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The Indian Arrows head coach suggested he wants to see more players from his team to represent India at the senior level …
The development side of the Indian Football Federation (AIFF), Indian Arrows, will begin their journey in the 2020-21 I-League season on January 10 against Churchill Brothers in Kolkata.
This season, the Arrows will see a host of new faces in their ranks as most of their players from last season have secured lucrative contracts with Indian Super League (ISL) clubs.
Arrows, under the tutelage of head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh, underwent preseason camp in Bhubaneswar before heading to Kolkata, where they participated in the 2020 edition of the IFA Shield. The Arrows were ejected from the group stage after having managed to secure just one point in their two games. They drew 1-1 against Southern Samity and lost 0-2 against eventual runner-up in the competition, George Telegraph.
The Arrows coach mentioned that participating in the IFA Shield was an enriching experience for the rookie players on his team and the exposure will help them improve for the new I-League season.
“I am grateful to the AIFF for giving us the opportunity to play for the IFA Shield,” Venkatesh said. The boys played after a long time and the first time they played against older and foreign players. It was a great experience before the start of the I-League. Of course, the result was not in our favor, but it was a good experience for the boys and it will help for the next I-League.
“Most of the players were inexperienced. Most of the players never played for a senior team. Of course, we have to improve in certain areas, and I’m sure the guys will keep improving. “
Indian Arrows was at the bottom of the I-League table last year before the season had to end abruptly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They had nine points from 16 games and had managed to win two games that came against the East Bengal giants and Churchill Brothers.
With the positive aspects of the last season, Venkatesh suggested that the youngsters had fought valiantly against the big clubs and that the experience gained was more important than the results.
“Last year was a different story. If you watch all the games, we were very close and also the score, most of them we lost 1-0. This is a development team, yes, of course, the results are important, but at the same time, we have to see if the players are getting the right platform and opportunity.
“This year is a new challenge. We have a new batch of players and most of the players were born in 2003 and are 17 years old. It is a great opportunity to play in the I-League. The idea is the same for us, to prepare these players for absolute India. This is a great challenge and I’m sure the guys will definitely do better. “
The AIFF revived the Indian Arrows project in 2017 with a vision to nurture young Indian talents and make sure they don’t find the leap from youth to professional soccer too high.
Reiterating the vision of the Indian Federation, Venkatesh suggested that their sole objective is to prepare the young players well so that in the coming years, the players can represent the senior Indian team and play for the best clubs in the country.
“The vision is to prepare for the qualifying round of the AFC U-19 Championship in 2022. I-League, IFA Shield and whatever tournament we play now is preparation. Of course, I-League is a great opportunity for them. That the U-17 boys have a chance in the I-League is something very important for them. After the I-League this season they will gain more experience and at the end of the day I want to see more players from this team play for absolute India and the best clubs. This is our goal, ”said the former India international midfielder.