The Arrows kicked-off their 2018-19 I-League campaign with a 4-1 loss to Chennai City.
Floyd Pinto has had an amazing journey. As an IT professional, he had to convince his mother, while converting to football. Talking to Khel Now in an exclusive interview, he also told us that his team should not have conceded four times against Chennai City and going forward, they would like to be more compact and organized.
“Kenkre FC was a very important juncture for my career, it helped me become whatever I’m today,” Pinto started on a gracious note, as he always is. The Mumbai club gave him a shot at professional football, allowed him to pursue his coaching badges before he took the reigns of the side. He credited the founder of the club Adib Kenkre and also praised Joshua Lewis for their help.
We then moved on to more recent topics, like how different is the responsibility of coaching a youth team to a senior team? “At this point in time with the Indian Arrows, I think we’re battling it against some of the best sides in the country and it’s a senior team for me. The only difference is that we don’t have foreigners playing for us and it’s a good challenge,” said Pinto, with his team preparing in Bhubaneshwar for their second game against Lajong at the Cuttack Stadium.
Pinto praised Luis Norton de Matos for his footballing philosophy
It all started with the FIFA U-17 World Cup and Pinto feels the same. “Honestly, the team did not play poorly. The 2-1 defeat against Colombia was the highlight and we hit the post in the second half. Had that gone in, it could be a different story altogether. The performances against those sides were memorable and it brought a lot of new people to Indian football. Thus, Jeakson Singh’s goal and all the moments were key in a mini-transformation of Indian football.”
His U-19 team played some terrific football at the COTIF Cup and we couldn’t stop ourselves from asking if the tournament had taken place before the World Cup, whether the team would have been in better shape? Pinto answered with an understanding tone. “Look,” he started, “You can’t compare friendlies to official tournaments. Had these teams (Venezuela, France) come to official tournaments, they would’ve been completely different. Thus, we can’t compare the situations as well as the quality of opposition in friendlies and at official tours.”
Talking about Luis Norton de Matos the former manager of the side, we wanted to know what the Portuguese gave Pinto in football terms. “The best thing about him was he made everything with the ball. The warm-ups, the cooling downs and everything on the pitch was about having the ball. He also helped me with the bonding-ins and the co-ordinations with youngsters, but his dedication to everything with the ball was something that I’ll add to my repertoire.”
The Indian Arrows were formed last year after the U-17 World Cup, combining the band of World Cuppers with the U-19 team. It helped and there’s wasn’t an ego war, opines Pinto. “It has always been about a joint target for the side and everyone looking at it in unison. There haven’t been any such difficulties in the combinations, with the boys gelling well and training sessions decide the first-team. Thus, age hasn’t divided the side in anyway and not in egos certainly.”
The U-16 team failed to qualify for the U-17 World Cup, only managing to reach the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championship last month. Some stellar performances saw them lose by a solitary goal against South Korea, a team that scored 12 goals in the group stages. Four players from that team have been called up to the Arrows side and they aren’t merely making up the numbers.
“Gurkirat started against Chennai City and (Rohit) Dhanu played, so these boys are in our plans. They were very good at the AFC Championship and have their roles to play in the Arrows team as well. Edu (Edmund Lalrindika) has moved on (to Bengaluru FC) and if Dhanu and Vikram (Pratap Singh) can contribute with goals, the team won’t miss Edu. That’s their job and they need to do it,” the 32-year-old said.
He knows the Indian setup well, having worked with the AIFF Elite Academy teams in the past, also winning the U-18 I-leagues twice. Thus, his credentials as a youth coach are unquestioned. He wanted the tag of a manager, but his bosses at Kenkre inspired him to coach and ignore the sports management education dreams he had earlier.
The team had narrowly failed to qualify for the U-19 AFC Championship last year and Pinto says that it came down to converting chances. India drew against Yemen, twice coming close to scoring. He drew a similarity to the loss against Chennai City saying, “Rahul (KP) had a chance early after Amarjit Kiyam’s goal and had he scored, it could be a different story. We need to convert our chances better, certainly.”
We also talked at length about Jitendra Singh’s introduction into the midfield and Sanjeev Stalin’s right-wing role. Jitendra, he believes, has looked positive going forward in training and can help the side more in the centre of the pitch. He adds more defensively and reads the game well. “Stalin is a creative outlet and we expect that side of him to come out as well.”
The Indian Arrows gaffer, in particular, praised Prabhsukhan Gill for his improvement
Talking about the departure of Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem to Kerala Blasters and similarly, the likes of Sahil Panwar, Mohd. Rakip and others, the coach said that it’s the whole motive of the programme. “The fact that clubs have signed these players and they’re playing is a success story for the Arrows. That’s exactly what the target of the plan was and it has panned out right. We will continue the development of these players, until they’re courted and they play for other clubs.”
We asked him to pick out the three key players from his squad and he did so, taking the question head-on, like his side does on the pitch. “Prabhsukhan (Gill), I feel, has filled in brilliantly after Dheeraj, “he began. “Amarjit is certainly the leader. His work-ethic, the way he operates in training and every game, he’s certainly key. He’s scored a goal as well (against Chennai City) and the way he’s registering plans and applying them on the pitch, it’s a treat for the team. Rahul, for me, was the most improved player during the last season of the I-league and carried the team alone on some occasions. His performance against Mumbai City FC was memorable. These three, I think, will play a key role.”
His side, he feels, will take it a game at a time and will play the matches on their merits. The table, he feels, will be evaluated at the end of the season and it boils down to performances. He also added that experiences against France, the 5-1 defeat against Croatia and the 2-1 win against Argentina will all help the side on its journey. He seconded his captain on the difficulty of the league.
“All sides have strengthened and it will be a good experience to face them,” said the former assistant manager whose time has finally arrived. His team will play with a defence-first mechanism, a trait they learnt after conceding four times against Croatia in the first half. He also asked Indians to have confidence in themselves and convert to football. The Liverpool fan signed off receiving luck from us for the season ahead.