India U-17 team looking for games against Portugal and England in the coming months
What’s the story?
The Indian U-17 football team is set to go on an exposure trip to Europe in the coming months and efforts are well underway to arrange games against the toughest of competitors with England and Portugal being touted as the prime targets. However, before embarking on the trip, the Indian team will play two games against Mali next month as they start off their preparations under new coach Luis Norton de Matos.
The two games against Mali are scheduled for the 6th and 9th of April in Mumbai.
Confirming the news, AIFF secretary Kushal Das said, “We are playing two matches against Mali in April in Mumbai and then we are also trying to get matches against England and Portugal during the Europe tour”.
Mr. Das also added that he was hopeful that Mr. Babul Supriyo, who is a fervent football fan, would add much to the organising committee after the union minister, who is also a former playback singer, was appointed as the Vice-President of the LOC for the World Cup.
"He is a football fanatic. He has submitted a proposal to FIFA in which he has talked about doing away with the penalty shootout. He is also involved with the tournament anthem. He would be a part of the board of directors, he is extremely knowledgeable about the game and I am sure he will contribute immensely," Das added.
In case you didn’t know...
India are set to host the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup later this year in the month of October. This is not only the first time India is hosting a FIFA event of such magnitude, this will also be the first time the country will participate in a FIFA World Cup in any age group.
The tournament is set to take place in six cities across India, the names of which will be confirmed when a FIFA panel visits the country later this month.
The heart of the matter
These will be the first games that the youngsters play under new coach Luis Norton de Matos. The man from Portugal took over the reins from Nicolai Adam after the German was sacked under acrimonious circumstances after the whole team had revolted against the coach citing unprofessional behaviour.
De Matos had earlier quipped that he planned to take the team to different countries to gauge the level of competition they will be up against in the World Cup. And as per his plans, the AIFF are looking to play more against stronger teams. The Portuguese further opined that he would rather play the big names of football rather than play against weaker opposition and get “comfortable wins”.
The AIFF are leaving no stones unturned in preparing the U-17 team as their preparations enter the final stretch before beginning their World Cup campaign. And in doing so, Kushal Das also revealed that the team has been supplemented by the appointment of a ‘mental motivator’ who has previously worked with the Vidarbha Ranji Trophy team.
The person concerned has been with the team for the past one month and was given a full-time role after getting positive feedback from the players.
If the India U17 team face England, they will take the field against players from clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United et al.
Mali are as tough as they come in terms of opponents. The African side finished runners-up to Nigeria in the 2015 U-17 World Cup and this will also be a great opportunity for them to acclimatise to the conditions.
It’s high time that the India U-17 team’s focus shifts from matters off the field to the ones on it. With Mali next up and the likes of England and Portugal being touted as possible oppositions in the near future, the Indian youngsters are set for a true test of their mettle in the coming days.
This will be the time for the real cream of the generation to rise and make a name for themselves.