Indian Arrows head coach has suggested he wants to see more players from his team to represent India at senior level…
Indian Arrows, the development team of the Indian Football Association (AIFF), will begin their journey in the 2020-21 I-League season on January 10 against Churchill Brothers in Kolkata.
This season, the Arrows will see a host of new faces in their ranks, with most of their players from last season securing lucrative contracts with clubs in the Indian Super League (ISL).
The Arrows, under the tutelage of head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh, underwent a pre-season camp in Bhubaneswar before heading to Calcutta where they competed in the 2020 IFA Shield. The Arrows were ousted from the group stage after managing to score just one point in their two games. They drew 1-1 with Southern Samity and lost 0-2 to eventual finalists of the competition, George Telegraph.
The Arrows coach said participating in the IFA Shield was a rewarding experience for the newbie players on his team and that this exposure will help them improve ahead of the new I-League season.
“I thank the AIFF for giving us the opportunity to play in the IFA Shield,” said Venkatesh. The boys played after a long time and the first time they played against senior players and foreigners. It was a great experience before the start of the I-League. Of course, the result was not in our favor, but it was a good experience for the boys and it will help for the next I-League.
“Most of the players were inexperienced. Most of the players have never played for a senior team. Of course we have to improve in some areas, and I’m sure the boys will improve further. “
Indian Arrows were at the bottom of the I-League table last year before the season had to be abruptly ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They had nine points in 16 matches and had managed to win two games against the giants East Bengal and Churchill Brothers.
Drawing positive results from last season, Venkatesh suggested that the youngsters have fought valiantly against the big clubs and that the experience they gain is more important than the results.
“Last year was a different story. If you see all the games we were very close and also the score, most of them we lost 1-0. This is a development team, yes of course the results are important but at the same time we have to see if the players have the right platform and the opportunity.
“This year is a new challenge. We have a new batch of players and most of the players were born in 2003 and are 17 years old. It’s a great opportunity to play in the I-League. The idea is the same for us, to prepare these players for senior India. It’s a big challenge and I’m sure the boys will do better.
The AIFF relaunched the Indian Arrows Project in 2017 with the vision of nurturing young Indian talent and making sure they don’t find the transition from youth football to professional football too high.
Reiterating the vision of the Indian FA, Venkatesh suggested that his only goal is to properly prepare young players so that in the years to come, players can represent the senior Indian team and play for the best clubs in the country.
“The vision is to prepare for the AFC U19 Championship qualifying round in 2022. The I-League, IFA Shield and the tournament we are currently playing are all preparation. Of course, I-League is a great opportunity for them. The U17 boys who have a chance in the I-League is a big thing for them. After the I-League this season they will gain more experience and at the end of the day I want to see more players from this team playing for Indian seniors and top clubs. That’s our goal, ”said the former Indian international midfielder.