The Indian Arrows are set to play their ninth I-League game of the ongoing I-League season in just 29 days as they host NEROCA FC on Tuesday at the Tilak Maidan Ground in Vasco, Goa.
Head coach Luis Norton de Matos was perturbed with the games coming thick and fast for his teenaged side. "Recovery is the most important thing for me to prepare for two games (in quick succession)."
"We had games on 22, 26, 29 (December 2017), 2, 5, 8, 12 and now 16 (January 2018). This is violence and a problem for us because we are a small group. The youngest team is playing the most number of games in a short space of time. There are teams more experienced than us who have played three games less," Matos expressed.
With ten points from as many games, the Indian FA's developmental side are seventh on the table. Matos believes that his charges could carry on the good work for the remaining eight games.
"A coach is never satisfied with the points. If you told me earlier that we would have 10 points from 10 games, I think it's very honest with our reality where most players are 16 and 17 years old. Of course, we tried to earn more points. I feel we can get another 12-to-13 points from our remaining games."
"The worst result until now is 2-0 (Gokulam and Minerva). It means that we have played very competitively. When you win 3-0 (Shillong Lajong), other teams have also approached the game against us nervously. The owners, coaches and players are not comfortable to lose to a team so young"
"If you compare other teams, they have more quality and experienced individuals than us. Almost all coaches talk about the foreign players to decide the game. For me, I am a Portuguese coach and so all the Indian players are foreigners for me."
"We still do not have the control of emotions in the game but I'm very happy with their organisation. By now we have shown that we are an organised side," the former SL Benfica 'B' boss reflected on the campaign so far.
The opposition, NEROCA, who are third on the table also found some praise when it came to the topic of Indians scoring. "If all the goals that we have conceded have been scored by Indian players, we would perhaps have 15 or 16 points because all the goals except two are scored by foreigners. The goals by Indians have been scored by NEROCA", he said.
Indian Arrows re-shifted their base to Goa after three home games at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi. "For us, all the games are away. There are no home games. We started in Bambolim and then in Delhi where we couldn't use the goals when you go for training because the pitch was very bad. We have no supporters like the other clubs. So it is difficult for us not to have our home ground whenever we take a corner or a free-kick. I feel at home in Goa for training, not to play," Matos explained the reason for the switch in the first place.
His counterpart, Gift Raikhan, hailed the youngsters and remained wary despite being in the top three in the standings. "We defeated Arrows 2-1 in Imphal but the weather is different in Goa. Indian Arrows is not an easy team. The dynamic young lads have a lot of energy. We respect them," he said on the eve of the game.
"Football is all about action and commitment. My team also wants to be on top. So we will try our best despite the different weather. The commitment is the same from the beginning," added the former Pune FC academy coach.