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Bulpin's boys ready to take on the men

"Be realistic. Give these kids some time and I'm sure they can turn it around," said Desmond Bulpin, head coach of the AIFF XI, a squad of teens and slightly beyond readying to be the GenNext of Indian football.

sports Updated: Dec 03, 2010 00:21 IST
Somshuvra Laha

"Be realistic. Give these kids some time and I'm sure they can turn it around," said Desmond Bulpin, head coach of the AIFF XI, a squad of teens and slightly beyond readying to be the GenNext of Indian football.

Come Friday, youth will find a new representative in I-league IV. And AIFF XI, an initiative of football's apex body focussing on qualifying for the World Cup, thinks it is ready to endure the rigours of the 26-match home and away event.

The fact that these handpicked teenagers will have to contend - sans foreigners - against the big boys poses a unique challenge but Bulpin is game for it.

"They will be judged on their performance and not the results. But then, we have already started giving some top-notch teams a run for their money," said the former manager of English Championship side Queens Park Rangers before the AIFF XI start against Chirag United an the Yuba Bharati Krirangan's artificial turf on Friday.

The AIFF XI's domestic debut was stellar, shocking powerhouse JCT 1-0 in the Federation Cup group opener last September.

Asked about his long-term plans, Bulpin said: "Frankly, I don't know. We have an Olympic qualifier coming up against Burma and that would be out first objective.

"Beyond that, it's obviously the World Cup qualifiers but that's still some time away."

Bulpin, under whom current East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan had started his playing career in Bristol, claimed the All India Football Federation's latest initiative is not unprecedented.

"A few years ago, Singapore started something like this. Last year, the team were lying at the bottom. This year, they are mid-table," said Bulpin, who took Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch under his wings as Tottenham Hotspur's youth team coach.

In terms of experience, these teenagers are already quite veteran. "Half the side were in the Asian Games. That means we have already getting some success in creating a supply line for the India team. All we need now is to hone the players," said Bulpin.

The I-League, Bulpin hopes, will provide his boys just that.