football league (i.e I-League) in India since 2007, but the fact is except a very few most of the Indian players are not fully professional as they are employed by various government organisations such as Railways, Income-tax and CAG. To change this scenario the All India Football Federation partnered with IMG Reliance to launch Indian Super League in 2014, modeled on the pattern of the Indian Premier League, world’s most popular domestic cricket league.

The idea of the latest initiative was to make football a viable career option for players and promote the game among the masses. But dose this commercial venture led to the creation of a world class national team? If franchise leagues were enough to develop a sport then we would have won a couple world titles in hockey given the franchise hockey league started way back in 2005, but instead now a days we are happy with just qualifying for the Hockey World Cup and Olympics. Off course the formation of ISL did allowed Indian footballers to make more money from the profession of football but that did not necessarily transformed them into top players, ready to compete with the rest of the world. Even after four years of ISL India still struggle to defeat nondescript teams like Saint Kitts and Nevis and Nepal.

Do Indian players lack the physical strength and agility needed to be world class players? This is a valid question. Cricket does not require the kind of physical stamina and resilience that football requires. This makes it easier to be succeed in cricket if one is not following a very strict fitness regime. This, however, is not true in football. Take an example of Indian hockey team which still holds the record of winning the most number of Olympic golds lost it’s significance at world stage due to this physical aspect of the game once the European teams started to take the sport more seriously from mid 1970s.

Even there is no media attention given to football. Remember, how all the national news channels completely stop doing other works and focus whole day whenever Indian cricket team plays. It’s the same media who hardly bothered to give any coverage when India qualified for the AFC Asian Cup after eight years. While many can argue that a sport doesn’t need the media to stay relevant. However, it has to be popular enough and have a strong enough fanbase to thrive without media attention. Unfortunately it’s not the same for Indian football.

There is no lack of exposure, lack of broadcasting, money, excitement, larger-than-life players, because football has plenty of all of that. It comes down to its competition. That competition is of course cricket, which Indians follow like a religion. This is not to say that football is not big, or growing in the country, or that it is not cared about, followed, or watched, but it is not the primary sport. However, if the government were to integrate sports into schooling and promote talent more, India’s chances at playing in the World Cup may increase.

Lastly, more than anything Indian football team need support from us Indians. Whenever we heard somebody say “what the use of supporting Indian football team it’s not winning anything big” it simply baffles the mind. Being the Indian is not enough for us we actually need reason to support our own country, there is nothing more shameful than this. If we don’t believe in our players then how come they would believe in themselves? It’s good to have a meri doosri country but let’s not forget our pehli country.

How Indians Lost Interest In Indian Football

MUMBAI: In India, European football is hugely popular. While local teams play in almost deserted stadiums, audiences crowd around televisions to follow the latest matches of the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga, or the pan-European UEFA Champions League.

The latest goals, controversies and transfers in Europe are the subject of passionate debate and discussion on the streets of India. By contrast, the local leagues attract hardly any interest. This is true in many Indian cities such as Mumbai and Delhi. But we try to explore what lies behind this discrepancy in India.

It wasn’t always thus though – for Indian club football’s heyday came in the 1970s and 1980s when vast crowds, sometimes 100000 strong, regularly flocked to watch the leading Indian club competitions such as IFA Shield, Durand Cup and DCM Trophy.

By the latter part of 1990s, however, the state of Indian club competitions had become a major worry, while tournaments were blighted by poor organisation and chronic infrastructure, at the same time the European leagues has become accessible and affordable to many, especially those living in urban areas.

Indian football fans feasted upon the chance to watch legendary clubs like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Manchester United on a regular basis, and the realization must have dawned that the local games they had been watching for years was a sub-standard product to the one found in countries like England, Spain and Germany.

I only watch international league, I don’t enjoy the kind of play of local matches, that is the fact. It is not entertaining at all, maybe that is why people don’t watch them frequently – said an Kolkata-based 24-year-old medical student Rahul Dasgupta.

Even the Indian national team also got affected by this phenomenon despite producing consistent results for last two years. In fact, the attendance became so insignificant for India’s Intercontinental Cup opener against Chinese Taipei in Mumbai earlier this month, skipper Sunil Chhetri had to come out in public and literally begged fans to come and watch their own country play. It really very disheartening to see him like that.

However, there has been a reversal in the declining attendances when the Indian Super League was launched in 2014. In it’s inaugural season the average ISL game drew 25371 fans, highest in Asia. However, in the most recent season there has been a significant decline in attendance which has fallen from 25371 to 15047.  At the same time, I-League saw a sharp 58% increase in in-stadia attendance. The average attendance from 2016/17 season’s 6500 per match rose to 10210 in 2017/18.

Since it’s inception ISL teams tends to field big-name marquee players such as Alessandro Del Piero, Robert Pires, David Trezeguet, Marco Materazzi, Roberto Carlos, Florent Malouda, Diego Forlan, Heldar Postiga, Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov.

