Not surprised by COTIF Cup performance: Floyd Pinto

These boys are no longer afraid of taking on international sides. We need to develop the thinking in them that there is no need to fear competition as long as we give 100 per cent.

Floyd Pinto, the coach of the Indian under-20 football team, is in tune with the AIFF’s plans.

Floyd Pinto, the coach of the India under-20 football team at the COTIF Cup in Valencia, (where India scored a win over Argentina) outlines the road ahead for the team, keeping in step with the All India Football Federation’s plans for developmental squads from under-15 to under-23.

He also explains the reasons for the confidence of the India under-20 team and the promise shown by India under-16 in matching the best in Asia.

Pinto is also the coach of the Indian Arrows in the I-League, which is, in fact, the AIFF developmental team.

Excerpts from a chat with Pinto, an IT engineer, who moved away from a career as a data analyst to coaching.

Did the COTIF Cup performance surprise you?

We found out at COTIF that if we are organised, focused and performing at our best, anything is possible. I am not surprised; I am encouraged that it is possible to get results like this. These boys are no longer afraid of taking on international sides. We need to develop the thinking in them that there is no need to fear competition as long as we give 100 per cent, i.e. players and coaches, and prepare better. Everyone will start to take notice when we do this on a regular basis.

Does the All India Football Federation support this view?

Yes, this vision for Indian football is shared by the AIFF. The exposure given to the India U-17 World Cup probables was like never before, gaining experience playing in different countries against teams with varying playing styles. After the World Cup, they played the AFC U-19 Championships. The next step in their development is to play competitive tournaments like COTIF, featuring developed football nations, such as Venezuela and Argentina.

The India under-20 side beat Argentina 2-1 at the COTIF Cup in Valencia, Spain, on August 6.   -  PTI

 

After playing the U-17 World Cup for the first time last year, is the U-20 World Cup qualifiers the next target?

It is not just the U-20 World Cup qualifiers, the U-16 team is doing quite well and also benefiting from the exposure given. Right from winning SAFF and qualifying for the AFC U-16 final round in Nepal, the team under Bibiano Fernandes played 20-25 international matches and did well against Jordan, Yemen, Iraq and Japan. This batch gained so much composure that they are no longer afraid of facing Asian heavyweights. The AFC U-16 final round is coming up and there is a sense of optimism about being able to carry this form into the finals. Teams finishing in the top four qualify for the next U-17 World Cup (in Peru in 2019).

Can you list the factors behind the India U-20 team’s good performance even after foreign coach Luis Matos went back?

Coaches come and go; the development has to go on. The federation is trying to give as much exposure as possible. Indian Arrows is playing in the I-League and comprises U-17, U-18 boys. So, when they graduate, these players can get into the I-League and the Indian Super League clubs. Each player from here should be fighting for a first-team place and not spending time on the bench. Two years of I-League experience will be helpful here. The U-16 boys aim to qualify for the U-17 WC in Peru. The U-15 team’s training has already started and they will soon go on an exposure trip.

The U-17 team was lucky to be kept together as Indian Arrows, playing against pros in the I-League. Please explain the reasoning.

It was the federation’s vision, thanks to Messrs Praful Patel, Kushal Das and Abhishek (Yadav), and they were supported by the Sports Authority of India. The aim was to ensure, after the U-17 World Cup was over, that the boys would gather as much competitive match experience as possible. The Arrows players, after two seasons against the pros, will be seen in the Indian Super League apart from the I-League. In future, two or three years from now, hopefully they will form the core of the senior national team similar to the Pailan Arrows. A majority from that squad are now playing for India and top clubs.

How are they going to manage the I-League commitments as well?

The players are not short of offers from ISL and I-League clubs at present. The best decision will be taken by the player and the federation keeping in mind future growth of the player. They will be with Arrows for another season in the I-League at least.

Indian Arrows player Rahul Kannooly Balan (17) trying to score against Gokulam Kerala FC in an I-League football match in Kozhikode on January 12. The Arrows is an AIFF developmental team.   -  S. Ramesh Kurup

 

India U-17 captain Dheeraj Singh performed at a different level at the World Cup. He chose a path away from Arrows and tried to get into a foreign club...

Every player has a decision to take. He chose to pursue football abroad. For Indians, it is difficult to get in not due to the talent factor, but work permit issues. He missed out on competitive football during the time he was away giving trials abroad. It is encouraging that he is in contention for a first team spot as goalkeeper with Kerala Blasters. So, if he is given that opportunity, performances will follow. The main aim is to get game time, play 90 minutes regularly. The goalkeeper behind Dheeraj in the U-17 World Cup, Prabhsukhan Gill, never played in the build-up to the event. Now Gill is getting playing time in Arrows, getting better with match experience.

The India U-23 team is preparing for the SAFF Cup. Do you see any among them playing for India seniors?

Anirudh Thapa was at the AIFF Academy two years ago. In a short span, he is playing for the first team at Chennayin FC ( in the ISL) and went on to win a first-team place on the national senior team. If he can do it, why not others? It all depends on how you grab the chance (at the SAFF Cup) to be rewarded with a place for the AFC Asia Cup next year.

Uniformity in coaching helps build teams at various levels. Do coaches have a link with chief coach Stephen Constantine, to know his thinking?

We, as coaches, should also be aware of what is happening with the senior national team and how Mr Constantine is shaping his players. Whenever time permits, I attend national camps to observe. We aim for an all-round development, so that players adjust to different coaches. Abhishek (Yadav) as the link in scouting and in touch with the chief coach helps.

Dheeraj Moirangthem, the Indian goalkeeper at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, tried to get into some foreign teams, but now is in with a chance to play for Kerala Blasters.   -  AP

 

How has the concept of coaching developed in your mind, from the time you started and now with the AIFF?

My coaching stint started with Kenkre Football Academy (I-League second division club from Mumbai) in 2009 and I was there till 2014. Mr Adib Kenkre (its founder) always asked players and coaches to “play the beautiful game beautifully.” Creativity and unpredictability with the ball were encouraged and it continued through the youth and senior teams at KFA. He wanted us to develop players’ confidence and skill on the ball so well that it brought out the potential in him or her.

How did the shift from club coaching to AIFF teams happen?

I was doing the AFC A coaching licence when I met Mr Scott Donnell, AIFF technical manager, academies (later appointed technical director). He asked me if I would be interested in case a vacancy arose. (Dutch World Cupper) Wim Kovermans was the Indian national coach and Rob Baan was TD then. They had already introduced a playing philosophy in the AIFF. The emphasis was on the 1-4-3-3 shape, focusing on building up play from the back, an organised press when not in possession of the ball and free-flowing attacking football. Every coach was given freedom to innovate based on this concept. This philosophy and the Kenkre style merged well. We developed technically strong players on the ball and also developed them tactically, physically and psychologically.

You still follow the Baan line of building teams?

As a coach you need to evolve and improvise based on the players you have. The U-17 World Cuppers underwent two stints under European coaches (Nicolai Adam from Germany and Matos of Portugal) and were trained physically to run more with the emphasis on defensive organisation. At the COTIF Cup, we started to change the playing philosophy bit by bit. There were changes to the team organisation, changes to team shape and players’ positions. We pressed higher up to induce mistakes from the opposition, instead of sitting back and waiting. Gradually, the team should be playing a more open, attacking brand of football with a solid organisation in coming tournaments and the next I-League.