Indian Football fans have been excited ever since the u-17 world cup started this month, but most followers have shown compassion and respect for the Indian team even after they lost in their group stage fixtures against USA, Columbia and Ghana.
Football in India is still at its nascent stages, and it would take years before India can develop a team that can compete on a global platform. It would be wise to look at the number of years it took for India to reach global dominance in Cricket before we hope that our football team wins against countries that traditionally qualify for the FIFA world cup. Football is an intricate part of most of these nations just like Cricket is a part of ours.
India’s second match of the tournament against Columbia becomes the highlight for Indian fans as midfielder Jeakson Tounaojam opened India’s account by scoring India’s first ever goal in the highly competitive FIFA tournament.
Jeakson scored from a thundering header aimed towards the top right corner after he was found by Sanjeev Stalin’s near perfect corner kick. The crowd at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium roared and cheered till Colombia’s Penaloza scored a second goal to silence the fans and break the tie just 40 seconds later.
India qualified for the tournament only on merit as the host nation and despite criticism, fans have understood the level of difficulty the Blues had to face and admired the efforts put in by the Portuguese coach Luis Norton De Matos who has formed the foundation upon which the team can develop further.
The current U-17 squad has shown promising stars that may be able to carry India’s footballing dream forward and with the exposure that they are getting now, they will be able to learn faster and develop as players.
Look at some of these promising superstars:
Dheeraj Singh Moiramgthem has undoubtedly been the best player of the Indian side in this tournament. Dheeraj has been fearless and determined and has already made 10 saves in just two matches. Also, Dheeraj has represented India in 45 matches which is the highest caps earned by a player in his age group. Reports suggest clubs from Bundesliga and MLS are interested in signing the youngster.
Komal Thatal, the short no. 10 left winger for the Indian Team has also shown his dribbling skills to cut past opponents on several occasions. Despite no goals or assists to his name in the 2 matches, he is the only Indian player to have scored a goal against Brazil in the BRICS tournament conducted in Goa last year. Some reports suggest that Komal has attracted interest from the scouts at the Manchester United who are observing his game during this tournament. Komal has turned heads, both by his quick movements and for his funky Neymar-like hairstyle.
Aniket Jadhav, the Kohlapur born striker has an aggressive pace and a powerful left foot and his bursts towards the goal have been witnessed by fans in both the matches. Jadhav has been a part of the squad ever since he represented India at FC Bayern Munich Youth cup in 2014. He was one of the ten Indians selected by Former German and Bayern Munich defender Paul Brietner.
The Indian squad has been training for this world cup since 2015 and has taken several ‘exposure’ trips to countries like Spain, Germany, Brazil and South Africa. The AIFF has spent nearly 10 crores on these trips to ensure that the youngsters are comfortable playing with other national teams. However, poor performance followed in these trips and coach Nicolai Adam was replaced by De Matos who has overseen the development of first class stars in his career like Renato Sanches and Victor Lindelof.
We mean no disrespect to any of the current players but it is true that India’s margins to succeed in this tournament were low from the start, but the squad has proven that Indians can play ‘good football’ and this experience has opened the doors for the future of football in our country and we may be able to witness these youngsters represent our nation in similar competitions in the coming years.