There was a time when Indian Football, especially at the national level, was just a formality for all the players. But over the past decade, the AIFF has tried to match the international levels by making some much-needed changes to their structure.
And while India are still considered one of the minnows, there’s no denying that Indian Football has improved in leaps and bounds, a glimpse of which was seen when they managed to put up a strong fight against Qatar and then beat Bangladesh 2-0, in the World Cup Qualifiers.
And speaking to AIFF, Indian national team’s assistant coach Shanmugam Venkatesh has explained how Indian Football has improved in recent years and why international tournaments are totally different from the club games.
“It has evolved a lot. There’s always a pathway for evolution. Looking at the international calendar, there are three stages of the preparatory process – unofficial friendly matches, international friendlies, and then the official qualifiers and tournaments. As these are different stages of preparation, the process of selection and approach also stay different,” Venkatesh told AIFF.com.
“It’s about the squad which you select. You need to understand that International football is entirely different from club football.
“In club football you get two matches every 10 days which allows you to look at every player who has been performing well and improve within a short span. The FIFA window is written in stone – March, June, September, October and November, and then there are unofficial matches. In unofficial matches and exposure games, the aim is to try out as many young and new players as possible.
“Unless you try, you won’t get to know. You have to give a chance to the deserving youngsters to see how they react and gauge their decision-making. After all of that, you move to the Qualifiers and the tournaments wherein there can’t be any compromise.
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The intensity, tempo, ball time in international football is ruthless — ask any debutant who has had a taste of international football. Let me tell you a basic – at the international level, even before you get the ball there are already two players who have pressed you.
“The pressure is immense and you need to make decisions under pressure. There is very little time to react — in fact, no time. Only the best who have been filtered in the process, thrive here. There are so many examples.”
India managed to put up a gritty fight against Qatar but still ended up losing that match 1-0 but the win vs Bangladesh was surely a statement of intent from the Blue Tigers.
India have one more game to play in their World Cup qualifiers and that will be against Afghanistan on the 15th of June. Sunil Chhetri’s men are currently third in the group picking up six points from their seven games.
The Blue Tigers might have missed out on a World Cup spot but their recent performances show that all the players are making sure they are not overwhelmed when playing against the bigger sides. And this is perhaps the biggest sign that Indian Football is moving in the right direction.