Interview: Indian U17 participants at the Nike All Asia Camp - Indian players impress
Every year, Nike holds an All Asia Camp which plays host to 60 of the very best U17 footballers from around Asia and the Pacific. Over the course of five days, coaches from reputed European clubs like Manchester United, FC Barcelona and Inter Milan make the young players go through five days of challenging sessions in a bid to expose the boys to the rigours of top quality coaching as it is done in Europe.
Young talents scouted from countries like China, India, Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia are sent to these yearly camps. India sent five promising talents to the camp in Doha, Qatar – Gursimrat Singh (centre back), Rakesh Oram (winger), Milan Basumatary (striker), Bidyananda Singh (midfielder) and Dheeraj Singh (goalkeeper).
The main program is a three-day affair with coaches from the respective clubs training the youngsters on each day. The final day has an All-Star game with players selected by all two coaches from each club. India’s Gursimrat and Bidyananda were both selected to play in the All Star game and Bidyananda even managed to score the opening goal of the game. And that’s not all; Bidyananda was also selected as the Most Valuable Player by the Barcelona coaches.
Sportskeeda managed to catch up with Gursimrat and Rakesh to talk about their experience at the camp.
Can you tell us a little bit about your experience at the camp?
Gursimrat: It was a very good opportunity for us. We got to train and compete with players from top teams, and we learned a lot of things. It was a great opportunity to work with European coaches.
Rakesh: It was a very good experience for us. I felt that we were on the same level as the other players around the world and the coaching was excellent.
Did any country’s players impress more than others at the camp?
No, there was nothing special about players from the other countries. All of us were on the same level. But the coaches were very impressed with the technique of the Indian players.
With coaches from three different clubs coaching you, how were their methods and philosophies different from the other?
Each club trained us in different ways. They all have different fundamentals they taught us. For example, Manchester United’s coaches focused more on players’ strength – power football. Barcelona’s coaches were more interested teaching us possession football. They kept telling us, “Keep the ball! Don’t ever lose the ball.” Inter Milan’s coaches were a combination of both – they focused a lot on transition football.
Which club’s coaches impressed you the most?
We were most impressed with the coaches from Barcelona and Inter Milan. Especially Inter’s coaches – they were very good! The coaches didn’t know English and spoke in Italian. But we still enjoyed their sessions a lot.
Did you learn anything different from what you learned here?
India has good foreign coaches so there wasn’t much of a difference. But we did learn to work hard and never give up. The idea was to play simple football as much as you can.
[Rakesh gets into specifics of what they taught him to do as a winger] I play on the right flank. The main focus is on ball control. Apart from technique, they always told us never to be in two minds when you’re going forward with the ball.
After having impressed at the camp, do you think you are confident of playing professional football in Asia or even Europe in the future?
We proved ourselves at the camp and the coaches appreciated us a lot for our effort. At this age, if trials can be arranged, we can probably try our luck and play for an academy. It would be better if it was done now rather than later, when you’re in the senior team, it is very difficult to match the standards of players from foreign academies if we haven’t got the requisite training.
If a good academy can give us an opportunity, we can prove ourselves. We were on the same level as the other players there, especially in the All-Star game.
Then wouldn’t you like to see more such camps in India? Won’t it help India’s prospects in the U17 World Cup in 2017?
Yes, definitely. It would help us a lot. It will be good for Indian players in the long run because practicing with the international players tells us where we stand with respect to international standards.
From what we learned about the boys who went to Doha, the coaches were very, very impressed with the Indian players’ talent and fitness. And all they had to say was to ask Indian academies to improve the game in India.
The Indians were clubbed in the same group as the physically strong Australian contingent, and they still managed to prove themselves. Until last year, only two Indian players were allowed to participate in the camp. This year, there were five players. Only Australia, Korea and Japan had eight participants, which shows how much progress India has made in the past couple of years.