Bibiano Fernandes: ‘We are always on the lookout for technical players’

The India U-15s head coach reveals he and the rest of his coaching staff preferred to select technical players who could think on their feet. He elaborates on the scouting process for the SAFF Championship.

India blanked Nepal 7-0 in the final to clinch the SAFF U-15 Championship title. Representational Image: Getty Images

India U-15s head coach Bibiano Fernandes has attributed the team’s goal-scoring spree in the SAFF U-15 Championship to good technique and speed of thought. India scored 28 goals in five matches during its triumphant campaign.

“Every team-building process must start with scouting. We started before February in the Subroto Cup. Then there was the Hero Junior League, and along with that, we had open trials in many States. I personally oversaw some of the trials, while [assistant coach] Kanan [Priolkar] also scouted in some States,” Fernandes said.

Only a year ago, Fernandes and his coaching staff had brought through the previous batch of U-16 players who managed to equal India’s best finish at the AFC U-16 Championship, making it to the quarterfinals where it lost by a single goal to the Republic of Korea.

‘Very long process’

“It’s been a very long process. Thanks to all the exposure tours organised by AIFF, we now have better idea about how to build the team after the AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia last year. As a coaching staff, we now had the experience in terms of what kind of a team and what type of players we need to play at the continental level,” Fernandes said.

“Having that experience, we knew exactly what we need. Looking back and learning from the mistakes that we made the last time round was also an important part of that journey,” he continued.

“I am sure in another five-six years, we will have a much better team than what we have right now,” he declared.

‘Speed of thought’ the primary criterion

Fernandes explained that he and his staff prefer technical players who can think on their feet. They have built the team around that centralised capability. “We are always on the lookout for technical players, who have intelligence and speed, in terms of decision-making and creativity. Along with that, if we can get some physical players, it really helps us on the pitch. But the primary [criterion] is speed of thought, and not physicality,” Fernandes said.

Even though he built the team around the central idea of free-flowing, creative football, Fernandes had not imagined the team would put out such an expansive display at the SAFF Championship.

“I did not expect so many goals, but I knew that this group has a capability of scoring goals because we have good some very good forwards. Our other offensive players are also capable of providing them with ample support in attack,” he said.

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