Stephen Constantine has struggled massively in his second spell with the Indian national football team. Five losses in five World Cup qualifiers and a draw against lowly Nepal in an international friendly stand testimony to that. The Britishman however would be the first to acknowledge that the performance of the junior teams has been encouraging to say the least. From listing inspiring wins in Germany and Spain to doing well in AFC age-group qualifiers, the boys coached by Nikolai Adam have done what few had imagined to be feasible for us.
The crop of boys who are a year older though, today listed a memorable if not outstanding win in the capital. Fittingly on Constantine’s birthday, the elite academy boys, coached and managed by Floyd Pinto lifted the coveted Subroto Cup.
Having beaten formidable opponents like Bengaluru FC, Pune FC and teams from Sweden and Indonesia, it was assumed that they will run away with the final. Little Angels Paradise School from Wangbal however had other ideas. The boys from Manipur took the lead against the run of play early in the first half and came tantalisingly close to pulling off an upset.
Talking about his team’s performance after the game, Pinto conceded, “I will be honest, we were a little complacent to begin with. I don’t think anyone talked about it but we played two of our best games against BK Hacken (Sweden) and Indonesia in the quarters and semis; the boys did seem a little relaxed thus as they took the field today.
The opening goal though came as a shock; we didn't expect to go behind but the Manipur boys showed why everyone held them in such high regard.”
Asked if the presence of arguably the greatest footballer ever, Pele, inspired the team, he added, “Definitely, it was such an honour to play in front of him. The boys seemed pumped-up; I personally could feel the energy.”
The future, as aforementioned does seem bright for the game in our country and Pinto believes that this crop of boys will only improve from here on, “For most of them, this was the first tournament together. You can well imagine what they will do when they are more settled and in sync with each other’s play.”
These are the kids who will represent India at the Under 19 Asia Cup in 2 years time, if today’s performance is anything to go by, we wouldn't be surprised if Pinto’s troops march themselves in to the continents footballing folklore then.Published 17 Oct 2015, 03:54 IST