Celebrations on the ground last for minutes. Behind the scenes, it goes on. Though celebrations stay a taboo in India’s U-16 mission as yet but the boys, nevertheless, go on with their own style.
At the age of 15 drinking Champagne stays illegal; leave aside partying and late nights. The boys, hence, celebrate with ice – by chewing ice-cubes. After the victory against Bahrain, there was a mad rush as to who would carry the ice-box back to the dressing room. The intention stayed clear.
The intention stays clear. Two more matches remain in this five-team Group and with two victories in two matches, any team would start dreaming. You can’t stop that, you just can’t.
History suggests Uzbekistan stay one of the toughest challenge at this level. Uzbekistan’s demolition of Kyrgyzstan in their first match, an identical 7-0 margin victory, besides the stamp of authority, was ruthless; just ruthless. And for Team India, the Team Management stays wary as to how dreams can ruthlessly be crushed within 90 minutes. Past two matches just doesn’t mean anything for all.
The team effort which saw India through against Bahrain stays the biggest driving force. You would be stumped if you were asked to name any single individual who stood out against Bahrain. The entire squad did.
The Team Management isn’t willing to go into any calculations. “We will give our best and leave the rest,” stays Coach Thomas Joseph’s stance, even as his marker pen goes left-right-backward-diagonal-forward on the Drawing Board. The boys listen and cheer in chorus, “Yes Sir!” A victory, they know, will get them their ice-cubes.
Raja Rawat, who scored India’s equaliser against Bahrain will, however, be sitting out. Raja picked up his second yellow for handling the ball which he thought, had crossed the sideline.
If Raja’s handball has come as a bit of jolt, someone’s else’s raised hand is an assurance for Indian boys. Right-hand raised with his horse in full gallop, symbolising arrogance, confidence, ability and courage, Amir Temur’s statue at Tashkent’s ‘Square of Amir Temur’ has turned into Team India’s favourite leisure destination.
‘To cross a barrier, you need to be brave. And to be brave, you need to March Forward.’ The boys, by now know where the voice comes from.
(AIFF Press Release / Written by Nilanjan Datta)