U-17 Women's World Cup: Thomas Dennerby excited to contribute to 'something new' for India

India's U-17 women's head coach is working towards building a strong team for the marquee event next year.

Thomas Dennerby: “As compared to the previous places where everything is already developed coming to India is thrilling and challenging.”

Thomas Dennerby is relishing the opportunity to work extensively with and oversee the preparations of the Indian U-17 women's football team. Working with the age-group team gives him the liberty to spend many more days in moulding the squad than with any international senior team, he says.

The national U-17 women's team is currently in Mumbai along with Sweden and Thailand to participate in the U-17 Women's Football Tournament 2019. This is also Dennerby's first international tournament since his appointment as the India head coach.

“It's an opportunity to work with this team for a long time. We have like 300 days and have 350 sessions or more [before the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup]. Normally as a head coach, you usually get the senior team players on the international dates — 60-80 days in a year and a lot depends on how far you can go in major tournaments. Here, you have around four times of that. So I hope we have a really good chance to develop the team and have a good tournament. It's a thrilling challenge and the main reason for all of us to come here,” Dennerby told AIFF.

'Thrilling and exciting'

Dennerby, who has the experience of having shepherded the senior women's teams of Sweden and Nigeria, finds his Indian challenge “thrilling.”

“As compared to the previous places where everything is already developed coming to India is thrilling and challenging. If we can do something good with this team it will be something new for this country. To help a country like India to have a successful World Cup would be very exciting,” he said.

Mental strength

One of the main challenges for the U-17 women's team would be to develop the mental fortitude to handle the pressure of major tournaments. “The mental part is one of the things we need to work. The girls haven’t played a championship before. Whatever you do the first game of the World Cup will be the first for these girls and we can't change that,” he said.

Read | Sweden U-17 coach praises India U-17 women's team after friendly loss

Playing at home would entail the burden of expectations but Dennerby pointed out the team just needed to focus on playing good football. “Pressure would be if I would have asked them to sing in a concert in front of 30,000 people because that’s an act which then haven’t ever done. But they are footballers, and you are probably best in playing football. You have other people around you to guide you and pick you — they won't pick you if you're not ready for it. If you are good enough to be picked, you are good enough to handle the situation,” he said.

Fitness level

What were the areas the team needed to focus on?

“It is extremely important to work hard on fitness levels. It is important that you feel strong in the player's tunnel and feel that you are ready with all that training behind you. I hope to see the test results keep getting better by October next year and it will show the players that they are physically, technically and mentally ready,” Dennerby said.

Dennerby has also brought in other coaching staff to aid in the preparations. He elaborated on their expertise.

Read | Dennerby proud of India U-17 team despite Sweden loss

“Precious Dede was with me in Nigeria for a while and of course, she's experienced having 99 caps for Nigeria which includes three World Cups and multiple Olympic Games.

“However, that was not the primary reason to bring her. It was the fact that she is a really good goalkeeping coach. She has a good plan and works hard. When you work with young players, it's important you have a good personality and are a good role model. I think it's easier for a girl to adapt with a girl and to aspire to reach that level. She is working very hard with them in training and we can already see improvement.

“Per Karlsson was also with the Nigerian team. He was a hammer throw athlete, who could throw over 75 metres. He is very strong and he has been working with things such as endurance training for track and field athletes, football, hockey, etc. When I brought him here, he was like a teacher in for track and field athletes. He has worked a lot with players between 15-17 years of age and that is very important because if you have worked only with seniors, your expectations can be high.”

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