India U-17 women’s team head coach Thomas Dennerby stressed the structure for the development of women’s football in the country, following his team’s early exit from the 2022 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“We need to have a good long-term program for them, a really good schedule,” said Dennerby, “Because when I see the players, I know there are enough talented players, but we need to take care of them from an early age and let them play football in good academies,” he told the press after the match.
India lost all of its matches, against the United States of America, Morocco and Brazil, losing its last match 0-5 at the Kalinga Stadium on Monday.
“In a big country like India, it could be a good thing to have an AIFF Academy where we can have the best players, from the Under-17, Indian Arrows, Under-19 and the senior teams, practising together, seeing each other and having role models. Help them with education and let them have a good coach,” he added.
India, after losing to the United States to a hapless 0-8 scoreline, had looked defensively better in both the following matches.
Despite, conceding eight more goals in the next two matches, there had been glimpses of hope, where the young Blue Tigresses had made key interceptions, stopped set-pieces and made key saves.
“India has a good chance to be a top team in Asia. You have enough talented players and I hope we showed that against Brazil. But they need time to grow in a good (football) environment where they have good training sessions every single day.
“They need to have eight to 10 football sessions every week. They can’t be working extremely hard for 2-3 months, stop two months, and then start again. They will always reach the same level. Consistency and playing regularly that’s what helps players to pass on to the next level,” Dennerby said.
In 2022, India toured Italy, Norway and Spain to prepare against foreign teams before the World Cup. The 63-year-old felt that more exposure tours would have been further beneficial but the AIFF ban complicated things.
“It was very hard for us to come to an agreement with the federations because we were suspended. But you can see already with these games here, the girls are performing better.,” he said.
Dennerby, who has coached in three senior Women’s World Cup (two with Sweden in 2007 and 2011 and one with Nigeria in 2019), believes that the under-17 girls have the potential to go ahead and represent senior teams and that they need good academies to hone their talent.
Morocco is a team leading by example, where just six of the 21 girls were training in their home country while the rest were associated with academies from Europe (14) and the USA (1).
Samya Masnaoui – the player of the match against India – plays for Ajax women in the Netherlands.
“I am hoping that these girls have an opportunity to go to good academies. If they’re not playing here in India, it will also help a lot to send them out – to Europe or Asia,” he said.
“As long as we don’t have them ready here, I can recommend them to try to find good academies so they can be in a good daily environment. That is the key, and then we can bring them home when it’s time for the games.”
The Indian Women’s League – started as the first professional league for women in the country saw its 2021-22 season finish within two months (April 1 - May 26, 2022). Only one player of the 21-member under-17 squad has played for an IWL side last season (Naketa - Ara FC).
“This is for the clubs; you cannot sign players just for two months. We need to have an environment where they’re playing football 11 months a year.
That’s the key. And that’s absolutely the most important thing for everybody to understand. Two months is nothing if you go back home to rest for two months after that,” he said.
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