U16 Indian football team to tour China, Thailand, Malaysia ahead of AFC U-16 Championship
All India Football Federation’s India U 16 colts will set out for a month-long three-nation excursion this July to China, Thailand and Malaysia. The Indian team will play 10-12 international ties, including 7 against U16 national sides.
The July leg is marked as AIFF’s final preparation of the Indian boys ahead of the AFC U 16 Championship scheduled in September 2018, Malaysia. Indian colts, coached by Bibiano Fernandes have been training in Kolkata last 5 weeks since returning victorious from Serbia in May.
The 25-member squad and 7 support staff will now leave for Weinan city, China on June 30, 2018 to participate in the four-nation invitational tournament alongside the U16 national teams of DPR Korea, Thailand and host China.
India open their campaign against host China on 3rd July followed by matches against Thailand on 5th July, and DPR Korea on 7th July. Bibiano's boys are scheduled to take on Thailand U16 team one more time mid-July in addition to playing practice games against two local clubs when they visit the country before a week-long stopover in Kuala Lumpur for a friendly against Malaysian U 16 team towards the end of the tour.
The Malaysia stopover has been planned to acclimatise the squad and get the feel of the pitch and conditions before they return for the big-ticket championship in September.
All India Football Federation has been on an effort to improve the quality of Indian football with investment into the age group scouting and building a competitive team for continental tournaments across categories.
After India’s aspiring U 17 World Cup participation, AIFF is focused on grooming a team capable of qualifying for the FIFA events by right in future. The assembling of current India U16 team is one such vision envisaged by the Indian Federation 12 months back. With the support from Sports Authority of India, the U16 project has made satisfactory progress. Over the last 12 months, the team has shaped up well with the liking of the coach Bibiano Fernandes and have been on experiential tour having practised and played competitive games across continents to gain experience and exposure.
On the eve of leaving for China, coach Bibiano Fernandes said, “I am fortunate to have these group of boys, majority of them being with me since U15 competitions. It has been an exciting journey for us over the last 14-16 months in preparing for AFC U16 final and I am happy to have got ample opportunities to test our mettle against quality opponents and different conditions to get the right balance in the squad.''
“We have reminded ourselves of our targets every time we have stepped on the field and the boys have worked towards it every single day.”
India has been drawn in Group C of the AFC U16 Championship alongside Iran, Vietnam and Indonesia. The AFC U16 Championship featuring 16 teams will be held from September 20th to October 7th in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A top-four finish would earn India the bragging rights to play FIFA U 17 World Cup in 2019 in Peru.
Kushal Das, General Secretary, AIFF expressed satisfaction on the shaping up of the U16 team and progress over last 12 months.
“These are interesting days for football in India. The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports and Sports Authority of India believes in the Indian football dream. Having invaluable sport coming from the Sports Secretary and Director General SAI made AIFF’s job much easier. It ensured our coach and the boys get the best of what’s needed to gear up for the competition.''
“AFC competitions are never easy, but I am personally satisfied to see the team has come together well. As we set in for the final leg of our preparation, the July tour assumes importance with opportunities to play 7 ties against China, Thailand, Malaysia & DPR Korea U16 national sides,” Das added.