Indian football fans have good memories of youth teams playing in Iran. In the mid-70s, the youth team dished out a wonderful performance and captured the Junior Asian Cup held in Tehran, jointly with Iran. That team contained Prasun Banerjee and Sabbir Ali – players who would go on to have successful careers for both club and country. Almost four decades later, the under-13 team has once again performed admirably in AFC Youth Football Festival held in the Iranian city of Yazd.

The boys who have made their nation proud!

The boys started their campaign with a 7-0 thrashing of hapless Bhutan, thanks to a breath taking hat-trick by Firozuddin Mollah. In the second match, India drew 1-1 with Pakistan with a goal from Mollah in the 23rd minute. Mollah scored yet another hat-trick in the third match, as India grabbed another big win – this time an 8-0 rout against Sri Lanka. Local team Yazd City was defeated 3-0 next, with two goals from Sandeep Bhattacharya and one from Basu Chatterjee. In the return leg against Bhutan, India thrashed the team 8-0 to score 15 goals in two games against them.

Finally, it came down to the two matches against Iran. If India were to win these matches, they would have sealed the title. Sadly, the hosts were too strong as the boys drew 1-1 and lost 2-0. Despite not capturing the title, the under-13 team has managed to win accolades and capture hearts abroad. Striker Lalremruata and midfielders Lalmuanzova and Sandip Bhattacherjee were declared “Best Players”, while midfielder Lazim Ali was selected as the “Most Skillful Player”.

Captain and goalkeeper Subrata Das was another standout performer for the team, keeping clean sheets in several matches. Das was discovered by coach Biswajit Mazumdar last season in a local tournament in Bengal. Basu Mukherjee was another find of the tournament.

Manager Satheevan Balan was impressed with the overall performance and said – “The boys were not overawed by the situation. They played with a free mind and the results speak for themselves”.

Recently Danish club FC Midtjylland, specialists in youth academies, made a perfect assessment of the youth level in Indian football. They said that there was not much of a difference in the skill level of Indian under-13 players with Danish players of the same age in their Academy. They observed, however, that Indian players don’t get groomed properly and they rarely fulfil their early potential. This recent performance attests FCM officials’ views. Indian football fans will be hoping that some of these young boys, if not all, turn into top class players in future.

Team List

Goal keepers: Sam Nornoha (Goa), Subrata Das (West Bengal)

Defenders: Fwiden Bargoyary (Assam), Vijay Kumar (Haryana), Shahbaaz, Konjenbham, Maniranjan Singh (all from Manipur); Vanlalruata, Jonathan Lalmuansanga (both from Mizoram), Krishanu Santra, Rabin Mahato, Babu Mondal (all from West Bengal).

Midfielders: Lazimali, Bento Newton Joe (both from Kerala), Lalthansanga, Lalmuanzova, Lalrintluanga (all from Mizoram), Sandip Bhattacharjee, Rajesh Goswami (West Bengal).

Forwards: Heisham Sailesh Singh (Manipur), Lalremuata, (Mizoram), Firozuddin Molla, Basu Mukherjee (both from West Bengal).

Head Coach: Surinder Singh

Assistant Coach: Tarun Roy

Manager: Satheevan Balan

Physio: S Babu