(MENAFN- IANS) Khao Yai (Thailand), June 10 (IANS) Bullish after a well-planned and lengthy period of preparation, the Indian U-17 boys football team is aiming to make history at the AFC U-17 Asian Cup, and qualify for the global event to be held later in the year, as they get into the final stretch of their long journey.
The Indian U-17 team has been globetrotting in the last one and a half years moving from Colombo, for the SAFF U-17 Championship, to Muscat for practice matches, to Dammam for the AFC U-17 Qualifiers, to Goa for a long preparatory camp, and to European cities like Madrid, Stuttgart and Augsburg for developmental training.
Having prepared well for the event, the boys are extremely focused. With just about a week to go ahead of their AFC U-17 Asian Cup campaign, the India U-17s are now in a rather quiet corner of the world, at the Khao Yai Sports Complex here in Thailand.
With nothing to distract them, the U-17 boys train hard day-in-and-day-out ahead of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup, in which they are set to face Vietnam (June 17), Uzbekistan (June 20), and Japan (June 23) in Group D, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) informed in a story in a story on its website.
Head coach Bibiano Fernandes, says that the boys are already acclimatised to the conditions in Thailand, and are raring to go.
"The motivation levels are right up there for these boys. They have all been training hard for months, and have had the opportunity to play in some of the best conditions for their age," Fernandes told the-aiff.com. "Not only have they been able to play against some of the best clubs in the world, but now they have also been given two weeks to acclimatise to the weather and the pitches here in Thailand, before the AFC U-17 Asian Cup. The focus is optimum for them."
The India U-17s have played two local teams in Thailand, earning comfortable wins in both matches. Fernandes believes that earning respectable results in the practice matches against the junior sides of top European teams like Atletico de Madrid, Real Madrid, VfB Stuttgart, FC Augsburg, and many more, have given the India U-17s the confidence to go out and perform.
"I think a big thank you should go out to the Federation for arranging for our long camps in Spain and Germany, along with matches against some high-quality opponents," Fernandes was quoted as saying by the AIFF in a story on its website.
"The results have mostly been positive, and that has given these boys a lot of confidence that they can take on the quality sides in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup as well. I now have a bunch of highly motivated boys, who are dreaming of big things," smiled Fernandes. "That's always a good sign as a coach."
The current squad of 23 players that have travelled to Thailand for the AFC U-17 Asian Cup is a carefully crafted one that took around one and a half years to build. The current squad has 10 players who were not a part of the squad that secured qualification for the AFC U-17 Asian Cup in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, last year.
The team had been in camp since November last year in Goa, and players from all over the country were brought in as the coaching staff tested them out under various conditions. The 10 that emerged to eventually seal their berth in the squad that will represent India in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup are - Pranav Sundarraman, Pramveer, Dhanajit Ashangbam, Rohen Singh, Omang Dodum, Akash Tirkey, Prachit Gaonkar, Shashwat Panwar, Lemmet Tangvah and Gogocha Chungkham.
"Building this squad took all the knowledge and experience we built from the SAFF (U-17) Championship and the Asian Cup Qualifiers last year," said Fernandes. "There are some boys who have been here from the start and others who have joined in after November last year, but it has always been about the long process of building this team.
"The first things that we try to inculcate in these boys once they come into the team are their attitude, behaviour, manners, respect for opponents, and being better human beings in general. That always has to come first," said Fernandes. "Once that is out of the way, we focus on their acumen on the pitch. Discipline is the main thing for me. If you can't be disciplined, you can't excel in any sport. But what was great to see was that the boys who have been in this team for longer have helped the newer ones get into the groove of the team."
Bibiano's boys have a dream to reach the World Cup (the four semi-finalists of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup get direct entry into the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2023). While some strong teams stand in their way, the India U-17s remain steadfast.
"Oh, the boys are just raring to go," exclaimed Fernandes. "Of course, we have some tough teams in our group, but there are no easy matches at this level. Everyone has come to win and to qualify for the World Cup, and so have we. We will take it one step at a time. The first objective is to get good results and qualify for the quarterfinals. Then it's just one more step from there."
MENAFN provides the information “as is” without warranty of any kind. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, images, videos, licenses, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in this article. If you have any complaints or copyright issues related to this article, kindly contact the provider above.