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AIFF official Yadav praises Indian Arrows
New Delhi, Feb 28: Praising the Indian Arrows for their performance in the I-League, the AIFF's Director of National Teams Abhishek Yadav hoped that the youngsters will do well once they graduate to the senior level.
The Indian Arrows — a project comprising U-17 and U-19 national team players launched by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) — finished their I-League campaign with a 0-2 defeat to Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan on Tuesday.
They finished at the bottom of the 10-team league table with 15 points from 18 matches, notching up four wins and 11 defeats over the course of their campaign.
Despite the high loss to win ratio, Yadav felt the youngsters did well against senior and more experienced opponents.
"It was essential the momentum sustained in the FIFA U-17 World Cup campaign continued. The learning curve for this lot has been steep in the last few years and we needed a plan that will sustain their growth without a break," the former India striker said.
"The situation demanded that the players needed to be thrown at the deep end but not in a reckless manner. The Hero I-League fit well into this with its structured and season-long format. We see the Hero I-League as a bridge for these players to cross over into the senior football territory," he added.
"The Indian Arrows kicked-off off with a win and in fact, some teams found it difficult to cope with the fitness and intensity of the Arrows."
Although the Arrows displayed excellent speed and fitness, they were outmuscled by the other teams and also struggled to retain ball possession in their opponents' half.
Yadav however, chose to focus on the learning curve that the youngsters went through over the course of the I-League.
The I-League gave 18 high-intensity matches to the team. This means real playing time for nearly two dozen players. This happened over three months in a focused environment with a complete support staff headed by an experienced head coach.
"Also, the matches were televised and crowds turned up in support of the Arrows. It was important for the players to know that fans have expectations from them and that brought out the best," he said.
"The players have learnt what the senior level of Club football with foreign players demands from them. The players have now settled into a style of play and understand each other better which should be of help in the future.
"If the matches are analysed, we realise that it was only momentary lapses in many games that resulted in conceding goals. The biggest learning was that you need to stay absolutely focused till the final whistle," he added.