Indian Arrows’ boys who have been synonymous with upsetting bigwigs of Indian football have registered quite a few scintillating results in the recently-concluded I-League 2018/19, which resulted in their eighth-place finish above none but former champions Minerva Punjab FC. There are no surprises that the India U-23 National Team who are scheduled to challenge Asian champions Uzbekistan and Tajikistan next week, would be dominated by none but these young Turks.
“Match after match, these boys have kept surprising people, us as well. They have kept pushing the limit every day and that rightly shows their confidence on the pitch. Now, there lies another tough challenge (AFC U23 Championship qualifiers) for them and hopefully, they will justify their selection,” coach Floyd Pinto said on the sidelines of the Indian Arrows’ match against Kerala Blasters in the Super Cup 2019 qualifiers, which the Arrows’ won 2-0.
Indian Arrows finished the I-League 2018-19 campaign on a high with a major 3-1 victory over Mohun Bagan at the Saltlake Stadium to wrap up the season. Meanwhile, they finished last season (2017-18) at the bottom of the table with 15 points from 18 games. The significant rise clearly substantiates their improvement over the period of last one year under the tutelage of Floyd Pinto.
The 23-member India U-23 squad for the friendly against Qatar had 11 boys from the Indian Arrows and Pinto picked their “quick thinking and decision making” as the crucial facet behind their success this season.
“Arrows boys have always been known for their speed. Through the entire season, their speed of thinking has got better and better. They are able to take decisions much quicker now. If your mind starts working faster, your feet will automatically work faster. The quick decision making has provided us with the confidence to take our opponents head-on,” Pinto echoed the confidence of the entire Indian Arrows team.
Incidentally, Mahesh Gawli has joined the Indian Arrows coaching team this year and Pinto didn’t think twice to share the credit with the former India skipper.
“We didn’t have a good start to the I-League this season. Credit goes to Mahesh who has added a lot to the defence. The boys have learnt the nuances from him like how they should behave when we don’t have the ball. We are working with the basics pertaining to the aspects like body position, covering the area etc.”
“The key aspect is that all these things have been taken by the boys. They know what we demand from them and they themselves execute it. Now, they have the ability to react to situations and defuse. They just don’t mindlessly clear the ball but intercept the ball intelligently, hold it and start the counter-attack. They are getting matured to take the decisions both on and off the pitch and they are the prime example of how we can take it forward.”
On the other hand, Kerala Blasters coach Nelo Vingada lauded the youngsters and labelled them as “future of Indian football” as well.
“They (Indian Arrows) showed how the future of Indian football is going to be. The team is working and playing together for the last two and a half years. The team and AIFF are doing a really good.”
Prabhsukhan Gill, the young goalie who was under the shadows of Dheeraj Singh during the FIFA U-17 World Cup, has improved by leaps and bounds in last two years to be called up by newly-appointed India U23 coach Derrick Pereira for the preparatory camp as well as the friendly match against Qatar.
“Since my first match in I-League last season, I have continuously worked on my mistakes to be a better goalkeeper. Coaches have always given me confidence and I have tried to get better in every match. After last season, we have grown mentally and that’s the key reason behind some of the great results that we got this year. We have always worked as a team, no individual is bigger than the team,” a matured Gill stated.