Teens of 2000 train in Goa for football test of 2017
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For about a year now, 26 teenagers, all born in the year 2000, have been camping together at the All India Football Federation's (AIFF's) elite academy in Goa. These talented junior footballers have been marked out as potential participants in the 2017 under-17 World Cup, the hosting rights of which India won this week.
The tournament will be a rare outing for the country's footballers at a big ticket FIFA event, and the AIFF is keen to make a good first impression before a global television audience. It has worked out a five-year plan — with the focus on the chosen youngsters.
Scott O'Donell, the technical director of AIFF academies, said training the existing batch and widening the player pool is their priority. "We have identified 26 players born in 2000 from the National Championships held last year in Kalyani in West Bengal. These boys have been training in Goa since February 1 this year.
"They represented India in the u-14 AFC Championships in Iran, where they won two matches and lost two. We have identified more players from the National Championships this year and are planning to call them in early next year," said the Australian.
At the u-14 tournament at Mashhad, midfielder Ajay Anthony was praised by the Iranian media for his ability to hold the ball and dictate play. The cohesion that comes from practising together the entire year made India the standout team in the tournament of teenagers.
Players from Kerala to Kolkata, Manipur to Mumbai are a part of the select group, being coached by Narayana Menon. Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem of Manipur, the captain of the team, is generally regarded as the best player of the group. Dheeraj is also the only one from the group who is also part of India's u-16 team.