New Delhi, Dec 22 (IANS) An immediate aim for the Indian Arrows hierarchy is to get the players ready for the qualification rounds of the 2023 AFC under-20 Asian Cup, says head coach Venkatesh Shanmugam. The Arrows are currently undergoing quarantine in Kolkata ahead of the 2020/21 season of the I-League beginning on January 9.
Arrows face Churchill Brothers in their first match on January 10 in a tournament that was postponed due to Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are preparing for the u-19 AFC qualifying round in 2022. Whatever tournaments we are playing are all part of the preparation,” said Shanmugam in a virtual press conference on Tuesday.
The qualification matches for the 2023 tournament is currently scheduled to be played from September 10 to 18, 2022.
“Getting a chance to play in the I-League is a big thing for the u-17 players. In the upcoming year, they will get more experience and at the end of the day I want to see more of our players in the next level, like in the bigger clubs and the senior Indian teams,” said Shanmugam.
The Arrows, which is a developmental team of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) comprising players consitituting India’s u-17 squad, was revived in the 2017/18 I-League. A previous iteration of the team played as the Pailan Arrows for three seasons — 2010 and 2013 — and featured the likes of Jeje Lalpekhlua and Gurpree Singh Sandhu, India’s first choice goalkeeper. Most of the first batch that played the 2017/18 season have since made their way into teams currently playing in the Indian Super League (ISL).
“It is our vision to give platform to young players the platform, it is a developmental team. Players like Aakash Mishra, Vikram Pratap, they are all in ISL teams and doing well. The boys in this team have a real potential and will do well in the future,” said Shanmugam.
“Senior players like Gurpreet, Pritam Kotal, Jeje, they were all part of the Arrows. This year a lot of the boys have a great potential and definitely they will do well.”