The All India Football Federation (AIFF) have decided to revive the Arrows project from the 2017-18 I-League season.
Goal had revealed earlier that the Indian FA were mulling the idea of reviving the project which was dissolved four years ago. On Tuesday, the technical committee of the AIFF met and the decision to reinstate the Arrows team, which will be comprised of the cream of the FIFA U17 World Cup squad and the India U19 team, for the upcoming I-League season.
The team will play their home games in the I-League from Delhi. There is also a possibility that the AIFF might look to extend coach Luis Norton’s contract so that the former Benfica ‘B’ coach would continue to be at the helm of affairs.
The players will be taken on contract for two years and the AIFF plans to incorporate new talents on a biennial basis.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said, "We presented this plan to the technical committee who were impressed with the proposal. Now we will forward it to the President (Praful Patel) for his discretion."
The primary motive behind this move is to ensure that the Under-17 players, who would represent India at the Under-17 World Cup in October, and the best talent from the Under-19 team stick together and ply their trade in the I-League.
AIFF intends to keep the boys together so that they continue their development and get good playing time, which wouldn’t be the case should they be allowed to join the clubs from the I-League or the Indian Super League (ISL).
"The best players from U17 World Cup team, along with the best from the U19 team will play the AFC U19 Championship qualifiers in November. If they do well and qualify for the main event in 2018 and finish in the top four, they will be able to play the 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup. The Arrows project will help us groom them for such tournaments," Das added. The qualifiers in November will see India pit their wits against Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Yemen.
"Moreover, this project will also help us develop players for the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup by incorporating the best talents from the team which is set to take part in the 2018 AFC U16 Championship qualifiers in September," Das revealed.
The Arrows project was kick-started at the behest of former India coach Bob Houghton who would point that the best young talent in the country was struggling for playing time. With Praful Patel, the AIFF president approving the project, the Indian Arrows was launched in the 2010-11 season from Delhi.
The second and third year saw the team shift base to Kolkata with Pailan Group coming in as the investors. However, the project had to be called off due to financial crunch in August 2013.
This move from AIFF is widely perceived to be prudent, considering that the FIFA U17 World Cup team has some of the country's best prospects and need to be nurtured and given ample playing time. It is worth noting that some of the leading national team players currently, like Jeje Lalpekhlua, were all products of the Arrows project.
The technical committee meeting was attended by Chairman Shyam Thapa, Henry Menezes, Director of Scouts Abhishek Yadav, GP Palguna, Pradip Dutta, Ishfaq Ahmed and Prosanto Banerjee along with AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das.