Tag: AFC U-16 Championship 2018

Samir Kerketta looks to make Odisha proud at AFC U16 Championship

NEW DELHI: With the AFC U-16 Championships just a few days away, the Indian team has already set sail for the Malaysian shores. As the preparations for the Colts’ biggest tournament of the year goes on in full flow, defender Samir Kerketta is one player who will be looking to shoulder the defensive responsibilities as a fullback.

What makes the tournament all the more special for Kerketta is that he is one of the two players from his state, Odisha, to be selected in the squad by coach Bibiano Fernandes.

Despite the fact that the expectations of the entire state are upon his shoulders, Kerketta is one customer who has played a number of games with this bunch of players and will be looking to use all the experience he has garnered during the exposure tours.

“The team is really focused at this stage. We all want to give our 100 percent and finish top two in the group stages,” said Kerketta. “But a quarterfinal finish is not exactly what we are looking for.”

The youngster further went on to state that the ultimate goal for the entire team is to qualify for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup, which will be held in Peru.

“Only a semifinal finish can guarantee us a spot in the U-17 World Cup next year, and that is exactly what we are looking to achieve,” he said.

Having been one of the most reliable fixtures in Bibiano Fernandes’ starting XI over the past year, attending plenty of exposure tours, where the Blue Colts have impressed one and all.

Now the diminutive fullback will be looking to do just the same at the continental extravaganza, that gets underway in a few days in Malaysia. The India U-16 side has been grouped with Iran, Vietnam, and Indonesia in Group C.

They get their campaign underway against Vietnam on Friday, before facing title favorites Iran on Monday, September 24. Their final group game against Indonesia is on Thursday, September 27.

With History beckoning, Indian U16s Ramp-up preparations for AFC U16 Championship finals

KUALA LUMPUR (MALAYSIA): Attempting to create history by becoming the first Indian team to qualify for a FIFA World Cup, the Indian U-16 National Team under Head Coach Bibiano Fernandes is gearing up for the AFC U-16 Championship Finals, in a first, had arrived 12 days prior to the tournament in the host nation of Malaysia for proper acclimatization.

No Indian Team has ever qualified for the FIFA World Cup except by virtue of being hosts and the Indian U-16s look to script a historic footnote in Indian football by securing the semi-final spot in the AFC U-16 Championship Finals that will automatically confirm a spot in the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru.

With history beckoning, Coach Bibiano said, “The purpose of camping in Kuala Lumpur before the AFC U-16 Championship Finals was to give the boys a taste of the climate here. The boys had already been to Malaysia before for International Friendlies but we wanted them to be used to the climate before the tournament.

“We even booked the same hotel that we will be staying in for the AFC U-16 Championship Finals,” he informed.

“I need to thank the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, the AIFF General Secretary and the AIFF Director of National Teams to make this possible. It is of utmost importance that the team acclimatizes before the start of the Championship – be it the feel of the grass, the feel of the weather of the feel or the hotel.”

However, another reason behind the team’s early arrival is also of key importance. “We do not want the boys to get flustered and overwhelmed with emotion once the Championship starts,” Bibiano stated.

“We have been preparing for this Championship for a long time and now although it is at hand, we don’t want the players to be nervous. We want them to be strong and focused on the task at hand.”

The Indian U-16s in their preparation for the AFC U-16 Championship Finals had gone on exposure tours of China, Serbia, Turkey, and even Malaysia among other nations, and had played the likes of Japan, Jordan, and Serbia.

“We all know the gravity of the Championship and what it means if we qualify (for the semi-finals). We are ready and prepared all that matters now is to perform on the field of play and united we can overcome all challenges,” Bibiano informed.

Meanwhile, the Indian U-16s have had practice sessions daily after their arrival in the host nation. While the weather in Kuala Lumpur is humid with intermittent showers, the Colts are confident and aim to shine bright in the midst of the steel jungle.

India U-16s leaves for month long preparatory tour ahead of AFC U-16 Championship

NEW DELHI: India U 16 colts will set out for a month long three-nation excursion this July to China, Thailand and Malaysia. The Indian team will play 10-12 international ties, including 7 against U16 national sides.

The July leg is marked as AIFF’s final preparation of the Indian boys ahead of the AFC U16 Championship scheduled in September 2018, Malaysia.

Indian colts, coached by Bibiano Fernandes have been training in Kolkata last 5 weeks since returning victorious from Serbia in May.

The 25-member squad and 7 support staff will now leave for Weinan city, China on June 30, 2018 to participate in four nation invitational tournament alongside the U16 national teams of DPR Korea, Thailand and host China.
India open their campaign against host China on 3rd July followed by matches against Thailand on 5th July, and DPR Korea on 7th July.

