Arthur Papas, who was originally brought in as the coach for the FIFA academy in Mumbai, was formally unveiled at a press conference in Kolkata as the new head coach of Pailan Arrows, All India Football Federation's (AIFF) development side in the I-League. Before taking over the charge of the Arrows, he handled the Indian U-22 side in the AFC U-22 Championship Qualifiers where India put up a good showing, although they finally failed to make the cut.
Aaron Symons would be the assistant to Papas and also double as the Fitness and Conditioning coach. It was also announced by Subhankar Mukherjee, the AIFF Director of National Teams, that Pailan Arrows would play a friendly against the Indian senior team on the 18th August. Pailan Arrows had played out a 0-0 draw against Techno Aryans earlier on Saturday.
Papas remained coy when asked to pinpoint any promising players he had come across in the Arrows unit as he preferred to focus on the strengths of the team than highlight a particular individual.
"I have been with Pailan Arrows only for 10 days. I will need more time to assess the players and in any case it is always more important to improve Pailan as a team first."
Papas dodged the question regarding the future of Indian football but chose to comment on the performance of the India U-22 side in the recently concluded AFC U-22 Championship Qualifiers.
"It would not be my place to comment on the future of Indian football as a whole. However, regarding the AFC U-22 Championship Qualifiers, I would say we played really well beating 2 teams who were ranked higher than us and losing close matches against the others. The players need to be made more confident and a positive approach should be taken."
On the concept of Pailan Arrows being a developmental side comprising India's U-23 players, Papas said that he whole heartedly supported it with similar experiences in Australia too.
"The concept of having the best young players of the country in a team is a fantastic venture by the AIFF. About the concept of not being relegated, I had a similar experience coaching a team in Australia in a league where there was no relegation. However these young kids always play to win and just that they know they are safe from relegation will not make them de-motivated in their approach."
Papas also noted that more exposure was needed for the Indian youth team as international exposure certainly allows you to mature as a unit and is a great help in building team-work.
"When we played in Oman, it certainly helped. More international exposure is indeed crucial."
Commenting on the AIFF's youth development plans, Papas noted, "Everything takes time. If you want something tomorrow, it does not help. AIFF Academies coming up is a great beginning. Patience is the keywhen it comes to youth development."
Carlos Hernandez, who was A-League's best player in the 2009-10 season, has switched over to India's Prayag United and Papas believes that the motivation to join the I-League could certainly not have just been the financial side of things.
"I think Carlos did not come for the money. I know him well. He is a very good human being. Even in the A-league, the top players get lots of money and he was a star. Prayag must have shown him a great project which interested him and he took it up a challenge, seeing the obvious potential in India."
Subhankar Mukherjee also informed that two more AIFF Regional Academies would be coming up in September, one in Pailan Grounds, Kolkata and the other in Bangalore.
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