Colin Toal took over as the Technical Director of All India Football Federation's Youth Development program in January. However, the Irishman could begin the job only from June as he was busy with India's Olympic qualification campaign in the absence of national coach Bob Houghton.
But despite the limited time in hand, Toal successfully guided the India u-16 team through the Asian championship qualifiers in Saudi Arabia and even the Under-19 team put up an impressive performance in
their qualifying campaign in Tehran. As Toal gets ready for a well deserved one-month break starting next
week, the man who is responsible to evolve a system to provide a steady supply of talent to the national team in the future spoke to Hindustan Times about his views on Indian football, the problems and the way ahead.
You have been associated in India for almost a year now. What is
your view about the future of Indian football?
I have a very positive outlook. I have worked in Asia before and I
came here without any pre-perceptions. There is good reason to be
positive after what has happened in the last six months or eight
How important are these results in your outlook?
Results are nice to have as they keep people interested in the
process. But one should not judge the success of a developmental
program on the basis of number of wins the age group teams registers.
It should be judged on how many of them make a meaningful contribution
to the national team's success. In India's case the test of the
current programme will come in the next five years or so.
Q) When you took over what was the situation at the age-group level?
How do you aim to tackle the problems dodging age group football in
If you are speaking about overage players, that is a big problem. If
you really want to do a development program you need to get the age
group issue sorted out. If you are playing overage players you make
get some results but it is detrimental in the long run.
We tried very hard this year to make that the team which we took to
Saudi Arabia was of right age. We picked 32 boys from the trials to
come for the first camp in Goa. When they came here we conducted an
MRI on all of them and we found out that 11 of them were too old. We
had to send some home because they were very old and some were sent to
the under-19 group.
That left a big hole. But you need to do it. As it happens those left
were still good players and developed well and results are there to
see. But it was important for us to set that standard. Now next year
we have to make sure that the next group coming in is of the right
Q) What will be the selection criteria?
We have sent four spotters, coaches that have been involved in the
under-16 and under-19 program and know what we want, to various age
group tournaments. We have a list of players from people we trust.
In India, we are looking for that playermaker, the number 10. But
matches are won in the two penalty areas and we need strong guys.
Though skills will be an important criteria we are looking at 20 per
cent player who are strong and have good physique.
Q) So according to you what is the road ahead?
We are looking to have the under-16 group with us full time next year
and they are going to be the focal point. But that is only 25 per cent
of our total focus. The under-19 team is also very important since
they will form the core of the Olympic qualification team in 2011. We
will be conducting two-three months camp for them and also give them
some international exposure.
It is also important to widen the net in terms of number of players
being part of the program.
We also need a residential national academy for training the
youngsters. We have zeroed in on a place in Goa for hosting the
under-16 teams but the issues like their education have to be sorted
out before we can make a start.