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EXCLUSIVE Interview with Coach Floyd Pinto on India’s lessons from stronger youth nations

BEING HANDED OVER BIGGER responsibilities of the I-League team, Coach Floyd Pinto has managed to impress in his last season. Also managing the national Under 19 men’s team, Coach Floyd sees his players progressing technically and making forays into clubs and senior teams.

A stellar performance saw the Indian Arrows in the I-League pull off some brilliant displays in the season. The developmental side deprived of any foreign players accumulated 21 points and saw the better of teams like Minerva Punjab and Mohun Bagan. Coach shared the highlights from the experience.

Definitely the fact that we were progressively able to develop and educate the boys as the I-League went over was a very encouraging sign. The 3-1 win over Mohun Bagan at the Salt Lake Stadium in the last game of the season was a moment to remember for a long time. The set-up, the result and the encouragement from the local fans was one of the best moments in the I-League.

The boys feel the Arrows are like the home team wherever they play in the country. We have always had support be it coming to the stadium and cheering for us or be it online. We are received with a lot of love and affection.

Coach Floyd is also the head coach of the Indian Under 19 men’s national team. The team played the annually-held Granatkin Memorial tournament in Russia. 

After the domestic season, there were a lot of players who had graduated from the Elite Academy into the ISL Teams. There was a period where we had go through trials of about 80 to 85 players from Elite League to I-League second division to build the squad  for the Granatkin Cup. The tournament was an opportunity for us to let the boys express themselves and get as much game time as possible. This was because after the season finished and till this tournament, most clubs had not started their pre-season and the boys didn’t have competitive games under the belt. Granatkin gave us five competitive games and gave us chance to exercise tactics in the games. The games proved that the boys played a lot on the front foot, press high and had the patience to keep the ball and rather than sitting deep and defending.

The Game against Kygrz Republic saw India lose a man to a red card in the second minute and managed to only lose out on penalty shootout after regulation time. That match we create enough chances to win the match after scoring with a man down. A lot of people have told us we did really well in the I-league and were happy to have changed the mentality of the boys. 

Playing in tournaments overseas, gave an understanding of where the Indian team could catch up with the developed nations. What has been your learnings?

There is a big difference overseas, when team plays Under 16 and when they play Under 19. The transition they go through they literally become boys to men. They play a lot more competitive matches not just at youth level but also at their respective clubs at senior level. Players with some Asian countries are training at renowned academies than what our boys are training out here. When they arrive playing in the Under 19 level is just that they have played much more competitive matches from the time were Under 16. Add to that the weather conditions and the quality of food out there, the nutritional aspect do add up to the overall development of the players.

Is there an edge that technology in football training gives and how much of it has India been able to utilize or implement?

We are trying our best to reach the next level. We have raised the level of video analysis. There is a lot of improvement in communication between the senior team, the Under 19 and Under 15 and there is a lot of knowledge sharing happening between these teams as well. We feel if all teams get access to the training methods that the senior team has implemented, it will help bridge the gap as far as player knowledge and technology is concerned.

Fair to state that Akash Mishra was the find of the Granatkin Memorial Tournament?

You make a name by the way you play. The Arrows team has been playing together for about four to five years now. It was near impossible to break into the team. But Akash Mishra was one of the players who had a good physical profile and slotted into the left back position. He was unlucky with his injuries that kept him out for an entire season. In the Grantkin, I would have been happy if he just managed to play entire 90 minutes without an injury. But he surpassed that by not just defending but also contributing by scoring goals. Also, another player that impressed is Givson who did ever so well with the Under 16 team that played the AFC Qualifiers

One player that has made everyone proud with his rise in character, responsibility and performance is Amarjit Singh Kiyam. Coach Pinto spoke how closely he has seen him grow under him and gone to break into the Senior national team.

Sometimes we talk about this Under 19 team and the Grantakin Tournament, many people forget that we missed Amarjjit. Because he is not just another player for us. He is the captain of the team, is a leader both on and off the field. He personifies exactly how we want the team to be in each and every aspect. We were extremely happy when he got the call up for the senior national team and the news that he made the cut to the King’s Cup squad delighted us. But that also made us sad because we had lost an important player for the Grantkin tournament. Again, the happiness of having an Arrows player representing the NT squad was more that the fact that Amarjit could not play with us in the tournament.

Newly appointed technical director to the Indian Football team, Isaac Doru, brings vast experience with him in organising and improving the structure and functioning of the national teams. Could you share more about what his plans are and what changes could be expected soon.

He is very communicative to everyone to all the Indian national teams. We coaches and Mr. Isaac talk on a regular basis about what he requires from us as head coaches. The idea as of now is to streamline the process as to various factors to help identify a clear philosophy of how we want the national teams to play. A lot of brainstorming and even data is being collected about our national teams and over time we will arrive at a way how we profile a player for the national youth team. A clear philosophy will be cut out as to how we would want to progress from the Under 15 team to Under 16 and onwards.

Newly appointed India’s men’s national team coach Igor Stimac has brought about a change of approach to the national team. Coach Floyd let known his impressions on the senior NT coach

Having heard Stimac speak about what he wants to with the senior NT is so refreshing and trying to play a modern brand of football, a much more total brand of football. It also more pleasing to the eye and is in sync with the modern trends of football worldwide.

Below is the entire episode featuring Coach Floyd Pinto

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