CHENNAI: As India gears up to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup next year, there is a lot of talk over how the team will do, whether a major event can actually benefit football in the country in the long run. Narayana Menon (in pic), U-17 head coach till 2014, feels the squad has done well since inception. “The team was formed in April 2013 and they were just 13-14 years of age at the time. We feared regular issues like home sickness and parental pressure, but the lads have done well. We didn’t have any issues.
“During selections, we were looking for skillful players, no matter their positions. As a result, we had more midfielders than defenders. But we were able to get the boys to play in certain positions and helped them adapt to the 4-3-3 formation. Current coach Nicolai Adam is also doing a good job.”
The Thrissur native, now coach of the Kerala senior side participating in the Santosh Trophy South Zone qualifiers here, feels the boys have it in them to put up a good show at the World Cup. “India doesn’t have much football pedigree, but if they put up a good performance in the group stages, that will be a major boost.
“In our case, a good display is more important than qualification, and I’m sure not many are pinning hopes on getting past the first hurdle,” he opined.
Hailing TNIE Goal
Talking of football at the grassroots, the popular TNIE Goal football tournament that happens every year in Kerala has given youngsters a chance to display their potential. And Menon endorses the same. “Not many organisations are doing what The New Indian Express is, and they have made a big difference by conducting this inter-college event. They have given a platform to players who have left the junior level, but not yet reached the senior level, to grow and fully understand where they stand now. This is the most crucial phase in the development of footballers. And that’s taken care of,” said Menon, who was coach of Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur, winners of the first two editions (2012, 13).
The 47-year-old revealed that six players in his current squad have come up through TNIE Goal. “We have six players, including Mohammed Rafi (who has played for Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League), which is not a bad number at all. Such events do have their advantages, if conducted in a proper manner,” he signed off.
Thursday’s results: Kerala 2 (Firoz, Season) bt Telangana 0; On Friday: Puducherry vs Karnataka (4:30pm), Andhra Pradesh vs Services (7:00 pm).