What's next for Indian Football: As clubs takes a break, national teams step forward
Written by: Punit Tripathi
If you think the football action is over, think again, as we bring you a complete rundown of international football across all age groups.
Bengaluru FC defeated East Bengal 4-1 in the Super Cup final to lift their fifth trophy in five consecutive seasons. While the victory brought down the curtain on the Indian club football season, fans must not be disappointed as this is the flag-waver for the next season that’ll involve a lot of games on the international stage, at various age groups.
Before we look ahead, let us take a look back at the path Indian football has treaded on since last summer.
It all started at the showpiece event, the FIFA U-17 World Cup, from October 6–28, that gave England bragging rights about the future of world football. The warmth continued into the I-league and Indian Super League seasons, that kept the audiences hooked onto their television sets, with the Star Network broadcasting them with fervour.
After the almost-parallel leagues ended, the inaugural edition of the Super Cup, that saw ISL and I-league clubs go head to head, started, and pitted the best against each other. The knockout tournament certainly showcased India’s best, as Bengaluru FC thumped Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, scoring four against both. FC Goa, too, did not give up on their good form after a subtle lull and reached the semis.
What’s next? Development of the national teams, at all levels.
Indian National Team
The Indian national team lost their last AFC Asian Cup qualifier away to the Kyrgyz Republic. In spite of the defeat, the Blue Tigers topped Group A to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup 2019, to be held from January 5 to February 9 next year. The preparations evidently start early. The senior team is likely to play a friendly against Asian giants Thailand in June and with the Asian Cup pots already announced, it is certainly a step in the right direction.
The national team will also host the Intercontinental Cup from June 1–10 this year and the participation of first teams from New Zealand, South Africa and Chinese Taipei will surely ask the right questions off them on the pitch. Importantly, the Blue Tigers will gain from the mammoth experience of playing against two teams that have recently participated in FIFA World Cups.
Fans, though, must not lose their cool with defeats anymore. Manager Stephen Constantine has ticked the box of Asia Cup qualification and now, is ensuring the team plays quality opposition in preparation, certainly with help from the AIFF. This is a step in the right direction. The XI that he selects will be up for debate, but fans must understand that he’s a manager who has his own viewpoint and playing style.
After the Intercontinental Cup and the expected friendly against Thailand, the national team will be seen in action at the 2018 Asian Games, to be held in Jakarta, Indonesia, from August 18 to September 2. The U-23 team is expected to participate in the event and Constantine will have the liberty to include three senior team members in the side.
India has won the tournament for a record seven times and are the current champions
The SAFF Championship, named as the SAFF Suzuki Cup, comes right after this. The tournament, involving seven South Asian nations, is scheduled to be held from September 4–15 in Bangladesh. It provides India the chance to reassert their dominance in the region and announce their credentials at the AFC Asian Cup.
The October window for FIFA friendlies should groom the national team better for the continental showpiece and that looks like enough football for the Blue Tigers going into the event they have a lot to prove it.
The Indian U-16 team made all of us proud after drawing goalless against Iraq, a formidable opponent, to qualify for the AFC U-16 Championships. The team has, since then, defeated a lot of good club sides and recently participated in a tournament in Spain, losing closely against Mexico and the USA.
The boys, under Bibiano Fernandes, have looked good and are likely to punch above their weight, if given the right treatment and exposure. The team is on a rigorous footballing journey around the world and Khel Now sources have revealed that they are set to travel to Serbia for another exposure tour next month and are likely to play ASEAN countries like Thailand and Indonesia to prepare for the Championships. The U-16 team will also be camping with the Indian Arrows squad in Goa from the 10th of May, the sources added.
The draw is still expected to be held before the end of April
The boys have already had stints in Qatar, Japan, South Africa and Spain amongst others. The AFC U-16 Championships are scheduled to be held in Malaysia from September 20 to October 7.
The Indian Arrows, a team mixed with U-20 and U-18 boys, recently participated in the I-league and the Super Cup qualifier. The boys played with valor and controlled the ball with confidence at times. The AIFF has time and again proclaimed their belief in this generation and is set to arrange for an exposure tour to Portugal at Benfica’s facilities, Khel Now sources understand. Prior to that, the Arrows squad will have a camp in Goa, starting May 10.
Luis Norton de Matos, the Arrows’ manager, is a former player-manager at the club and his proximal relations are expected to play a part. The trip to Portugal is expected to take place in July, after which, the Arrows will participate in an international youth tournament in Russia.
Calls for a celebration, doesn’t it, Indian football fans? The club season is rightfully over, except the AFC Cup commitments of Bengaluru FC and Aizawl FC, but the national teams, at all levels, can look forward to a gruelling and extended campaign of good football and stern opposition.
Khel Now requests Indian football fans to have patience with the sides, because the country's football is certainly looking at a transition and results won’t come overnight. Till then, let us just be happy with the fact that we have a lot of football to watch, enjoy and report.
Published: Wed Apr 25, 2018 03:32 PM IST