Bibiano’s boys are scheduled to take on Thailand U16 team one more time mid-July in addition to playing practice games against two local clubs when they visit the country before a week long stopover in Kuala Lampur for a friendly against Malaysian U 16 team towards the end of the tour.

The Malaysia stopover has been planned to acclimatise the squad and get get the feel of the pitch and conditions before they return for the big-ticket championship in September.

All India Football Federation has been on an effort to improve the quality of Indian football with investment into the age group scouting and building a competitive teams for continental tournaments across categories.

After India’s aspiring U 17 World Cup participation, AIFF is focused on grooming a team capable of qualifying for the FIFA events by right in future. The assembling of current India U16 team is one such vision envisaged by the Indian Federation 12 months back. With the support from Sports Authority of India, the U16 project has made satisfactory progress. Over the last 12 months, the team has shaped up well with the liking of the coach Bibiano Fernandes and have been on experiential tour having practiced and played competitive games across continents to gain experience and exposure.

On the eve of leaving for China, coach Bibiano Fernandes said, “I am fortunate to have these group of boys, majority of them being with me since U15 competitions. It has been an exciting journey for us over the last 14-16 months in preparing for AFC U16 final and I am happy to have got ample opportunities to test our mettle against quality opponents and different conditions to get the right balance in the squad.”

“We have reminded ourselves of our targets every time we have stepped on the field and the boys have worked towards it every single day.”

India has been drawn in Group C of the AFC U16 Championship alongside Iran, Vietnam and Indonesia. The AFC U16 Championship featuring 16 teams will be held from September 20th to October 7th in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A top four finish would earn India the bragging rights to play FIFA U 17 World Cup in 2019 in Peru.

Kushal Das, General Secretary, AIFF expressed satisfaction on the shaping up of the U16 team and progress over last 12 months.

“These are interesting days for football in India. The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports and Sports Authority of India believes in the Indian football dream. Having invaluable sport coming from the Sports Secretary and Director General SAI made AIFF’s job much easier. It ensured our coach and the boys get the best of what’s needed to gear up for the competition.”

“AFC competitions are never easy, but I am personally satisfied to see the team has come together well. As we set in for the final leg of our preparation, the July tour assumes importance with opportunities to play 7 ties against China, Thailand, Malaysia & DPR Korea U16 national sides,” Das added.

We are in process of being the best the versions of ourselves: Bibiano

NEW DELHI: The Indian U-16 National Team has gone from strength to strength in recent times. Coming off the back of winning the four-nation Tournament in Serbia where the young colts finished Champions ahead of hosts Serbia, Jordan, and Tajikistan, the team will now be participating in another four-nation Tournament, this time in China.

Besides India, the tournament in China will also feature the U-16 National Teams of DPR Korea, Thailand and hosts China. In an exclusive interview, Head Coach Bibiano Fernandes spoke at length about the team’s preparation, the AFC U-16 Championship, the significance of exposure trips, and a lot more. EXCERPTS:

How is the team shaping up for the AFC U16 Championship?

We are in the process of being the best versions of ourselves keeping in mind the goal and working hard every single day. The boys have proven their mettle in Serbia and hopefully they will keep the same focus until the championship.

How important are the exposure trips?

These trips expose and introduce our boys to different styles of football from around the world. Usually our footballers do not get an opportunity to rub shoulders with teams from say, Europe and these trips give the boys the chance to do exactly that. In addition, when we start winning games in these exposures, the confidence and self-belief in the boys increased rapidly.

I need to thank AIFF and Sports Authority of India for arranging the same for us. The boys stay indebted to them.

You will be facing tough teams in China.

We are looking forward to this test. I am much more happy when we play stronger or older age-group teams as it is always a tougher challenge. It pushes us to perform to our best levels and in the process it help us to improve on all aspects. We know it is going to be a tough challenge in China, but we are ready for it.

Will it be physically challenging?

When it comes to foreign exposure trips, it is always physically challenging and we have been working on improving our own physical aspects as well. It will be interesting to see how our boys cope with that.

We’re reaping the benefits of rigorous youth development program: Bibiano Fernandes


KATHMANDU: Having finished the AFC U-16 Qualifiers 2018 campaign on a positive note, Bibiano Fernandes, Head Coach India U-16 National Team hailed the AIFF for ‘nurturing young talents’ and supporting the youngsters ‘living their dreams from a tender age.’

