De Matos ‘happy’ with Indian Arrows’ progress

The coach observes that his players have grown in stature and have given the rival teams, with experienced foreign players, a run for their money in the I-League.

Luis Norton de Matos believes some of the team’s players can play at the next level.   -  M. R. Praveen Chandran

Indian Arrows coach Luis Norton de Matos is proud of his players’ performance in the I-League. The team, made up of Indian players who are younger than 18, has punched above its weight and impressed onlookers with its gutsy display.

De Matos, who has spent almost a year shepherding the unit, believes some of the players in the squad are capable of playing at the next level. He observed his players have grown in stature and have given the rival teams, with experienced foreign players, a run for their money in the competition.

‘Huge investments’

De Matos believes his team has achieved its objective.

He said, “I don’t care about the points we win. I am happy with the performance of the boys in the I-League because we must not forget this is a team with only Indian players who are under 18 years of age. We have come here to learn and progress with football. We have made a huge investments in these boys for the future and this step was very important.”

He added, “I must say after 16 games, the expectations of a lot of people [were] less when we started. The Under-17 World Cup was more challenging. But still, I-League is a competitive league and most of the teams are equal and can beat each other on their day. In that way, I am happy with the performance of my boys and some of them are good enough to play the football at another level,” the coach said.

A continuous process has been kick-started in Indian football, according to De Matos, who believes it will yield results in another 10 years.

‘Strong foundations’

“We need to have a strong foundations for the future and I am happy to be part of a continuous process which will take maybe up to 10 years to see the result. I see no difference between an Indian player and players from Portugal, Africa or Europe. It is about being disciplined and organised both technically and tactically. What we learn in training should be implemented during the match. We should first try to be good in Asia before thinking of challenging others,” he said.

De Matos expressed reservations about the number of foreign players playing in the I-League.

He said, “All clubs have foreign players but the owners of the club need to believe that it is possible to play with young Under-17 players like we have done. I think it is good for Indian football if we reduce the number of foreign players in the team. In my opinion six foreign players in a team is not good for Indian football. The percentage of Indian players should be more than the foreigners and I say this from my experience in Portugal and in Europe. If our Under-17 boys could play well against experienced teams it shows there is quality in Indian football. There are quality players in North East, Goa and other parts of India.”