MUMBAI: If India coach Luis Norton de Matos and AIFF president Praful Patel are to be believed, the U-17 boys are in good shape — physically and mentally — to tackle the tough task they will face when the Fifa Under-17 World Cup kicks off in October.
India are placed in Group A with USA, Colombia and Ghana and will play their matches in New Delhi.
At the start of the year, that wasn’t the case as the players were up in arms against then coach Nicolai Adam, who was accused of physical abuse. The tipping point was a tournament in Russia where the team performed badly and soon after the issue went out of control.
The German was asked to leave. As many as 21 players in a letter to AIFF had alleged that the coach had beaten them up and terrorised them during training sessions. AIFF did try to play the peacemaker with Bhaichung Bhutia acting as a mediator but the players didn’t budge.
On the sidelines draw, Patel said that it was important for players to be happy. “Important thing is that the players are happy and excited. We don’t interfere in team selection or preparation. But we can tell you that the mindset of the players is very positive,” said Patel.
Couple of players HT spoke to on the sidelines of the event said that they are happy with the new coach de Matos. TIME SHORT While de Matos, who was appointed in March, agreed that the time is not enough to get the team ready, he will try their best. “I accept this is a challenge. Of course, it’s not so much of a time but it’s the time I’ve to work and I don’t have to add any excuses. We have to work very hard. Group A: India, USA, Colombia, Ghana Group B: Paraguay, Mali, New Zealand, Turkey Group C: Iran, Guinea, Germany, Costa Rica Group D: North Korea, Niger, Brazil, Spain Group E: Honduras, Japan, New Caledonia, France Group F: Iraq, Mexico, Chile, England
“To be competitive and in the end of each game people must be proud of the effort of these players on the field,” said the Portuguese. He added: “I have the advantage that players will be available with me which may not be the case with other federations as they will be competition.”
De Matos feels that it will a tough outing for India as the teams in the group have a good pedigree in junior tournaments and have been a regular part of it.