“The AIFF is doing a terrific work over the years and the Academy is another example of its noteworthy jobs. Tapping on the talents across the nation and nurturing them rightly shows that we have a fool-proof strategy to scale the next level,” Bibiano commented on way back home from Nepal.

The U-16 team who are now unbeaten in 12 matches (including practice matches and official matches) are in a favourable position to qualify for the AFC U-16 Championship 2018 by virtue of finishing one of the five best second-placed teams across the continent and will be knowing their fortune only on September 29 when other U-16 Qualifiers across other venues in Asia finish.

India finished their unbeaten campaign with 5 points from 3 matches, having drawn against hosts Nepal and defending champions Iraq and beating Palestine by a whopping 3-0 margin.

“Drawing against defending champions Iraq shows our boys’ prowess and their temperament while contesting at the bigger stages,” Bibiano exuded. “I would like to thank AIFF for arranging the exposure trips to Egypt and Qatar, which have helped us immensely gauging our abilities and planning our strategies for the next matches.”

He also praised the AIFF highly for the youth development programme which has been started a decade back and the young gaffer termed it as ‘a brilliant initiative.’

“While congratulating the boys, we must not forget the AIFF’s inputs to achieve this feat. As I’m being informed, finishing AFC U-16 Qualifiers unbeaten hasn’t been very common to us but we’ve done it this time. It rightly reflects how we’re improving and I must say that we’re actually reaping the benefits of years’ rigorous youth development program which is nothing but a brilliant initiative, to say the least,” Bibiano said in one go.

“I really feel proud of my boys and they all have a bright future ahead. I foresee most of them playing for the India Senior Team in near future”, Bibiano stated.

India held goalless by Iraq in AFC U-16 Qualifiers

KATHMANDU: India were held to a goalless draw by defending Asian Champions Iraq in the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers at the Halchowk Stadium in Kathmandu on Sunday (September 24, 2017).

Courtesy the result, an unbeaten India finished their engagements with 5 points from 3 matches and now wait for engagements in other groups to finish across other venues (all over Asia) to find out if whether they have made it to the AFC U-16 Finals by virtue of being the best second-placed Team across 10 groups.

Meanwhile, Iraq who finished their engagements with 7 points from 3 matches have already booked a ticket to the AFC U-16 Finals slated to be held next year.

Knowing that only a victory would enable them a ticket to the AFC U-16 Finals, India started on a positive note and should have surged into the lead as early as the 6th minute itself but the swift Bekey despite sneaking in from the flanks, could not get the power behind his shot and the Iraqi goalkeeper managed to save it.

The Indians played with more purpose even as the Iraqis relied on their physical superiority to seize it in the midfield.

In the 42nd minute, Vikram made another robust move but Ricky shot straight to the rival Goalkeeper as both teams headed to the interval locked goalless.

Following the restart, Bekey got perhaps the easiest chance of the match when at the hour mark, he had the rival Goalkeeper at his mercy from a hand-shaking distance. But he couldn’t finish it off.

Two minutes later, Ravi flashed another cross from the left flank but it bounced out.

Coach Bibiano Fernandes introduced the fresh pair of legs of Harpreet in the 76th minute. Six minutes later Harpreet, with a solo effort barged in but the goalkeeper wasn’t to be beaten.

India went all out thereafter but Iraq were more content to stabilise their defence as they increased numbers at the back. The Indian colts tried hard Iraq managed to hold on.

INDIA U-16: Lalbiakhlua Jongte (GK), Harpreet Singh, Moirangthem Thoiba Singh, Gurkirat Singh, Shabas Ahammed Moothedath (Samir Kerketta 69′), Lalchhanhima Sailo (Ridge Melvin 89′), Ricky John Shabong, Givson Singh Moirangthem, Bekey Oram, Ravi Bahadur Rana (Harpreet 76′), Vikram Pratap (C)

India determined to take the fight to Iraq

KATHMANDU: India U-16 team have recuperated from the ‘disappointing draw against hosts Nepal’ and the youngsters are ready for ‘the bigger challenge ahead’ now, coach Bibiano Fernandes sounded upbeat before India lock their horns with reigning AFC U-16 Champions Iraq in the final fixture of the AFC U-16 Championship 2018 Qualifiers at the Halchowk Stadium tomorrow (September 24, 2017).

“Yes, obviously boys were feeling a bit down following the draw against Nepal. We were really disappointed but now we have shifted our focus to tomorrow’s match against Iraq”, Bibiano Fernandes said.

“There has been a positive vibe amongst the boys and they’re determined to take the fight to Iraq tomorrow. Although we were left aghast last night, now, we are feeling the fire under our belly to impose a tough challenge to them.”

