Pune FC created history, as they successfully defended their U-20 I-League title this season, becoming the first team to do so, since the competition was started.
Speaking to Goal.com, Ranjan Chowdhury, the Head of Youth Development at the club, stressed on how difficult it was to defend the crown this time round. He said, “Telling you very honestly, we were champions last year too but this year it was quite different, because there were academies like SESA and TFA (Tata Football Academy). Everyone saw our performance last year, and hence all teams were prepared to face off against us. Hence this time the journey was far tougher.”
While the squad had several similar faces from last year, the former TFA Coaching Director pointed out that there were also some new players in the squad this time. He stated, “There were several new boys. We had new players across positions, 5 new boys were often there in the starting eleven.”
Giving more details about the teams who were the hardest to beat, Chowdhury opined, “TFA, SESA, Salgaocar FC and Mohun Bagan were the really hard teams to face. TFA were very good and they had also gone to Sheffield for one month extensive training. Salgaocar and SESA were also quite good.”
The Pune FC Head of Youth Development, also had more words of praise for his former employees, TFA, and mentioned, “TFA have good infrastructure, they have their own hostels, canteen, training field and own the stadium. They have the best facilities in the country. They also go to foreign shores and foreign coaches visit them regularly. So operations wise, TFA are the best.”
Chowdhury hailed the hard-work put in by the U-20 squad...
That made one ponder over how then, did Pune FC get the better of TFA. Chowdhury revealed, “The difference between others and us is that we have a definite roadmap. We regularly assess our performance. We were determined to win the tournament and we knew we would become champions. We train almost 25 hours a week. Around 2000 hours of training every year is our aim.”
“Mainly it is due to hard-work, and I know I was associated for a long-time with TFA. I have seen their training program and I knew their weakness. And I knew we would become champions. Eventually I don’t want to compare with anyone, I prefer what we are,” he further added.
When asked about what was the one aspect of their game, that gave the Red Lizards the advantage over their rivals, Chowdhury commented, “I think mental preparation is very important. Mentally we are much stronger than any other team.”
While the club won the U-20 I-League championship last campaign as well, only Nikhil Kadam graduated from that side, into the senior squad. Even he has seen only bits and pieces of action this season. When asked if the current batch would see more players making it into the first team, the Pune FC Head of Youth Development reiterated, “I am sure this year, 5-to-6 boys will make the senior team. I am sure (of that). I can’t quote names, but many others shall follow Nikhil Kadam into the senior team.”
Chowdhury also revealed that Pune FC is looking to add a strong local flavour in the academy.
“I prefer to support the local boys. Many of them were part of the team, and this is the right platform for them. We are giving the local lads a lot of preference,” he concluded.
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