Even a day after Tamil Nadu’s semifinal loss to host Maharashtra, coach Robin Charles Raja still hasn’t come to terms with the defeat.

“We had a golden chance to create history. After setting high standards against teams like Bengal, Goa and Punjab which play physical football, our performance in the semi-final was disappointing. Coming into the tournament we had done a lot of hard work. We didn’t compromise on any player or position. I am happy in a way that we qualified for the semi-finals from a tough group. But having entered the semi-final, we should have won the cup,” he said.

Faltered in the semis

Tamil Nadu topped group ‘B’ and en-route to the semi-finals, the South Zone champion crushed former champion Punjab 5-0 with Raegan scoring a hat-trick. But against a young Maharashtra team Tamil Nadu wilted under the oppressive heat. The team failed to reach anywhere near its best and some players on whom the coach expected much didn’t rise to the occasion.

Was it that his team peaked early? “No I don’t think so. We were improving as the tournament progressed. I think the fact that the semifinal was the biggest match in career of some of my players unnerved them. They committed mistakes which they shouldn’t have. Seeing them play in the semifinal, I wished they had experience of playing in the I-league and other tournaments.

“In Tamil Nadu the maximum number of matches a player gets in a season is about 15, which is inadequate. The players should be playing in more tournaments. Some States such as Kerala and Mizoram have started the premier league. I think it is high time for us to start thinking of starting a premier league in Tamil Nadu,” said the coach.

“Having enough tournaments and a premier league will keep players engaged and match fit. Most of players in the current Tamil Nadu team are semi professionals and have limited exposure unlike players from Goa and Bengal, who play football throughout the year,” elaborated the former Income Tax player.

The performances of Sirajudeen and Ameerudeen were one of the positives from the tournament. “They performed beyond my expectations. They were consistent. But I think now we have the foundation for a good team. This bunch of players can get better with experience. After this tournament in future other teams will take Tamil Nadu more seriously,” said the coach.