Meanwhile, Iraq are now cushioned at the top position of Group D with 6 points from 2 matches whereas India are 2 points shy from as many games.

“We know the match is going to be extremely crucial, not only for us but also for them. We have to keep an eye on the other groups as the calculations will prove to be pivotal in our quest to qualify for the AFC U-16 Championship 2018”, Bibiano mentioned.

There is no injury scare in the Indian camp right now and the team is fully ready for the final encounter of the AFC U-16 Qualifiers.

Bibiano further added, “The boys are in great shape and everyone is ready to give it a shot against the defending champions.”

Meanwhile, the gaffer showed his concern over holding the concentration throughout the 90 minutes which might be the key aspect in tomorrow’s clash against the mighty middle-eastern youngsters.

“We have to be at the top of our game for 90 minutes and it might be the key to get a positive result. We can’t afford to lose our concentration any time, otherwise, we might have to leave Nepal empty-handed”, Bibiano sounded cautious.

The match is scheduled to kick-off at 11:45 AM IST.

India U16s aim to continue winning momentum against Nepal


KATHMANDU: After an impressive three-nil victory against a strong Palestine in the first match of AFC U-16 Qualifiers, India U-16 stay cautious in their approach when they take on hosts Nepal at the Halchowk Stadium on Friday (September 22, 2017).

“There’s no room for complacency,” Coach Bibiano Fernandes said. “Nepal are a strong side and we know each other with both teams having played in the recently concluded U-15 SAFF Championship final,” he added. “They will be backed by a partisan crowd and it will be a challenge for us.”

“Everybody saw what we’re capable of but we can’t afford to be complacent,” he reiterated. “We had an ideal start in the tournament but the target is far away. We aim to continue the winning momentum and prefer to take one match at a time,” he stated.

Bibiano also mentioned that India won’t start as the favourites even after getting better of their rivals twice in the recently-concluded SAFF U-15 Championship. “We won’t have any advantage over Nepal. Although we beat them twice recently, it won’t have any effect on tomorrow’s game and everyone should start afresh.”

He vented his confidence on his squad and showed his faith for “creating quite a few opportunities against Palestine.”

“At times we were shaky the other day but at the end of the game, we won the game convincingly. I have full faith in my squad who have created so many opportunities throughout the game.”

Meanwhile, Nepalese coach Sunil Kumar Shrestha showed his utmost respect for the Indian side. “India have been going through a good phase right now and they were clearly the deserving champions in the SAFF U-15 Championship,” Shrestha mentioned. “We will try to play our natural football to spoil their party tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Nepal went down fighting by a solitary goal to Iraq in their first match of the Group D.

The match between Nepal and India is scheduled to kick-off at IST 3.30pm.

India beat Palestine in AFC U16 Qualifiers opener

Kathmandu: India blanked Palestine 3-0 in the AFC U-16 Championship 2018 Qualifiers at the Halchowk Stadium in Kathmandu today.

Givson Singh opened the scoreline from an impeccable free-kick in the 51st minute. It was followed by a strike from Bekey Oram in the 72nd minute. The last nail in the coffin was pierced by skipper Vikram Pratap in the 79th minute.

India came very close to draw the first blood in the 8th minute but Bekey’s shot whizzed past the crossbar.

In the 25th minute, Givson, who was operating as a free-player at the middle, cut into from the middle but his cutting-edge could have dealt better by Ricky.

Perhaps the biggest moment of the first-half for India came in the 28th minute when Harpreet’s volley ricocheted off the crossbar to leave the India dugout aghast.

Gurkirat also tried his luck from 30-yards out but the Palestine goalkeeper collected it without any trouble.

Changing over, Givson stunned the Palestine goalkeeper in the 51st minute when his right-footed free-kick found the target leaving him stranded at the other end.

Bekey converted the meticulous cross from Ricky to double the lead in the 72nd minute.

Indians took the match by the scruff of the neck in the 79th minute when the skipper Vikram blasted the net to make it 3-0.

India next play Nepal at the same venue at 03:30 PM on September 22, 2017.

India U-16 Team: Lalbiakhlua Jongte (GK), Harpreet Singh, Shabas Ahammed Moothedath, Gurkirat Singh, Samir Kerketta, Lalchhanhima Sailo, Ricky John Shabong, Givson Singh Moirangthem (51′), Bekey Oram (72′) (Harpreet 82′), Ravi Bahadur Rana (Lalrokima 53′), Vikram Pratap (C) (79′) (Ridge Melvin 85′)