The India U-16 Head Coach spoke ahead of the AFC Asian U-16 Championship that kicks-off in Goa tomorrow…

Despite being the hosts and having the assurance of an automatic entry for the AFC U-16 Championship 2017, the India U-16s would be playing in the Championship on the basis of their qualification from the AFC U-16 Qualifiers which were held in Tabriz, Iran in 2015.

The tournament will see the top sixteen U-16 teams of Asia battling for top honours with the four semi-finalists gaining a ticket to the U-17 fifa World Cup to be staged next year in India.

Ahead of the event which kicks-off in Goa tomorrow the Junior Colts’ Head Coach Nicolai Adam spoke about the team’s preparation, their rivals, expectations from the tournament and much more. Exceprts.

Q: The AFC U-16 Championship India 2016 is almost upon us. Are the boys tense?

A-Not at all! You have to be ready at the right time. When the referee blows the whistle they have to be in the right frame of mind and do their job. When it ends they need to relax and recover as fast as possible just like any other professional sportsperson would do and get ready for the next one. We do this day in and day out during our training so I feel it’s already a part of our process. I feel the boys are ready.

Q: The AFC U-16 Championship India would be followed by the BRICS Cup. What significance does it hold?

A-I want to remind you that this is the best case scenario we can ever have. In the next four weeks we will play minimum seven or maybe a maximum of 11 International matches. That amount of high intensity international football at the youth level hasn’t ever happened for the Indian youth team(s). It is extremely important to have them as part of preparation for the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The boys need the exposure as they will be playing the World Cup. If we can get that sort of exposure in India, we take it without any complaints. It’s the best case scenario which can happen.

Q: How have the exposure tours helped the boys?

A-We are 30% better than what we were. The quality of the matches played during the exposure tours are at an entirely different level. The boys came up with promising performances and it didn’t happen by accident; rather it pointed to the fact that the boys have potential to compete at the top level. It is always there.

Q: Some of your critics feel you have mostly played club matches and not much against international youth teams?

A-If I could get international matches every Wednesday and Saturday I would have certainly played. That’s a dream and not a reality as it is impossible to reach such a situation.

Q: Are there any other international matches or tournaments lined up in the medium term?

A-As part of our final preparation which kicks-off from April 1 (2017), we would be playing more international youth teams on a regular basis. We have been invited to play a tournament in Brazil where we will be playing the Uruguay. We are also scheduled to play in the Valentin Granatkin Cup in Russia where we get the chance to test ourselves against European teams

Q: India have been clubbed with Iran, UAE and Saudi Arabia in Group A in the forthcoming AFC U-16 Championship. Do you feel it’s the ‘Group of Death?’

A-I would rather want to rephrase it. No group is a ‘Group of Death’ for us. On the contrary it is a big step forward towards preparation for the FIFA U-17 World Cup. I have always wanted to play strong teams. The better the opponent the faster is the development of the players.

Q: Your squad has been hit by an untimely injury?

A-We are missing Reamsochung Aimol who had to undergo two surgeries in Germany including one on his broken shin. So on that front, we are struggling a lot and it came at the wrong time.

Q: How much did the AIFF Youth Cup help?

A-It was a super one. It was great to have the tournament in India and play against international teams. The team needs those kind of tournaments as we move forward. It was good that we didn’t need to travel abroad to play those teams and played them in Goa itself. There were lessons learnt and it was overall a very positive experience for the boys.