Age group teams in India have done well in the continental level events with the performance of U-16 team bearing a testimony to this fact as they put in a gallant display in the recently concluded AFC U-16 Championship. The U-19 and the U-22 teams also put in commendable performances in their respective qualifiers despite being placed in tough groups. The recent addition to this is the India U-14 team which participated in the SAARC U-14 Football event and finished at the second spot.
TheHardTackle takes a look back at the campaign of the U-14 boys and also reviews the steps AIFF is taking to spot the talent at this age-group.
The Indian Team and The Tournament
In a decision which is first of its kind the AIFF had decided to send the U-14 boys from its Regional Academy in Navi-Mumbai to participate in the U-14 SAARC Program in Japan from 7 to 20th of October. The Indian team stayed as follows
Goalkeeper: Sam Noronha (Goa), Subrata Das (West Bengal).
Defenders: Amey Ganesh Ranawade (Maharashtra), Jayananda Singh (Manipur), Jerry Lalrinzuala (Mizoram), Prasenjit Chakraborty, Amit Tudu (both from West Bengal),
Midfielders: Aaron Franklin Hermiz (Goa), Saravanan Kiran (Karnataka), Bugde Vineet Vikas (Goa), Bodo Baoringdao (Assam), Kyntiew Shaphrang Kharlukhi (Meghalaya),
Forwards: Md. Hasil (Kerala), Krishna Pandit (Chandigarh), Zonunmawia (Mizoram), Laishram Bedashwor Singh (Manipur).
The team was coached by Sajid Dar with Goutam Ghosh as his deputy. The U-14 team had a camp at the Pailan World School before the event. The event in Japan featured 8 more teams besides India - Japan Football Association Academy 1, Japan Football association Academy 2, Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal. The Indian team played 4 matches in the tournament each of 50 minutes duration.
Indian Team Performance at the Event
The Indian boys defeated Afghanistan 2-1 in their first encounter with striker Krishna Pandit scoring a brace. Pandit scored the first goal 30 seconds after the kick-off chipping a pass from Amey Ranawade past opponent goalkeeper. Second goal again saw Ranawade – Pandit duo combining with the striker heading home a Ranawade cross from right wing. Afghans pulled one back in the stoppage time of second half but India held on to the win.Coach Sajid Dhar praised the boys and said
This is a good exposure for us and overall development stays the priority. We played in a 4-3-3 format and the boys stayed keen in keeping possession all throughout.
The Indian team then routed Bhutan 9-0 in the second match thanks to a hat trick from Krishna Pandit and a brace each from Md. Hasil, Bugde Vineet Vikas and Bodo Baoringdao. In the third match India took on Japan Football Association (JFA) Academy 1 team and in a keenly contested match held the local team to a 1-1 draw. It was India who took the lead through Krishna Pandit as he scored on a rebound after Aaron Franklin’s free kick hit the post. Japan equalized just before the half time and the match ended in a stalemate. Coach Sajid Dhar said after the match
The second-half was keenly contested and some Indian counter attacks drew appreciation from all. The onlookers, which comprised of participating team coaches and some locals appreciated our play. To force the Japan Football Academy Youth Team to split points with us is a huge achievement
In the last match India squared off against Bangladesh and with their neighbours preferring to sit back and defend the India team created a plethora of chances. Striker Zonunmawia and midfielder Baoringdao were at the heart of most Indian attacks in the match but team India failed to make a break thrrough. Head Coach Sajid Dar summed up the tournament as follows
The SAARC U-14 tournament has certainly boosted up the ongoing development process of our youth team and this is going to help them play better in the long run. The team improved with every match
AIFF Efforts To Spot Talent
To do well at the international level it is important to spot talent early and then nurture it. In most of the European and South American nations talented youngsters are spotted at the U-12 and U-14 age group levels and then developed in academies. The AIFF has realized this and the AIFF Regional Academy in Navi-Mumbai shows a step in the right direction. The team that participated in Japan consisted of boys from this academy. AIFF had held an U-14 football fest in Kalyani, West Bengal to spot talent and had also organized open talent scouting events across the nation.
AIFF also plans to open regional academies in Bangalore and in the Pailan School. All the regional academies will have U-14 boys. AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das had also said in an exclusive interview to TheHardTackle about opening of Elite Academies by 2014 where the U-16 boys from Regional Academies will be trained after completion of their terms. The master plan of youth development in being prepared by Rob Baan, The Technical Director of Indian Football. AIFF has deservedly received a lot of praise for its recent youth development efforts.
What is also heartening to see is the stress on the possession based football and a change from 4-4-2 system which has not yielded results for the national team. The U-14 batch of players has indeed shown a lot of promise and the football fans across the nation will look forward to such performances from these youngsters at U-16, U-19 and senior team levels.