As the Indian football transfer market heats up, with players switching loyalties in a blink of an eye, one is left to ponder over some of the movements, specially related to Indian Arrows. In some of the recent declarations, it has been confirmed that next season, some of the crucial players of the debutant club will no longer don the Indian Arrows jersey, as they are joining the heavyweights, who offered them lucrative deals. Many of these deals were signed earlier, even before AIFF gave birth to this baby. This leaves Indian football followers in a dilemma, which spurs a question that “Is the purpose of clubbing together, all the Indian U-23 players in a single club, and play them amongst elite of I-league, already fulfilled? ” TheHardTackle takes a look at both sides of the coin.
India U-23 Connection: Was This The Plan?
Indian Arrows surprised everyone by avoiding the dreaded drop last season (which was also their debut season), as they managed to finish a respectable ninth. It was envisaged by many pundits that Indian Arrows, the club which was shaped keeping in mind the grand occasion of the 2018 FIFA World Cup berth, would be the prime contender to face the music in May 2011. Previously known as AIFF XI, the team was mentored by the experienced Desmond Bulpin and it was under his mentorship that the young lads gelled together, showcased clinical performances at times and survived relegation. Many Indian Arrows’ players rose from obscurity to stardom, as they performed with grit against some of the best teams in the premier division of Indian Football. Players like Raju Gaekwad, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Deepak Devrani, Jewel Raja Sheikh, Shilton Dsilva and Malswamfela rose to the occasions and made themselves counted. Spanish giants FC Barcelona have proved over the past few years, what a bunch footballers are capable of achieving, if they play together regularly. There’s no denying that the federation had similar plans when they established this team into the league. These’s no surprise that Desmond Bulpin himself was asked to take charge of the team, when the London 2012 pre Olympic qualifiers beckoned. He picked eleven players from the Indian Arrows squad, which was quite obvious. India took on Myanmar in the first round and a late CS Sabeeth-goal, at Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, took the Indian team to the next round. In the subsequent round, the young Bhangra Boys took on the mighty Qatar and were undone in both the legs. The team missed glorious chances at the Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune to clinch the tie. Despite the loss and the deployment of the age old long ball strategy, by yet another English coach, the team synched up well, especially in the home leg and many remarked that there’s a lot of room for improvement and this team was heading in the right direction.
Transfers: Raising Eyebrows!
With Pune FC confirming that Jeje would return to the club, it has certainly taken aback many Indian football fanatics. Jeje, who was an integral part of Red Lizards’ squad since 2007, joined Indian Arrows on loan. Top scoring for the AIFF sponsored team, Jeje arrived at the international stage, when he scored against Myanmar and then against Qatar in the Olympic qualifiers. He is seen as the new face of Indian football, along with Raju Gaikwad. Gaikwad, the Tata Football Academy product, is set to return to unite with Kolkata giants East Bengal, who had reportedly signed the talented centre back for a staggering sum of Rs. 45 lakhs, along with Robin Singh. Rumours have it that Jewel Raja would soon be donning the famous Green-&-Maroon of Mohun Bagan. If other reports are to be believed, then goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, a regular for Indian Arrows last season, is wanted by both the Kolkata heavyweights – Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. The future of other players like Lalrindika Ralte and Deepak Devrani is still in question. Mohun Bagan is meanwhile trying to complete inter-state transfer formalities for Jagatar Singh.
AIFF recently (June 15th) sold the sponsorship rights of Indian Arrows to the Kolkata based company – Pailan Group. The team has now shifted to the Pailan World School in Kolkata, adding to the already present three teams from the city, in the league. The infrastructure boasts of two full sized training grounds with floodlights amongst others. Indian Arrows will have a better and ever building fan base there in the City of Joy, which already flaunts three century-old clubs. Hence, the decision to let some of the influential players leave is certainly open to discussion. The team might deteriorate, as far as performances on the field are concerned, and if the gaping voids are not plugged, they might even get the boot from the ever competent I-league next season.
A certain segment of fans may debate and contradict that the young players should get more exposure while teaming up with some of the best in India, learning their part of the trade and implementing them for the Tricolor in critical matches, just like Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chettri have done in the past.
However, in an era, where big clubs like JCT FC and Mahindra FC are getting disbanded, due to lack of support from the commoners, Pailan Group have invested in football, when their Chairman, Mr. Apurba Saha, must have had a plethora of choices to invest, thereby attesting his trust in youth development. Selling some of the influential players at this time, when the club is on the brink of the first step towards achieving something the federation had planned for, is certainly appalling and sad.