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Friday, Dec 13, 2019

Indian football has a lot of talent and must keep developing: U-23 coach

The camp at Goa for the AFC U23 championship kicked off on Saturday. While the boys sweat it out in the middle, the man in charge of the U23 team Derrick Pereira feels that India has a lot of talent at its disposal.

football Updated: Mar 04, 2019 16:04 IST
New Delhi
India U-23 national team camp in Goa.
India U-23 national team camp in Goa.(AIFF)

The strength of any football team is its bench and for a team like India which is looking to take giant strides in the world of football, progress at the grassroots level is of prime importance.

The camp at Goa for the AFC U23 championship kicked off on Saturday. While the boys sweat it out in the middle, the man in charge of the U23 team Derrick Pereira feels that India has a lot of talent at its disposal.

Pereira said that the team of probables that he has at his disposal, is a good mix of some exciting young and quality experienced players. The only need is that these players gel together and become a winning combination.

“There are some very young players who need that bit of experience, while at the same time, there are some high quality experienced players who have already had first team experience.

“Both the groups need to gel together in our attempt to find the winning combination. If we expose all of them for a longer term, this bunch can definitely mature into future national team players and big assets for Indian football,” he said.

Indian football is improving and our aim is to build up from where we are and move ahead, said the head coach.

“Indian football has improved a lot. We need to build up from where we are, and move forward. We need to keep competing at the top level. We need to be regularly playing with top Asian Countries, both at the International, and Club level too,” Pereira said.

He however, was apprehensive about the fact that some good players can be missed as all the boys are joining the camp after a long domestic season. Though he preferred all of them together in the preparatory camp.

“It’s important to get all the players together in the camp to prepare for the AFC Qualifiers. On top of that, all of the boys are coming back at the end of a long season. Ashique (Kuruniyan), Jerry (Lalrinzuala), Hitesh (Sharma) are already ruled out. All of them will be badly missed.

“We need to check the niggles and fitness levels of all in the camp. We cannot afford to lose anyone anymore,” he said.

The head coach was excited about the March 11 practice match against Qatar to be played in Doha.

“I am very excited to play Qatar U-23 in a practice match. I strongly believe that team will form the nucleus of the Qatar National Team in the 2022 World Cup. They are a team of pure quality stuff. The match will help us immensely to prepare for the forthcoming AFC Qualifiers.

“It will be a huge challenge and a very stiff competition for us. It will help us to gauge where we stand. Not to forget Qatar are the current Asian Cup champions, and that Almoez Ali, the highest goal scorer of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 - is an U-23 player himself,” Pereira added.

Though Pereira would have preferred another match had time permitted, but he is happy with whatever he has got.

“Even as matches are very important, it’s also significant that we prepare well. Preparation needs a balance between the training sessions, and practice matches. Time is of utmost importance to prepare the boys. Had we got more time, we may have been able to squeeze in another match.”

On the multiple captaincy issue, Pereira observed: “For me, the Captain needs to lead from the front, and set an example. He needs to inspire others, lift up their morale. His attitude on and off the pitch will be the true definition, and reflection of the team.

“I have just taken up this challenge and I need to have a closer look at the boys and decide on it later. I will watch as to how everyone fits in the groove, and react all throughout.”

As far as qualifying for the main competition from a group consisting of teams like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Pereira sounded very optimistic. “We are in a very tough group. Uzbekistan are the current AFC U-23 champions. They are playing on their home soil. They are extremely dangerous, while Tajikistan have always been a very physical and competitive team.

“But we prepare to go in with a plan and will try to play exciting football and get results.”

However, Pereira preferred silence about the last group match against Pakistan also to be played on the last day of the competition, on March 26.