Nonetheless, fans has made it clear that they want to see the drama and the nail biting finishes, not some old veterans who are looking for a last payday.

To conclude this we would like to mention that although local Indian football has lost it’s charm and people who are supporting other countries during World Cup would hardly worry about supporting India in Asia Cup, but there is still places like Kolkata and Kochi where people are more invested in Indian football rather than European leagues.

Leagues have to become businesses in order to succeed, but very few have grasped this yet. If the local leagues are run properly and it’s an interesting standard, the experience is positive and the mainstream media is supportive, there is no reason why the Indian leagues should not regain it’s lost ground.

The Harsh Reality of Indian Football

MUMBAI: India has a large and extremely passionate football following. Whether in villages or cities, it is commonplace to see agile young and old, kick a football around whether for fun or at locally organized football games. Asides this, football clubs around the world receive massive followership across India and it is not uncommon to see both young and adult Indians don jerseys of different football teams.

However, with a population of 1.2 billion, you would think that there would be 11 people in India who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch. But apparently not. Though India are not a million miles behind the Asia’s leading teams, but there is a clear talent gap.

While our players might be one of the most naturally gifted, why aren’t we transferring that into meaningful football?

There are many reasons ascribed to the dire state of Indian football. First point is development. You could be a brightest kid in the world but without any proper education, you won’t be able to unlock your potential in order to stand out. Same with our footballers, they might be very talented and full of skill, but they do not know how to use these qualities to their advantage because of lack of development.

Elsewhere in Asia, players get proper football education, on the tactical level from a very young age and that makes them better footballers. And because our players do not go through development stages properly, they miss out on developing the most important elements of football like when to hold onto the ball, pass a better placed teammate or to shoot and the shooting technique.

India has a lot of talent similar to Japan and South Korea but problem is that development structures are not there to develop these boys. We have a problem developing talent internally. We can identify and scout players, that is not a problem, the football infrastructure, whilst not at the level of cricket and hockey, is still reasonably good and given that football is the country’s second most played sport, there is no player shortage. However, if we do not want to copy the approach of other Asian countries, which is to get local players scouted to European teams, let them develop the talent and then hope that it all comes together for the national team, then we need to improve our internal development structures.

There is always talk of development, to increase pool of players, similar to what Japan did, but its always talk, never action, there is no solid plan, except a tournament here and there, and we need to remind that the flow of talent is already low because of Indian parents who prefer their children to spend their spare time studying rather than sport.

Our expectations are always too high and until we deal with the uncomfortable reality that we really are bad, and not bad as in we’ll turn it around by the time of the next World Cup, but bad as in there needs to be wholesale changes to how we approach football management in the country, then we will spend another 50 years in the doldrums.

Nonetheless, the recent explosion of interest in Indian football and the All India Football Federation’s attempts to boost the fortunes of the national side have raised hopes of India becoming a decent team. But the harsh reality is that renewed efforts, even if they deliver positive outcomes, may not take effect in time for Qatar 2022.

Gokulam Kerala FC provides platform for Kerala football

NEW DELHI: I-League will return to ‘God’s own country’, Kerala, after a hiatus of six years as Gokulam Kerala FC become the representatives of the state in the 11th edition of the I-League which is slated to kick-off on November 27 with Shillong Lajong playing hosts to the Kerala outfit.

Coach Bino George believes that the inception of Gokulam Kerala FC will spike football progress in the state while I-League will provide a platform for the players to showcase their talent. “After 2011 a team from Kerala will participate in the domestic league and there is already enthusiasm amongst the fans of the club to see their team play against some of the best teams in the nation.”

“Kerala players are also excited because now they have a pathway to play in the domestic league and catch the eyes of scouts.”

But that is not it. “The most important thing is the grassroots and with the establishment of the club, there is a clear way for a child at the grassroots level to graduate to the youth teams and the senior team eventually.”

“The work on the grassroots is as important as the work at the senior level of the club”, said George.

However new entrants might be met with hostilities by some of India’s biggest club teams on the pitch. “We understand that it will be a challenging for us, but we are here to take that challenge head-on and prove a point.”

“In fact, we are very eager to perform in I-League and so are our fans”, he added.

Kerala isn’t unknown when it comes to football celebration and George believes that the club’s fans will act as the 12th man for the team. “Kerala has passionate fans who will go the distance for football.”

“Everyone in the state is excited about I-League to kick-off and I won’t be surprised if the stadiums are filled to the brim. We expect our fans to come in numbers and support us and we in-turn will reward them with our performances”, George stated.

Arnab Mondal set his eyes on I-League title

NEW DELHI: After finishing third in the previous edition of the I-League, East Bengal skipper Arnab Mondal has set his eyes on winning the elusive I-League trophy for the Kolkata outfit in the 11th edition of the domestic league which is slated to kick-off from November 25, 2017.

