How has the preparation been for the U-19 I-League Tournament?
Our Curriculum has been designed by our Technical Directors Robert Baan and Scott O'Donell. For the past one and half years our wards in the Regional Academy have been following the Curriculum religiously and have improved a lot. We stress on match related practice sessions and the three key areas we work on are technical, tactical and physical.
Will this be the Boys' biggest test so far?
What is the most satisfying thing about participating in this Tournament is the fact that our boys will get to play against strong opposition. The mainstay of our Curriculum has always been that we should play well-knit Teams. That will help you assess your weakness and strengths.
As far as Robert Baan's Master Plan is concerned, the philosophy of playing in the same style is preached. And that is a big boon for the future of Indian Football.
Our Academy Boys are all 16-Year olds. Is it an uphill task for them to compete against U-19 Teams?
We don't care about the results. We care about development and from that point of view this is a great step forward. It's understandable all other Teams would come prepared and they would have 18-year olds. But we know that playing in the Tournament will give us a chance to examine ourselves better.
What are the key areas of development you are focusing on in the Academy?
Playing 'Total Football' stays our philosophy. Build up from the back, ball possession, defending and attacking as a unit, stay our brand. The manner our Boys are able to maintain the philosophy and stick to the curriculum against some strong opponents will be interesting.
How much will the experience of playing in the Chandigarh Administration Challenge Cup last year help in nurturing the tournament mentality?
The exposure really helped. It's not about winning the Competition but all about gaining match experience. The boys acclimatised well and stood tall.
How will the concept of having regional Academies by AIFF help in this regard when you finally go out to play a full fledged Competition at the Continental level?
It helps immensely when you live, breathe, and eat football. These Boys have been staying under the same roof for one and a half year now and it's like a family. Suppose somebody is homesick, the other cheers him up. It works wonderfully. The camaraderie is unbelievable.
It's not about setting up academies, it's about their functioning and I believe that if the harmony between Academies is maintained, the standard will certainly reach a much higher level in the coming years.
--IBNS (Posted on 09-01-2014)