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Development is not about results – Interview with India U-16 coach Goutam Ghosh

Photo Credit: AIFF Media

The India senior team might not have won the SAFF Championship in Nepal last year but the Under-16s won their age-group event by beating hosts Nepal 1-0 in the final. That same group of colts featured in the AFC Under-16 qualifiers in September and are now competing in the Asia U-16 Champions Trophy.

Organised by Malaysia’s Frenz United club in collaboration with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the tournament comprises of some of the best under-16 sides of South East Asia and a team each from India and China. The India U-16 side, which is being referred to as AIFF XI, is being coached by Goutam Ghosh, who was also in charge during the successful SAFF Championship winning campaign and the AFC qualifiers.

This group of boys have been playing together for more than a year now and are part of the AIFF Regional Academy in Kalyani. Ghosh is hopeful that the continuity and familiarity in the side will help bring good results in the Asia Champions Trophy.

“Obviously staying together helps. Bonding well off the field will always reflect in the team’s performances on it. We played well and performed as per our philosophy in the U-16 SAFF Championship and the AFC U-16 Qualifiers. At this age group you don’t get to play that often. So when we have got this opportunity, we will try to do better in the Asia Champions Trophy 2014,” Ghosh told Sportskeeda during an exclusive chat.

India only finished third in their AFC under-16 qualifying group behind Kuwait and Tajikistan. Ghosh talked about the progress that his boys have made in the last 12 months and opined that the level of performances remains the priority in the Asia Champions Trophy.

“The boys have developed a lot since emerging champions in the U-16 SAFF Championship. You need to remember that it happened almost a year back in 2013. Since then, they have developed both physically and mentally. But at the same time you need to work on all areas to improve them as a player. At such an age-group you just cannot stress on any just one particular aspect.

“Any team who play in any tournament all over the world and across all age-groups aims to win. We also intend to do the same. But I reiterate, development is not about results. We need to perform better than what we did in the SAFF U-16 and the AFC U-16 Qualifiers. If we are able to do it, I would feel, we have achieved our aim. The development graph should be upward but it’s not always about winning,” Ghosh said.

Photo Credit: AIFF Media

There are 12 teams in this tournament with two groups of six sides each. Unlike most age-group competitions in Asia, this one is taking place on a home and away format thus ensuring at least ten fixtures for each team.

All the home matches of the Indian colts will be at the Barasat Stadium, West Bengal under floodlights and some of them will also be telecasted LIVE nationwide. Ghosh couldn’t have wished for a better exposure for his players.

“It’s a unique experience for our boys. They don’t get to travel as much as their senior counterparts. By playing in such a format they would get to know the nitty-gritty of playing away matches and settling back to home conditions every weekend. It’s about acclimatisation, travelling through various time zones, playing on different turf conditions and weather and in front of different crowd. I am very much thankful to AIFF for providing us such an opportunity. The boys will only get richer in experience,” he added.

The AIFF XI lost their opening fixture 1-0 away at Malaysia’s Frenz Harimau Muda last week and take on Indonesia’s Frenz United at the Barasat Stadium on Saturday. Ghosh has been studying his group opponents and pointed out that every side has youth internationals in their squad.

“We have had a look at the videos of the teams when they played in the last edition of the tournament. But a year has passed since then and a lot has changed. Nevertheless, we are trying to grab some videos of the first round matches to gauge about our rivals. I believe, they are also doing the same.

“We respect all opponents and will take one match at a time. Our opponents in the first match were represented by the Malaysian U-16 team and they have qualified for the final phase of the AFC U-16 Championship also. In fact, they had finished ahead of South Korea in the qualifiers. I noticed they were physically and mentally a very strong unit.

“As for other teams, it’s too early to comment as I haven’t seen them. But I have heard PVF Vietnam are a very strong team and the Timor Leste team is their U-16 national team. Besides that Home United Singapore and Frenz United Indonesia have a number of U-16 national team players in their ranks,” Ghosh stated.

Only the top two of the group would progress to the semis and the Indian juniors would no doubt be hoping it to make it there. But as Ghosh maintained throughout the interview, the performances will be more important than the results.

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