THE INDIAN SENIOR football team went through some rigorous sessions together at ASC Centre, Bangalore in a unique effort to promote team spirit. Organized by coach Stephen Constantine just days before a crucial clash with Oman at Sree Kanteerava Stadium, this team building exercise is the first of its kind in Indian football. The aim was to get players to understand each other better and work better as a unit.
The team went through an elaborate obstacle course, with no less than 21 types of barriers to overcome. Supervised by army officers, the players as well as the coach went through hard tasks that pushed them to their physical and mental limits. They climbed walls, jumped past hurdles, crawled through narrow trenches under barbed wires, split into groups and raced each others while carrying heavy objects.
The idea was to make players experience high-pressure situations together, said Constantine.
“You need to see people at their breaking point… by putting the players under extreme pressure, you find out and separate the men from the boys.”
An excited Sandesh Jhingan added,
“Whenever the players have a difficult time together, they are mentally stronger… quitting in such situations is uncalled for.”
And there was no one in the ranks that quit. Coach Constantine led by example by finishing the entire 21 barrier course at one go – without taking a single break. The players applauded enthusiastically. Subrata Paul sounded mighty impressed:
“He's exceptional. How can you do that at your age? He's our leader.”
Arnab Mondal took away some valuable lessons, from the difficulties encountered and the responses they provoked.
“There will be obstacles which will challenge us. You need to back yourself and be mentally tough,” said he. “The entire episode has made us tougher.”
Rino Anto was enthralled by the amount of courage it took to face and overcome those hurdles, while Sehnaj Singh spoke of how crucial discipline was to undertake those tasks.
“Hard tasks are never possible without being disciplined. We gelled together and are gelling well.”
The coach was pleased to see an increased sense of camaraderie in the team going into the group stage of the World Cup as well as Asian Cup qualifying campaign.
Many in the team drew inspiration from the soldiers. “We saw our Jawans doing it with ease. That motivated us,” said Jeje Lalpekhlua. Jackichand Singh drew a broader context to the experience, “The sacrifices made by the army are always an inspiration. So, the kind of training we underwent was inspirational to say the least.”
Since almost all of these players were actively playing in the I-League until a week ago, the toils at ASC Centre provided a break from the routine as well as a means to refuel. It is the first time the army has worked closely with the national football team, and the AIFF has reciprocated by giving 5000 tickets to the Army for the home matches with Oman and Iran to be held in Bengaluru. The first opponent, Oman, has already arrived in the city. They had their first training session on Monday, postponed to the evening due to their flight's late arrival.