The Blue Colts can qualify for next year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup if they make the last four in the tournament.
Attempting to create history by becoming the first Indian team to qualify for a FIFA World Cup, the Indian U-16 National Team under Head Coach Bibiano Fernandes is gearing up for the AFC U-16 Championship Finals, in a first, had arrived 12 days prior to the tournament in the host nation of Malaysia for proper acclimatization.
No Indian Team has ever qualified for the FIFA World Cup except by virtue of being hosts and the Indian U-16s look to script a historic footnote in Indian football by securing the semi-final spot in the AFC U-16 Championship Finals that will automatically confirm a spot in the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru.
With history beckoning, Coach Bibiano said, “The purpose of camping in Kuala Lumpur before the AFC U-16 Championship Finals was to give the boys a taste of the climate here. The boys had already been to Malaysia before for International Friendlies but we wanted them to be used to the climate before the tournament.
“We even booked the same hotel that we will be staying in for the AFC U-16 Championship Finals,” he informed.
“I need to thank the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, the AIFF General Secretary and the AIFF Director of National Teams to make this possible. It is of utmost importance that the team acclimatizes before the start of the Championship – be it the feel of the grass, the feel of the weather of the feel or the hotel.”
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However, another reason behind the team’s early arrival is also of key importance. “We do not want the boys to get flustered and overwhelmed with emotion once the Championship starts,” Bibiano stated.
“We have been preparing for this Championship for a long time and now although it is at hand, we don’t want the players to be nervous. We want them to be strong and focused on the task at hand.”
The Indian U-16s in their preparation for the AFC U-16 Championship Finals had gone on exposure tours of China, Serbia, Turkey, and even Malaysia among other nations, and had played the likes of Japan, Jordan, and Serbia.
“We all know the gravity of the Championship and what it means if we qualify (for the semi-finals). We are ready and prepared all that matters now is to perform on the field of play and united we can overcome all challenges,” Bibiano informed.
Meanwhile, the Indian U-16s have had practice sessions daily after their arrival in the host nation. While the weather in Kuala Lumpur is humid with intermittent showers, the Colts are confident and aim to shine bright in the midst of the steel jungle.