“We want to win the I-League. It is as simple as that”, a confident Arnab Mondal said on the sidelines of the I-League launch in the nation’s capital yesterday. “A successful campaign for us will be winning the Hero I-League and we are focused on achieving the same.”

The Red and Golds have always been title challengers in the I-League finishing third last season with 33 points out of 18 matches, finishing below arch rivals Mohun Bagan and four points adrift of champions Aizawl FC.

“The best result for us will be winning the I-League and that is also my personal target. I want to lift the Hero I-League trophy with East Bengal in my career”, after a pause, he adds, “Individually, I am hell-bent on winning this trophy. In a sense, this trophy means a lot to me and winning it would mean the world to me.”

The defender further said that he will dedicate the I-League win to the fans. “If we win the I-League, it will be for the fans. They have been our support and have cheered for us through thick and thin. They deserve to be rewarded and we are striving on giving this gift to our fans”

But certainly, it will be tough as the Kolkata outfit face defending champions Aizawl FC in their opening fixture of the campaign. “Every team in the I-League presents its own challenges. No team is easy and every team plays to win. The challenge for us is to outplay them and secure the results”

“The pressure is always there when you play at the highest level but if we win a couple of our opening matches and gather maximum points, we can breathe a little.”

“We have to take one match at a time and at the same time aim for a win in every match we play including the away fixtures”, Mondal stated.

Dream come true for India U-16 boys as they meet their heroes

GOA: It was a dream come true for India U-16 quartet when they got to interact with their heroes of the Senior Indian National Team during their training session for the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Qualifying match against Myanmar.

The Indian U-16 Team had been the toast of the Nation qualifying to the AFC U-16 Final Malaysia 2017 earlier in September where they were held defending AFC U-16 Champions Iraq in their final match to qualify.

Even as the contingent were granted leave to go back to their respective hometowns after staying at the AIFF Academy in Goa for over a year, Rohit Danu, Ravi Rana Bahadur, Gurkirat Singh and Ricky John Shabong preferred to stay back, all to watch the Indian Senior Team take on Myanmar in Goa on November 14.

“Its holiday time and everyone has gone back home. But, I couldn’t let this opportunity go out of my hand. So I preferred to stay back,” Rohit Danu quipped while watching the Indian Senior Team’s practice session at the majestic Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda.

“We have represented India at the U-16 level but my ultimate dream stays to represent my Country at the Senior level. I know I need to work harder for that but right now, I can only feel it watching Sunil Bhaiya and others,” Rohit sounded emotional.

Post-practice the gesture from the Senior boys floored the teenagers. Right from Stephen Constantine to Sunil Chhetri to Sandesh Jhingan to Subrata Paul, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Pritam Kotal, Anas Edathodika amongst others, almost everyone walked up to them to have a chat and even posed for pictures.

“Everyone dreams of donning the National colours but only they (pointing to the Senior Team) have managed to make it. We hope we can emulate them too,” goalkeeper Gurkirat Singh stated.

Ravi Rana Bahadur, the swift left-winger stayed mesmerised watching Bikash Jairu and Jackichand Singh from a distance.

“I have seen them unleashing cutting-edge through balls from the wings time and again. Even after a flight journey earlier in the day they still had so much energy left with them and their crosses are so perfect,” Ravi’s eyes lit up.

Ricky John Shabong, the Meghalaya-based defensive medio expressed that he’s looking forward to “learning new skills of controlling the game from the midfield.”

“Lyngdoh-bhai is from Meghalaya and I have seen him playing myriad times. I always follow him closely to polish my skills. He stays so calm on the field,” Ricky said.

Meanwhile, Bibiano Fernandes, Coach Indian U-16 National Team who was busy scouting for next year’s AFC U-16 Finals mentioned that watching the Senior Team train and play in Goa is an “excellent opportunity.”

“It’s always good to see the senior team in front of your eyes. It provides the boys as well as the coaching staffs a brilliant opportunity to learn so many things. We’re eagerly waiting to see the action on November 14 and on the behalf of the entire U-16 squad, we wish the Senior Team all the very best.”

“No disrespect to I-League, but ISL is a notch above” – Iain Hume

Mumbai: The core philosophy of the Indian Super League is as simple and it is complex: develop Indian football. And while three seasons are hardly enough for any league in the world to affect major change, there are a few standout examples that certainly make a case for the league to claim that it has played a role in the furthering of the sport in India.

Iain Hume, who has been a constant thorn in the side of defenders since first joining the ISL in 2014, is in prime position to gauge how far the league has come. Keeping the length, sponsorship, number of teams, number of foreign players, entertainment quotient and more, Hume spoke about the core mission of the ISL.

