More than results, it’s about the developmental part: Toal

Nilanjan Datta

The Indian U-16 National Team landed safely in Tehran past midnight earlier today (September 21). The boys head into the Tournament from a three-week Preparatory Camp in Dubai. A day ahead of the kick-off of the Championship, Colm Joseph Toal, Head Coach, Youth Development spoke at length to about the expectations, the bunch of boys, the level of competition and much more. EXCERPTS:
Colm Joseph Toal pose with the Indian U-16 boys after arriving in Tehran

What are your expectations form this AFC U-16 Championship?
Every country goes into a Championship hoping to be successful and win every match they play. It may sound cliché but we are taking one match at a time. But yeah, we will look to win the match for sure. We have played at this level in 2008. I can tell you this is a very difficult Championship and in 2008, we found out the competition was very tough.

At this level it’s not about results. Rather, it’s more about the developmental part. If you look at the squad of 2088, 17 of them are playing in the I-League at the moment and 5 have been in the National Camp with 3 having already made their debut. Three years down the line if we get some of the boys from this present U-16 squad emulating it, I feel we have been successful.

How have the preparations been?
The preparations have been good. We trained in Goa for three months without a break and played a practice match every Saturday. But back home, it’s very difficult to get the same level of competition.

Prior to landing in Tehran, we played three practice matches in Dubai, two of which were against a very strong UAE U-16 National side. We did lose both the matches by the odd goal but the performance of the boys was heartening given the difference in Rankings between the two teams.

We are among the 16 in Asia at the U-16 level. Do you feel Indian football has moved ahead?
It’s a huge achievement to have reached at this level twice in the last four years. Everyone knows how difficult it is to reach the Asian Cup Finals at the senior level. We need to look up the pyramid and have to qualify for the AFC U-19 Final Phase the next time. That needs to be the next step. As we move up, it becomes more difficult.

What has been your experience in the last six years?
We have become competitive. I need to credit and thank All India Football Federation for their belief in continuity. I have been here for six years; Bob was here for five years. When you stay for long, it helps. The AIFF have been patient and focussed. That’s important.

We are in the building phase at the moment. The Arrows have been an exceptional project and the manner the boys are nurtured and looked after they leave the Youth level will shape the future.

We play Uzbekistan in the first match. How are you planning for the same?
We need to make an improvement from the last time we played them. I am very positive about the boys. They will do a good job and not let India down. We need to be competitive and we will.

The 23-member squad stays as follows:

GOALKEEPERS: Agaipal Singh (Punjab), Supratim Bhattacharjee (West Bengal), Avinash Kumar (Uttar Pradesh).
DEFENDERS: Gurba Gagrai (Jharkhand), Jimmy Maibam (Manipur), Mohd. Sajid Dhot, Manraj Singh (both from Punjab), Myron Mendes (Goa), Nabin Rabha (Assam), Sarthak Golui (West Bengal), Vivekananda Sagayaraj (Karnataka).
MIDFIELDERS: Alen Deory, Geremsha Basumatary (both from Assam), Hanan Javed (Kerala), Germanpreet Singh (Punjab), Issac Vanmalswama (Mizoram), Lalramzuava (Chandigarh), Nitin Jyal, Raja Rawat (both from Uttarakhand).
FORWARDS: Vanlalduatsanga (Mizoram), Kamalpreet Singh (Punjab), Daniel Lalhlimpuia (Chandigarh), Uttam Rai (Sikkim).
HEAD COACH: Colm Joseph Toal