India Under-17 are set to participate in the first ever World Cup Under-17 to be hosted in the country next month. Team India are grouped alongside USA, Ghana and Colombia and are to play their matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) President, Praful Patel stated that undue pressure must not be put on the India Under-17 players. He added that the best possible preparation has been given to the team for them to give a decent account of themselves at the World Cup.
“Just put in your best and make the country proud. Just play to win and do not feel the pressure of anybody. You will have a great future in spite of whatever will happen. So I think the team is mentally quite well conditioned. I don’t think at this stage anything that the coach or anyone would feel that anything that they wanted was not done.
“Let’s expect the best. I think too much pressure on the young kids is not desirable. I think the kids are more excited about their future beyond the World Cup. It shows that they are very motivated,” said Patel.
The AIFF has plans to keep the Under-17 boys together for at least a couple of seasons in order to continue their development. Patel was questioned if this restricted the freedom of the young player.
“It’s not about restriction. We, as a nation, want to build a strong national team. This is our endeavour. If we are trying to put them on a contract, they will be rewarded reasonably well. Indian national team has do well and assuming we win the rights to host the Under-20 World Cup. So again you cannot be rebuilding the team.
“We are on the right track and going in the right direction. We are trying to balance between the interest of the national team and the youngster’s future. It will be good for Indian football and equally good for the players,” he reasoned.
He went to state that the Indian national teams, which includes the age group sides, are doing better than ever, which is a sign of progress.
“The Under-16 team is there and we will continue to build a team for the next edition of the Under-17 World Cup. With respect to the national teams, we are doing much better than ever in the past but if you see the long term horizon, this is the only way to go. We are investing in the Under-17 team and now the Under-16 team is doing quite well. We drew with Iraq and the overall performance is reasonably good. I still won’t call it good but we are in the right direction.
“I feel that over a period of time, we will have two distinct youth development teams. This team which shall include some boys from Under-19 and another team which is going to be Under-17,” he explained.