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Shyam Thapa

Shyam Thapa: It was a wise decision to allow the U-17 boys to participate in the I-League

05:12 EAT 22/08/2018
Shyam thapa
The AIFF's technical committee chairman believes that the state associations must take more responsibility in developing youth football...

It was one balmy Sunday afternoon in 1978 when Shyam Thapa scored a phenomenal back-volley at the Eden gardens which has gone down the annals of history as one of the finest goals scored in Indian football.

Subhash Bhowmick floated in a cross which was back-headed by Mohammed Habib. East Bengal's Manoranjan Bhattacharya rose high but not high enough to prevent the ball from reaching Thapa. A short, yet agile, number 22 who was lurking behind his marker threw his body in the air and scored an astounding goal which sent the maroon and green fans into raptures. 

But during a tete-a-tete with the legendary striker at the CCFC tent in Kolkata, we discovered that the man himself does not rank that goal as his finest. 

"Mohun Bagan said they will not participate in the Gorkha Gold Cup as it was being held in Darjeeling. But suddenly before the day of the tournament, the team management on request of the then-chief minister reversed the decision. The whole team, without reservation, travelled to Darjeeling in a day's notice. In the semis we faced Aryan and it was against them that I scored the finest back-volley. Kya gazaab connection tha! (It was a fantastic connection). We won the match 2-1.

"But people will talk about that goal because it was scored in a derby. A big match goal will always be rated higher than one scored in a normal game," said Thapa, while disbursing the monthly stipends to his academy players. 

Currently serving as the chairman of the All India Football Federation (AIFF)'s technical committee, Thapa spoke highly of the governing body's efforts to organise exposure trips for the various national age-group teams.  He thinks that if India needs to qualify for the U-17 World Cup in 2019, the exposure trips are providing the colts with the much-needed experience and confidence before they fly to Malaysia to take part in the AFC U-16 Championship next month. 

"The exposure trips are being planned in a systematic manner. This is a very good thing happening in Indian football as it provides the young teams with the requisite level of competition that they will face in international tournaments. But, in Malaysia it will be a completely different ball game. All the squads will be well prepared. But our boys will have the confidence to take them on as they are facing quality opponents in these exposure tours."

The Asian Games bronze medal winner thinks that allowing the U-17 team to participate in I-League has worked well for their development.

"It is important that our youth teams play competitive football more often than they are playing. It was a wise decision to allow the U-17 boys to participate in the I-League. They performed reasonably well against the senior teams." 

The former technical director of the Tata Football Academy (TFA) revealed that a comprehensive plan has been submitted to the AIFF to develop youth football in the country. 

"I have submitted a detailed plan to AIFF where I have proposed that every state must have a residential football academy. The budget should be borne by the state while AIFF will provide the technical support. Then AIFF should organise a tournament modelling the Santosh trophy where these academies will take part. It is simply not enough for the academies to play only I-League."