It is time for the nation to get ready for some footballing action as India gets all set to host its only international football tournament – Nehru Cup. After the disappointing results in AFC Challenge cup, football fans across India are eagerly waiting for the event to kick-off. The appointment of a new Dutch coach as well as the recent good show of the U-22 team, along with the hope that the national team would adopt a possession based style of playing, means that Nehru cup is keenly awaited.
The Nehru Cup is important for all parties concerned with Indian Football. It provides new coach Wim Koevermans an opportunity to have a look at Indian players and provides players with an opportunity to impress the coach. The fans are eager to watch their team in action again and the AIFF will be keen to put up a good show considering that it is celebrating its platinum jubilee this year.
So with a lot at stake, TheHardTackle takes a look at what the Nehru Cup 2012 means for the various parties concerned with the running of the game in the nation
A Chance for Players to Impress the new coach
There is a lot at stake for the national team players. First impression is often the lasting one so the players will be hoping to impress coach Wim Koevermans as he looks to seclect his final squad. In the Bob Houghton era, players like NP Pradeep, Anwar Ali and Surkumar Singh stayed the distance after an impressive showing in the Nehru Cup 2007 despite the drop in form. Similarly, players who impress Koevermans are likely to stay for sometime as he has reportedly expressed a desire to hold only short duration camps before tournaments.
A lot of U-22 players and top I-League performers have been given a call-up to the national team after a string of splendid performances. The likes of Alwyn George and Manandeep Singh will look to impress the coach and players like Sanju Pradhan and Denzil Franco will be gunning to cement their places. The absence of Sunil Chhetri is likely to be a blessing in disguise for other strikers who will look to make most of this opportunity.
A First Look at the National team for Wim Koevermans
It is the first opportunity for the newly appointed coach Wim Koevermans to have a look at the national team and to develop a rapport with players. There will not be a better way to do this than performing well at an international tournament like Nehru Cup. India is two time as well as defending champions and Koevermans will be looking for a hat-trick of triumphs to start his campaign on a perfect note. In a recent interview Koevermans said,
It is imperative that I get three weeks so that we can forge a rapport. I am looking forward to meet all the guys together at the camp.Once you have the ball and hold it the other team can’t score, that is the way I want my Indian team to play.We started off the second session of our preparations hard and I demand a lot from the boys. Our goal is to win the Nehru Cup and three weeks is quite a lot of time for an international coach to prepare any team.
A good show by India will instill confidence in AIFF to give Koevermans an extended run as was the case with Bob Houghton, who won two Nehru Cups and a AFC Challenge title. A win will also earn Koevermans the respect of players, something which will hold both him and the team in good spirit
Platinum Jubilee Celebrations – AIFF looking to make a mark
No football event in India goes through without controversy and the Nehru Cup 2012 is no different. Only days before the tournament could the final five participating teams be decided. Keeping its word of inviting high profile teams , the AIFF managed to rope in 1990 World Cup quarter-finalists Cameroon, who will play with their local players. Despite the backing out of Kenya and Jordan, AIFF did a reasonable job in roping in SAFF nations Maldives and Nepal.
This is indeed the strongest field among the last three editions of Nehru Cup and as the AIFF looks to celebrate its platinum jubilee year, it must ensure a hassle free tournament. Roping in some celebrity, like Salman Khan in 2007, can draw more crowd to the stadia. It has been reported that matches will be held in evenings under flood-lights, which will definitely bring more crowd. The AIFF needs to ensure that the tournament is telecasted and appropriately covered by the media.
Football Action for Fans
Despite all the good and the bad news, one thing is for sure – it is going to be a treat for the football fans. The 2007 and 2009 editions of the Nehru Cup witnessed an encouraging turn out and this led Baichung Bhutia to say that Ambedkar Stadium had become a fortress for the national team. This time will be no different and the fans will be thronging the stadium in large numbers to see the team in action for the first time after the SAFF Cup.
The presence of high profile team like Cameroon will attract more crowds. Fans who will want the national team to retain the championship are also eager to see what game plan the team adopts under Koevermans and this has raised the degree of enthusiasm before start of the tournament.
The stage is perfectly laid out and there is no doubt about the excitement gripping football fans before start of India’ s only international tournament. Come 22nd August and the country will be engulfed by the football fever.