Indian Arrows take on Minerva Punjab FC in an I-League encounter on Tuesday at the Athletic Stadium, Bambolim. They started their campaign on a positive note having outclassed Chennai City FC 3-0 in their opening game.
Minerva Punjab are unbeaten in their two games so far with a draw and a win in their kitty.
Ahead of their second match in the league, Arrows coach Luis Norton de Matos reiterated the fact that playing in the I-League is in itself an enriching experience for the youngsters in his squad.
“Because I have European experience in training young players who four later went to be in clubs like Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain, I know exactly what the level of the players is at 16 or 17 years. These (Indian) players are a group that started working together for two years, but in the seven months with me, I understood the context of India.
"The I-League is a competition that puts a lot of difficulties on the team and I am prepared for all the results because I know at the end the best result is the experience these players get. The first game (3-0 win against Chennai City) was very good. The players showed their personality and that they are not afraid to play. Of course, physically, we can see that sometimes the older players are stronger but it's this kind of experience that I want for the players - aerial duels, the tackles, the reaction when they lose the ball which is part of the process.
"The fact that we scored first helped us because at this age there is a difference when you concede a goal. You have to react when you score also as you need to keep more control of your emotions," explained the Portuguese.
An interesting fact about the first win of Arrows was that they became the first team in the history of the competition with an average age of less than 18 to register a win over a club which had foreigners on their roster. The former Benfica B coach was understandably elated with this achievement of his young team.
"For the first time in India, has a team with only Indian players less than 18 years old won a game in the I-League. This first step is very important for the players to show that they can play at the AFC level in the next few years."
"For me, in all the games, we are not obliged to win but we are obliged to play to win. Our mentality is to try to play the best possible football and try to transfer the training process into the competition. For me training is playing, playing is training. We are very serious when we prepare for a game. Every game has a different story."
He further shared his opinion on Minerva Punjab against whom the likes of Anwar Ali, Nongdamba Naorem and Jeakson Singh are ineligible to start due to a loan agreement with the Punjab-based outfit.
“Minerva (Punjab) now will also come here more prepared. They don't think that it's easy because the (Indian Arrows) players are young and they are going to give their 100 per cent to win. We are also going to give our 100 per cent to win. At the end, for sure the players want to give that what they gave in the U17 World Cup."
Arrows defender Jitendra Singh stated that playing the FIFA U-17 World Cup was a bigger challenge the I-League.
"The (U17) World Cup was a good experience for us but compared to the I-League, we had more difficulties in the World Cup. So we feel more comfortable in the I-League," said the player from Kolkata.