About nine months back, India’s team for the Under-17 World Cup to be held in 2017 was on a tour of the country, playing matches against teams selected by regional football associations like Western India Football Association (WIFA) and West Bengal. The coach in charge of the youngsters’ development, Nicolai Adam, believed that the matches would have dual advantages. One, he would get to scout for talent to add to his team from the state teams.
“We’re also here so that India sees a bit of the players. They have been on a couple of exposure trips outside, now it’s also good to play a couple of matches in India so that people see what kind of players we have,” Adam had told reporters in December last year.
Exposure has been the key word of Adam’s stint with the young players, who were knocked out in the group stages of the recent AFC U16 Championship, but not before they impressed everyone who saw them play.
The team has had multiple exposure trips abroad before the tournament and many trips are being planned in the coming months too as Adam looks to give his side the best preparation they can get for a tournament as gruelling as the U17 World Cup.
There is, however, one peculiar aspect of Adam’s vision for the boys. While he has tried to give his wards every bit of exposure possible on the pitch, he has shielded them from media interviews for the last few months, not to mention at the AFC U16 Championship.
Adam’s rationale is that he does not want the media hype and scrutiny to get into the young players’ heads.
“There is too much talking in football in general. Especially in this age-group it should be all about football and nothing else. The less talk from people around the boys, the better! Pure football and focusing on it is what really counts,” Adam told HT recently.
It must be noted that while the step is unheard of, it does not fall foul of AFC regulations which only require the coach to be present for pre-match and post-match press conferences. The players are free to interact in the mixed zone while they make their way to the team bus after matches.
How effective this tactic proves, only time will tell.