“A lot of people ask me whether the ISL has really helped develop football in India. There is no doubt for me that it has. As a player, I have seen the Indian players around me improve in leaps and bounds. For me, the difference between then (2014) and now (2017) is as clear as black and white. The development is also clear to see in the way India have broken into the top 100 nations in the FIFA rankings,” the Canadian striker said during the media day in Mumbai on Friday.

Hume played his first season with Kerala Blasters and used one of the Yellow Army’s finest players as an example of how far Indian players have come due to the exposure to a higher level of football in the ISL.

“No disrespect to the I-League, but the ISL is a notch above and you can see how Sandesh Jhingan has developed after breaking through with the Blasters. In the last three years, he has played with players like Aaron Hughes, Carlos Marchena, Cedric Hengbart and others. He was not known in a big way when he started playing with us, but look at him now! He is leading his national team on some occasions,” Hume said.

Jhingan played a starring role for Kerala Blasters in the inaugural season, when the team reached the final and narrowly lost to Atletico de Kolkata (1-0). Since then, the 24-year-old hasn’t looked back. Jhingan made his senior national team debut in 2015. He has made 16 appearances for India, scoring four goals in the process. In between the ISL seasons, Jhingan played for Sporting Clube de Goa, DSK Shivajians and the popular Bengaluru FC, winning the Federation Cup earlier this year.

Jhingan’s overall game, including his versatility of playing at right and centre back, and his bravery in going for the ball, have also improved. But he’s not the only example. The likes of full-back Rahul Bheke (now at Bengaluru FC) and Jeje Lalpekhlua (Chennaiyin FC) have also benefited from playing a faster and more competitive brand of football which brings with it the pressure to perform on live television week in week out.

“We have a lot of young players in Anirudh Thapa (19), Jerry Lalrinzuala (19) and Germanpreet Singh (21) and they will show their quality over the course of the season by not just coming in for 10 minutes, but as being part of the core team which will play high-level football watched my millions across the country,” Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory said at the event.

It’s clear, then, that with the ISL growing in terms of duration and number of teams, that many more like Sandesh Jhingan will emerge from the shadows to lead the Indian side in the considerable future.

Past heroes praise Stephen’s boys before Macau clash

NEW DELHI, August 30, 2017: At a time when accolades are flowing from every corner for Stephen Constantine’s boys for making an all-time Indian record of winning 9 International matches on the trot (including the un-official match against Bhutan), Constantine’s past pupils who were part of the Indian Team for the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha, also joined in the applause.

“The 2011 Asian Cup was a huge learning experience for us. This present team is on a roll and are very close to repeating the feat. Make it count,” ace defender Dipak Mondal echoed. “Constantine has brought in a fighting spirit into the team and that provide our boys a cutting edge over their opponents,” he added.

The sturdy defender lauded the 10-match unbeaten run and he credited ‘the team effort’ for this achievement. “It rightly reflects how well-tuned they are at the moment. Right from the coach to the players, everyone is operating together as a team.”

Mondal’s central defence partner Mahesh Gawli also sounded exuberant. “As former Footballers, we look for an upward graph of our National Team. I’m really happy that they are doing well. I wish all the best for their forthcoming match against Macau,” he pronounced.

Abhishek Yadav, presently an AIFF Executive Committee member who started his International career under Constantine in 2002 felt a qualification for the 2019 Asian Cup will be the best thing for Indian Football.”

“In 2011, we qualified for the AFC Asian Cup after 27 years and these boys are on the verge of making it again within 8 years. It shows we have made significant progress recently and we’re in the right direction to reach the next level,” Yadav, who scored the golden goal in the LG Cup final for India, stated.

“Under the aegis of AIFF, other programs are also running pretty well. We’ve recently triumphed in the U-15 SAFF Championship and the U-17 boys have shown their character on foreign soil. A lot of hard work is being put in by AIFF and hence, the results are coming on the bigger stage,” Yadav referred to the other achievements.

Mondal and Gawli, meanwhile, were all praise for the current defensive unit for their compact defensive displays.

“I learnt they didn’t concede a goal for 300-odd minutes. That’s really stupendous in International Football at any point of time. It shows that the defenders, the goalkeeper and others are perfectly synchronised and they’ve to maintain this until the job is finished,” Mondal certified.

Gawli pointed out ‘the healthy competition’ is the key to success. “There’s a healthy competition amongst the defenders and this is a good headache for the Coach. Constantine has been rotating the squad and more youngsters are getting the opportunities to showcase their talent. It just reiterates his trust on his boys,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Yadav praised Stephen’s ‘work-ethic’ behind the success.

“Constantine is renowned for his work-ethic and it gets transformed into the players as well. The progress from 173 to 96 in FIFA Rankings, the 10-match unbeaten streak are undoubtedly the highlights of Indian Football. I feel they have the calibre to take it forward.”