Kolkata: The Indian U-16 football team arrived in Nepal on Monday to play the qualifiers of the upcoming U-16 AFC Cup. Team India has been drawn with hosts Nepal, Iraq and Palestine in Group D.
Head coach of the Indian team Bibiano Fernandes who spoke to the reporters on landing in Kathmandu said that even though it is a ‘tough draw,’ the Indian colts can qualify if they play to their potential.
Taking about the potential of the players at his disposal he, as quoted by a AIFF media release said, “They have already shown their potential and proved their worth in Egypt and Qatar. Winning against those sides is a daunting task indeed. I trust my boys to continue the good work and if they are able to, I see most of them playing for the Senior Team in a few years’ time.”
The young boys in blue have been on a roll of late, putting up good performances in their preparatory camp in Qatar. They defeated the Qatar national team 1-0 in their opening match, before brushing aside Al Duhail SC club 5-0 to bring an happy ending to the campaign.
Bibiano also praised the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for it’s youth development programme. Calling it the ‘backbone of the National team,’ he said, “If you notice the current crop, more than 60% of the team are from the AIFF Academy which clearly underlines how successful the Academy project has turned out to be.”
He further added, “I have said it time and again that we are working with such a talented group here. All thanks to AIFF, these boys are being nurtured together for more than 17 months, which is a great time to grow as a team as the bonding, proper diet, practice matters in the long run.”
The coach also stated that very few countries like India have academies run by the country’s football Federation itself and also urged clubs to take the responsibility of nurturing young footballers in their respective academies so that it can benefit India in the long run.
“AIFF is doing a fantastic job running the Academy project efficiently so far. I feel the clubs should start taking up more responsibility. If the clubs join hands with AIFF, the purpose will be served and the target will be attained,” he mentioned.
Meanwhile, India does not have a good record to speak of in the U-16 AFC Cup. The last time they played the tournament in 2016, they failed to win a match in their group, only managing one 3-3 draw against Saudi Arabia, while losing 2-3 to UAE, before losing another 0-3 to Iran, bowing out of the tournament.
India take on Palestine in their first match of the campaign at the Halchowk Stadium on September 20.