I-League 2017/18: Sunil Chhetri envied facilities for youngsters ahead of U-17 World Cup, reveals Luis Norton De Matos
The Indian U-17 football team was groomed well before the FIFA U-19 World Cup; it was the first time that football was being given stress at that age group level. Much to the surprise of everyone, the ‘Blue Tigers’ put up a great show at the mega event.
And according to the coach Luis Norton De Matos, Indian national team captain Sunil Chhetri envied that the facilities provided to the young guns and regretted not being provided with the same during his early playing days.
Matos said that Chhetri, who is India's all-time highest goal-scorer, paid a visit to the U-17 team camp ahead of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at which time he admitted that he never got such an opportunity during his playing days.“'I have never had this kind of chance before, this kind of support and the preparation ahead of a major tournament' Chhetri had said,” revealed Matos.
The Indian Arrows’ coach is doing a wonderful job with the youngsters and is even aiming high in the future days. After an impressive performance in the Under-17 World Cup, their display in the ongoing I-League is also quite satisfactory.
They have managed to defeat heavyweights Shillong Lajong FC and also hold Mohun Bagan to a 1-1 draw in their backyard. On the eve of their away match against East Bengal, the Portuguese expressed his expectations from his boys following the I-League.
The Indian Arrows’ team is the youngest of the I-League teams with the players’ average age being around 17 to 18 years. There are no foreigners in the squad which makes their task even more difficult.
As per Matos’ verdict, if they get constant exposure to competitive football in the next two to three years, they will be ready to play for the junior team of any European club. The U17 FIFA World Cup was the start of their journey, followed by the AFC U-19 Championships and now the I-League.
Regarding the future of these players, he said, “These players are now the main objective of the future. But to start performing in age group competitions like the 13, 15, and 17 is very important. This idea (grooming players from a young age is very important. In a couple of year’s time, there will be more of young players in Indian teams.”
“The Indian Arrows are not seniors; they have the potential to play as junior players. They are not from Africa whose base is strong, or like the European players from Spain and England. They have played the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the I-League and then the U-19 AFC Championships, if they can capitalise on these, in one year they will have the potential to play in many European Clubs in the junior team,” said Matos when he was asked whether his boys have the capability to play in European clubs.
Playing East Bengal at home is always a tough ask, it will be interesting to see how the Arrows plan their game at the Barasaat Stadium on Sunday evening. It has been four matches since East Bengal has won a match in the I-League and co-incidentally it was Indian Arrows whom they defeated on the second day of the year in New Delhi.
Although the Kolkata giants were looking strong through the halfway stage, they lost their way soon after. They are now placed third in the standings with 20 points from 12 matches. Although Minerva Punjab’s loss earlier this week has opened up the league, the Red and Gold brigade have an uphill task ahead of them. On the other hand, Indian Arrows are currently placed in the eighth spot with 11 points from 13 games.