BENGALURU: In most of the European and top Asian countries, development of young footballers happens through tireless effort of the national federation, in sync with clubs and coaches. India, though, didn’t have this structure. Only exceptional talents received significant game-time, while others filled up AIFF’s U-22 quota in I-League. However, things have changed over the past two years.
After the U-17 World Cup, AIFF revived Indian Arrows, its developmental team, to give them regular gametime in the premier division. Though the team has seen a lot of flux since then — many players have left — they have monitored the youngsters’ growth at their clubs. Arrows head coach Floyd Pinto, also in charge of the U-19 team, is the point man for this. “Initially, it was easy for us to keep them together and work on their development. But even after they leave, we continuously monitor them. We speak to their coaches and watch them play. If required, we ask the clubs to work with them on different aspects. If someone is not getting enough time in the middle, we make sure they are put into the right training programme.
“After the U-17 World Cup, clubs have also realised the value of youth set-up. They are investing really well in youth teams. They are open to discussions and keep us (national team coaches) informed. That’s the way forward.” Pinto’s plan to help youngsters develop also includes simulated pressure situations during training sessions, and poor performances are never overlooked.
As a result, the Arrows are placed seventh in the I-League this season, an improvement considering that they were last in 2018. “Even if it’s a developmental team, players need to have a winning mentality. To win games against experienced players, they need to keep improving. We had a good defence last season, but our attacking game wasn’t good enough. Simulating pressure situations has improved forward passes.”