By Nilanjan Datta,
AIFF Media Team
DUBAI: Indian Football is getting younger day by day. A peep at the ongoing preparatory camp in Dubai ahead of the forthcoming FIFA Friendlies against Oman and UAE brings forward a very interesting proposition – a first of its kind in Indian Football.
The average age of the squad currently at the camp in Dubai is just over 24. There are 12 of them who are below 25, and a couple of them are barely 19 – a statistic that pleases National Coach Igor Stimac immensely.
“It’s fantastic to see guys at 19, 20, 21, 23 making it to the National Team squad. We are trying to build on the FIFA U-17 World Cup, and develop their knowledge. We are trying to make sure that in the next four years they become ready to play against the best, and win against them. It’s a long process in football, and it takes time,” Stimac averred.
“We have 6-7 youngsters who can fight, who can chase, and pass the ball without any fear. 11 of the boys who are at the camp have come from the AIFF youth development programme. I’m really happy that these projects have been so successful, and are bringing a brighter future to Indian football,” he added.
Smiles all around 😁😄— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) March 22, 2021
3️⃣ days to kick-off in the friendly between India 🇮🇳 and Oman 🇴🇲 as the #BlueTigers gear up for their first international game of the year! 💪 #BackTheBlue 💙 #IndianFootball ⚽ pic.twitter.com/ybLnwJ23gY
For the record, the average age of the Blue Tigers at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 was 25. Vietnam had the youngest squad in the Continental Championship, which had an average age of 23 while Iraq were at 24. At the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018, England and France had the youngest squads at an average age of 26 each.
“The young guns proved it in the Hero Indian Super League this season. It’s now for them to prove at the international level. I will give them the chance to do so. What we are doing here is trying to make them relax, and explain to them that there is no reason for fear at the international level. They need to be themselves and prove to the world that they can play against the best,” Stimac expressed.
“The kids are a part of the family. Here we fight for each other, we live and breathe together. There is no reason for anyone to feel scared or have any kind of fear. Not a single player will be eliminated for one or two mistakes but we are trying to work on not to repeat them.”
However, the National coach also stressed that “it’s a revolving door.”
“You need to perform and get selected. Age is never a bar for anyone to be in the squad. If you are good enough, you are never old enough.”
India take on Oman in Dubai on March 25 in the first of two International Friendlies, with the second match against the UAE slated for March 29.