MADGAON : The ongoing U-16 Asian Championships here was meant to help the Indian colts prepare for the U-17 World Cup next year, providing them with some much-needed competitive action. But it has proved to be a training exercise for the organisers as well. With a couple of days of the tournament gone, the various coaches and teams have already begun voicing concerns over issues that officials can expect to encounter on a larger scale next year.
While most seem happy with the condition of the stadium and the ground, logistics, as expected, is proving to be a headache for the organisers. “We got out of our hotels at 1.30 pm. We reached the stadium at around 3pm. That is simply too much travel for the boys,” the Iraqi team’s doctor Badran Abdulrazzaq said on the sidelines of their game against South Korea. “It was the same the day before when we had to go for the pre-match press conference. I think logistics is definitely one area that you will have to focus on, before next year’s World Cup.”
It was an opinion that Saudi Arabia coach Mohammed Abdullah Alabdali echoed. “The (training) fields are few. The distance is a bit of a problem,” he said. “But overall, I don’t think India will have any major problems hosting the World Cup.”
If travel is an issue in sleepy Goa, one can only imagine what reaction, bustling metros like Delhi and Mumbai with their hour-long traffic jams will elicit from visiting teams next year.
Teams currently have six training grounds at their disposal apart from the two main venues in Fatorda and Bambolim. While some practice grounds like Navelim and Benaulim are close to at least one of the stadiums, there are a few that are at least an hour’s travel for teams put up close to either of the main venues. Tilak Maidan, for example, is around 22km from Bambolim and 26km from Fatorda. To make matters worse, a lot of teams have been put up in hotels that are too far away, no matter where you want to go.
The distance to the training grounds is not the only issue with South Korea coach Seo Hyo Won choosing the post-game press conference to point out that the pitches they practice on, could get better.
The flaws have been pointed out and there are twelve months left to correct them. But will the lessons be learnt? That remains to be seen.