It was fast. It was competitive. It was frantic in the final of the 2019 SAFF U-18 Championship in Kathmandu, Nepal last week as old foes India and Bangladesh faced-off in the summit clash. Eventually it was a last-gasp “breathtaking” long-ranger by Ravi Rana that won it for Floyd Pinto and his boys.
While the winning moment will be immortalised in the memories of the players, coaches and fans, it is the little things that the boys have worked on in the build-up to the SAFF Championship and successive AFC U-19 Qualifiers, that have helped them mature over the course of the year, believes Head Coach Floyd Pinto.
“Success stories do not come overnight. The hard work put in over the last few months has helped us surely. But most importantly, it’s the place and the infra and the facilities which we tend to overlook. And in Bhubaneswar, we have been very lucky on that aspect,” Pinto stated.
“There’s no excuse for not giving your best. They get the best of facilities in Odisha. It’s world class. Not every athlete is lucky enough to have such facilities available,” said Pinto. “This in itself is motivation enough for them to improve themselves, both as individuals and as a team.”
A SERENE ATMOSPHERE BREEDING CLARITY OF THOUGHT
Floyd Pinto and boys are based out of Bhubaneswar, where they carry out their training sessions. Being put up in the International Hostel at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, the team already has top-class facilities like gyms, swimming pools, and tennis courts at its disposal.
Apart from that, the team is also provided with four meals a day, in accordance with the specific needs depending on their training and match schedules. However, it is the serene atmosphere within the campus that often helps the boys and the coaching staff clear their minds.
“The lodging that we have been given are quite spacious, with small lawns available in front of each of our rooms,” said Pinto, who believes that this kind of environment is especially beneficial for players who want to practice individual routines like yoga early in the morning. “Amarjit would practice yoga and still does, Suresh worked on ball skills and light workouts. These are just a few examples of the many that made a difference in their overall preparation.”
Pinto further went on to praise the extra provisions provided for the coaches and players where they can cook their favourite dishes whenever they feel homesick.
“We all have a kitchen area in our rooms. Not everyone is too intent on cooking, but the Manipuri boys for example like to get together and cook some of their favourite dishes on certain days,” said Pinto. “Of course, that food is monitored by the staff, but things like this do help when you’re away from home for a long time.”
Apart from this, the players also can avail the facilities within the Kalinga Stadium Complex, where they play their home matches and conduct their training sessions. Pinto was all praise for the facilities in the stadium complex, stating that the fact that a separate training pitch made available with floodlights really helped the team’s cause.
“In a country like India, the weather is not always suitable for outdoor training. But it helps a lot when you have floodlit training ground. That allowed us to train under favourable conditions and helped the players push themselves that extra yard,” Pinto quipped. “How many teams in India are that lucky?”
Another specialised facility that was available to Pinto’s team was the Abhinav Bindra Performance Centre, where athletes can enhance their performance with the help of various machinery. The Arrows & U-18s have used the Cryotherapy Chambers and undergone testing protocols for Isokinetic and Counter Movement Jumps, and other such routines.
“The ABTP Centre was made available to us, and it really helped us to test the parameters of our players’ physical condition, be it with regards to enhancing their performance, or injury prevention, or recovery,” said Pinto.
BUILDING A PROFESSIONAL FUTURE
A number of the Arrows boys have already been snapped-up by professional football clubs across the land after their performances in the Hero I-League and Pinto is now looking forward to building yet another batch of top performers.
With Delhi Dynamos shifting base to Odisha and re-establishing themselves as Odisha FC in Bhubaneshwar, the city will have another professional unit operating out of the city, something that could help not only build a stronger football culture, but also aid the youngsters from Arrows learn from the senior pros.
“The boys have to be patient. They have to work hard and take their opportunities. They certainly did that in the SAFF Championships. Now, they have to carry that forward in the AFC U-19 Qualifiers and in the Indian Arrows team,” said Pinto.
“Of course, last year’s batch had played alongside each other for a long time, as they had been training since before the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The first thing that these boys have to do is to gain experience at the top level and improve on the Asian level. That should be our main target, as of now,” said the Gaffer.
“Amarjit and Narender’s success stories have certainly helped motivate the other boys in the camp. With hard work they can also go ahead and make a good career for themselves in the future,” Pinto explained.