Pinto: Indian Arrows a more confident outfit after ‘tough’ first season

This season, the team will be expected to “face no nerves,” says the head coach.

Taking rapid strides: Indian Arrows will hope to perform as a more honed outfit in the upcoming I-League season.   -  S. Ramesh Kurup

The Indian Arrows will be expected to take a more confident approach to the upcoming I-League season as compared to its last season, head coach Floyd Pinto has said.

The team, made up of India’s U-17 World Cup stars from 2017, finished 10th in what was its first foray in the league. In a chat with AIFF, Pinto admits the season was tough, and that the exposure has helped the team grow.

Pinto, the erstwhile assistant coach of India’s U-20 team and the Indian Arrows, took over as head coach following Luis Norton de Matos’ exit in July.

Learning curve

“Last season was a good breakthrough for the Indian Arrows in the sense that we got a chance to play against professional I-League teams. Having played the FIFA U-17 World Cup, it was an opportunity for the boys to test themselves against pro footballers in the national league and get crucial minutes under their belts. I feel the boys really benefitted from that first season in the I-League,” he said.

Looking ahead to the season ahead, Pinto said, “I expect the team to face no nerves and there will be no fear of playing professional opponents. We can approach this season in a much more confident manner and we hope to showcase what we have learnt from the past season and the exposure trips.”

‘Fresh impetus’

He added, “A few new players have come in for the coming campaign as well, which will add a fresh impetus to the dressing room atmosphere as well as the I-League challenge. We have added some names, including those from the AFC U-16 squad, keeping in mind the AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers in 2019. We’re going to use the I-League to give these boys good experience and game time, which will only mean better things for us in the AFC U-19 qualifiers.”

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In addition to the last season, Indian Arrows had a hard grind in its pre-season preparations as well, Pinto points out. “Each and every match we played in pre-season - against the likes of Argentina, Venezuela, Croatia, Serbia and France, and then against two ISL clubs on returning to India - has pushed the boys beyond their limits and that is what we want in every game we play. This is what we expect to happen in the I-League as well, which will only help enhance the development of the boys and further convince fans and clubs that these players are capable of competing at that level,” he said.

‘Good challenge’

Pinto’s stint with the team has been “smooth,” he revealed. He said, “Working with these boys has been a lot of fun and it's a good challenge I'm looking forward to in the I-League. I feel we are progressing as a team and are looking forward to having a better season than last year. I am happy with the hard work being put in by the boys and staff. Everyone is determined to do better than last season and I'm looking forward to leading the way and helping achieve our target.”

The I-League begins on October 26 - Indian Arrows takes on Chennai City FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.