NEW DELHI: The New Year could not have begun on a better note for Indian Football when a bunch of teenagers considered the future generation of Indian Football, the Indian Arrows, gear up to challenge one of most historical Indian clubs, East Bengal in an I-League match at the Ambedkar Stadium in the Capital on Tuesday.
The Indian Arrows, the developmental Team of All India Football Federation, is perhaps the sole such project in the World where a bunch of 16, 17 and 18-year-olds are playing together in a Team in the premier league of any Country. Even as one may frantically search, it’s improbable to find such an initiative elsewhere.
Not that one needs to deal with the teenagers with sympathy. Teams can do it at their own risk as the teenagers, only in their last match held mighty Mohun Bagan to a 1-1 draw, that too with 10-men at the Mohun Bagan ground. They presently stand on 7 points from 6 matches.
East Bengal Coach Khalid Jamil, the man with the Midas touch who guided ‘outsiders’ Aizawl FC to a historic triumph in the last edition of I-League stressed that his team are “not taking the teenagers lightly at all.”
“The Indian Arrows are playing good football ranging from the goalkeepers to the forwards. There is a lot of confidence and they play as a unit on the field. It is evident that they are hungry and we are not taking them lightly”, said Khalid.
“We are playing an away fixture with a good young team who have played excellently in their last two matches. We acknowledge the fact that the Indian Arrows are a genuine threat to us”
“Dheeraj (Singh) is an excellent goalkeeper and not having to face him tomorrow will be a huge advantage for us. But still, it will be a tough match for us”, he added.
“The Indian Arrows have improved a lot and for a U-17s player, I have to give them a lot of credit from showing composure and confidence on the pitch. We will not take them lightly”, said Trinidad International Willis Plaza sitting beside Khalid Jamil.
Referring to the last game against Neroca FC, Jamil said, “When you take an early lead you approach the game a bit defensively and we conceded in the dying embers. We need to rectify our mistakes and move ahead”
The Red and Gold, still looking out for their maiden I-League triumph stay on course at the top of the League at the moment with 14 points from 7 matches.
Luis Norton de Matos, the Portuguese Coach who coached India in the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, presently coaching the teenagers said, “All the games that we play in I-League are a big motivation for us. Against Mohun Bagan, we pulled off a very massive result and the boys showed that it is possible to play against some of the best teams in the nation”
“East Bengal are a very good and organized team. The coach Khalid Jamil is a very good coach and they have many players which are very difficult to stop in the final third”, reflected Matos on Indian Arrows’ next opponents.
“Tomorrow I expect a very hard game for us, but we are prepared for it. We are going to play to win and we will play to our maximum tomorrow as well against East Bengal”, he added.
Quipping to the 1-1 draw against Mohun Bagan away from home, Rahul K.P sitting beside Matos said, “We believe in a collective process and we are confident of delivering good performances. I did my duty when I scored for my team and I am proud that I could help my team in whatever way possible”
“The boys surprised everyone in the nation”, said Matos on the performance of the Indian Arrows in I-League. “It is about collectivity and not individuality and I believe that we are a collective unit that believes in the process of development. The big winner in the future is Indian football with this kind of approach and this kind of development”