The Indian Arrows head coach suggested that he wants to see more players from his team to represent India at the senior level…
This season the Arrows will see a host of new faces in their ranks as most of their players from last season have secured lucrative contracts with Indian Super League (ISL) clubs.
Arrows, under the tutelage of head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh, underwent a pre-season camp in Bhubaneswar before heading to Kolkata where they took part in the 2020 edition of the IFA Shield. The Arrows were ousted from the group stage after they had managed to secure just a point in their two games. They drew 1-1 against Southern Samity and lost 0-2 against eventual runners-up of the competition, George Telegraph.
The Arrows coach mentioned that taking part in the IFA Shield was an enriching experience for the rookie players in his squad and the exposure will help them to improve ahead of the new I-League season.
“I thank the AIFF for giving us the opportunity to play in the IFA Shield,” said Venkatesh. The boys played after a long time and first time they played against senior players and foreigners. It was a great experience before the I-League start. Of course, the result was not in favour of us, but it was good experience for the boys and it will help for the upcoming I-League.
“Most of the players were inexperienced. Most of the players never played for a senior side. Of course, we have to improve in certain areas, and I am sure the boys will improve further.”
Indian Arrows were at the bottom of the I-League table last year before the season had to be abruptly ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They had nine points from 16 matches and had managed to win two games which came against giants East Bengal and Churchill Brothers.
Drawing positives from the last season, Venkatesh suggested that the youngsters had fought valiantly against the big clubs and that the experience they gained was more important than the results.
“Last year was a different story. If you see all the matches, we were very close and also the scoreline, most of them we lost 1-0. This is a development team, yes, of course, the results are important but at the same time, we have to see if the players are getting the right platform and opportunity.
“This year it is a new challenge. We have a new batch of players and most of the players are 2003 born and are 17 years old. It is a great opportunity to play in the I-League. The idea is the same for us, to prepare these players for senior India. This is a big challenge and I am confident that the boys will definitely do better.”
The AIFF revived the Indian Arrows project in 2017 with the vision to nurture young Indian talents and ensure they don’t find the jump from youth to professional football too high.
Reiterating the Indian FA’s vision, Venkatesh suggested that his only goal is to prepare the young players well so that in the coming years, the players can represent the senior Indian team and play for top clubs in the country.
“The vision is to prepare for U19 AFC Championship qualifying round in 2022. I-League, IFA Shield and whichever tournament we play now is preparation. Of course, I-League is a great opportunity for them. The U17 boys getting a chance in the I-League is a big thing for them. After I-League this season, they will gain more experience and at the end of the day I want to see more players from this team play for senior India and top clubs. This is our target,” said the former India international midfielder.