AFC U-19 Qualifiers: India U-19 team praises Indian Arrows experience

Ahead of the AFC U-19 qualifiers in Saudi Arabia, the Indian U-19 side hailed the impact of the Indian Arrows,the AIFF developmental side.

The Indian under-19 team, which will go up against Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and host Saudi Arabia in the AFC under-19 Qualifiers from November 6 onwards, features a number of players who have played in the I-League.

Several players of the teamhave played for the Indian Arrows, including Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, who amassed over 2700 minutes between the sticks for AIFF's developmental side.

As his side prepares for the challenge ahead, Gill explained how playing for the Arrows has made him "mentally strong".

"It doesn't matter who I am facing, be it Argentina or Oman, I play without fear. Playing in the Hero I-League has made me mentally strong. Initially, the physicality of the league was a challenge but now I am ready for anything. Last season, we put in some really memorable performances and it was a great experience to be a part of the team," he said.

The Arrows, under the leadership of coach Floyd Pinto, picked up 21 points in the 2018-19 edition of I-League.

A key member at the back for the team was Jitendra Singh, who made 32 appearances for the team over two seasons.

He said: "The Arrows project benefitted all of us immensely as we got to know how to compete with the seniors at the professional level. Even if we lost a match, we always learnt something new from each game and develop ourselves."

The youngster from Kolkata scripted history in the 2017-18 season, becoming the youngest scorer ever (at the time) in the I-League when he found the net against Shillong Lajong in a 3-0 win in Delhi.

"It is my most memorable moment with the Arrows as it was my first goal for the team and enabled us to win the match as well," he said.

Under senior team head coach Igor Stimac, two players from last season's Arrows batch also made their debuts for the Blue Tigers, with one of them being centre-back Narender Gahlot, who also found the net in the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 against Syria.

He was one of the star performers for Floyd Pinto's team and spoke about how playing against foreign players and seasoned professionals helped him "mature" in his game.

"I found it difficult at the start of the season and it took some time to settle. However, as we played more, I improved in terms of my maturity and reading of situations. My favourite memory was doing a double over Shillong Lajong, especially the away win against them," he said.

"There's no pressure at all," the 18-year-old said when asked if playing for the senior team brings with it an added responsibility when playing at age-group level. "I just have to focus on my game and avoid any complacency. All of us in the team keep interacting with each other and learn from each other," he concluded.

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