Sanjeev Stalin: 'I have full faith in the AIFF's plan'

The AIFF's plan is to groom this side as the Indian under-19 team which will now take part in the AFC U-19 Championship qualifying stage in Saudi Arabia from October 31 to November 8. It will then play in the I-League as an AIFF-representative outfit.

Sanjeev and his teammates will leave for Qatar for a preparatory camp ahead of AFC qualifiers.   -  File Image

Defender Sanjeev Stalin, who provided the assist for India's lone goal at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, has decided to sign the three-year contract offered by the AIFF and be part of its developmental team. The decision comes amid reports that a few first-team regulars were set to turn down AIFF's offer and instead sign lucrative deals with various clubs.

The AIFF's plan is to groom this side as the Indian under-19 team which will now take part in the AFC U-19 Championship qualifying stage in Saudi Arabia from October 31 to November 8. It will then play in the I-League as an AIFF-representative outfit.

“Right now I am not interested in joining any club,” Sanjeev told Sportstar on Monday, a day before leaving for Delhi to link up with his teammates. “I just want to gain more experience. I am still young. I have a lot to prove. The World Cup is not the end. It's just the beginning of my career.”

Sanjeev and his teammates will leave for Qatar for a preparatory camp ahead of AFC qualifiers. It is to be noted that the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship will be the qualifying tournament for the 2019 U-20 World Cup.

Luis Norton de Matos is set to continue as coach and Sanjeev said he had complete faith in both Matos and the AIFF's plan.

“He is the brain of the team,” Sanjeev said of Matos. “He is a very good person on and off the field. We learnt a lot. Assistant Hugo Martins was great too. And the AIFF has supported us a lot. I have a good relationship with them.”

Though India finished with the wooden spoon at the World Cup, Sanjeev felt there were a lot of positives.

“I can draw satisfaction from the team's dedication and hard work,” he said. “We played well but the results didn't go our way. But we all worked very hard for our nation. After the narrow loss to Colombia, as a player, it was a sad moment for me. But as a football fan and a citizen of this country, I was really proud of all the players. We didn't give up.”

“The crowd was fantastic. It was a massive boost and gave us great energy. And we made those fans believe.”

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