Indian Arrows take on Minerva Punjab FC in an I-League encounter on Tuesday at the Athletic Stadium, Bambolim. The Indian Arrows side which comprise of players from India U-19 side were off to a flying start in the tournament. They had outclassed Chennai City FC 3-0.
Minerva Punjab are unbeaten in their first matches. They started their campaign with a 1-1 draw against giants Mohun Bagan and won their second match comfortably against I-League debutants Neroca FC.
Ahead of their second match in the tournament, Arrows coach Luis Norton de Matos addressed the media. He said, “Because I have European experience training players and four years later they are in clubs like Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain, I know exactly what’s the level of the players at 16 or 17 years. These players are a group that started working together for two years, but in the seven months with me, I understood the context of India.”
“The I-League is a competition that puts a lot of difficulties on the team and I am prepared for all the results because I know at the end the best result is the experience these players get.”
De Matos spoke about his team’s first match against Chennai City. “The first game (3-0 win against Chennai City) was very good. The players showed their personality and that they are not afraid to play. Of course, physically, we can see that sometimes the older players are stronger but it’s this kind of experience that I want for the players – that aerial duels, the tackles, the reaction when they lose the ball which makes part of the process.
“The fact that we scored first helped us because at this age there is a difference when you concede a goal and you have to react or when you score also, you need to keep more control of your emotions,” said the Portuguese coach.
Another interesting about Arrows’ first match was that for the first time in I-League’s history all-Indian team whose age were 18 or below defeated a team with foreigners. The Portuguese coach was understandably elated about such a feat of his team. “For the first time in India, has a team with only Indian player less than 18 years old won a game in the I-League. This first step is very important for the players to show that they can play at the AFC level in the next few years.”
On his targets in the I-League, the coach said, “For me, in all the games, we are not obliged to win but we are obliged to play to win. Our mentality tomorrow is to try to play the best possible football and try to transfer the training process into the competition. For me training is playing, playing is training. We are very serious when we prepare for a game. Every game has a different story.”
On opponents Minerva Punjab, De Matis opined,”Minerva (Punjab) now will also come here more prepared. They don’t think that it’s easy because the (Indian Arrows) players are young and they are going to give their 100% to win. We are also going to give our 100% to win. At the end, for sure the players want to give that they gave in the U17 World Cup.”
Arrows defender Jitendra Singh stated that playing the FIFA U-17 World Cup was a bigger challenge the I-League. “The (U17) World Cup was a good experience for us but compared to the I-League, we had more difficulties in the World Cup. So we feel more comfortable in the I-League,” said the player from Kolkata.