The first thing that strikes one in Doha is the flurry of highways. As you drive ahead you notice there’s construction going on almost everywhere – construction amidst the desert; building for the future. In the country which has hosted some of the most successful sporting events in the recent past, everything seems to be served to you on a platter – ‘readymade.’
In the posh Orix Rotana Hotel, barely a ten-minute drive from the Doha International Airport where India’s U-23 Olympic Squad is based, Chief Coach Desmond Bulpin finds some similarity between his squad and the ‘drive for future’ which is presently on in Doha.
“Look at my squad. It is almost readymade. Isn’t it?” he quips. One will find it hard not to accept that. “The beauty of the squad stays that most of the boys – ten out of my registered eighteen are from Indian Arrows. It’s been served on a platter,” he smiles.
Sometimes you will find Bulpin to be over-possessive of his ‘babies.’ You can’t blame him for that. “He is a father-figure to all of us,” Captain Raju Eknath Gaikwad adds. “He has been guiding us; he’s the one whom we consult for everything,” Raju goes on.
“Let me not be mistaken. This is India’s U-23 National Squad. This isn’t solely about the Arrows. Only that, they form the nucleus of the squad.”
Despite not being an ‘Arrow,’ striker SC Sabeeth, presently with Viva Kerala stays aware of the entire concept. “It all started under Colm Toal,” Sabeeth, who was a part of the U-19 AFC Qualifiers squad informs. “We have been a part of the family since then. And in this present squad, never for a moment have I been felt left-out. The sessions with the coach describes it all.”
“All of us are from the same-age group. We are friends. The spirit is excellent,” Raju interferes.
Apart from Toal and Bulpin who have been building this squad from scratch, someone who’s been part of ‘building for the future,’ has been goalkeeping coach Tanumoy Basu. “The present bunch speaks about the success of AIFF’s Youth Development Programme (YDP). The boys have graduated into the mainstream and have already marked their arrival,” Basu opines. “It’s a readymade squad available to us – and it helps.”
Given the vastness of the country, it surely does.
Though he stays an Ocean away, the boys never fail to make a mention of Toal in almost every alternate sentence. Sabeeth adds: “We started our journey under him. We owe it to him as much we owe it to Bulpin.”
Indeed. Much like the fast-paced cars on the flurry of flyovers and the bright lights which pierce the darkness of the night to illuminate Doha’s skyline, the Indian Arrows, a product of AIFF’s YDP, speak of the bright future.
Bulpin’s ‘babies’ have arrived for sure.
(AIFF Press Release)