THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

India U19 gearing up for Turkmenistan challenge

India U19

India U19

You walk to the window, pull the curtains, and pull them back again. It hasn’t changed for the last three days in Tehran – it’s raining! The drizzle which greeted India’s U19 boys at the Imam Khomeini International Airport has in between, even gathered force to pour on occasions.

You dare step out and the cold wave kisses your cheeks – you should have been foresighted enough to have carried more woolens – you rethink; it’s five degrees! The snow of the Alborz Mountains which overlooks the Esteghlal Hotel (Team Hotel) smiles down sarcastically at you – ‘Welcome to Tehran.’

Head Coach Colm Joseph Toal’s concern lies elsewhere. The agonising wait for a training ground and a meeting room seems to find no end. The manner in which training schedules have being handled, pains him.

“In a footballing country as Iran, it’s hard to buy the logic that there aren’t any training grounds,” he maintains. “We landed here a day early but have lost out on the advantage as we haven’t been granted a field to train as yet,” a helpless Toal quips, as he shrugs his shoulders.

Surprisingly enough, other teams in the Group have the luxury of training while the Indians have stayed confined indoors. And when on Friday, a training ground was at last scheduled for the U-19 boys; it turned out to a handball pitch! Embarrassingly enough, a rival team from the Group were training on a full-size football pitch barely 50 metres away!

“It’s disappointing; it’s frustrating; it’s sad,” Toal utters.

Outdoors, the gloom persists. One fears – playing in this snowy rain may have an effect on the boys. In such weather, one is bound to fall ill. India’s rivals in their first match – Turkmenistan stay more at home in such weather.

“This is a typically European Footballing Weather,” Toal maintains. “International Football is all about acclimatisation. We need to come to terms with the external forces – the faster the better. We have to take everything in our stride.”

More often than not, the first match sets the tone for the rest of the matches in such a Championship. The forecast says the clouds will stay on for another four-five days. The rain stays; the chill stays; the snow on the Alborz will stay too.

The boys stay unperturbed. They know by now, ‘Nothing is served on a platter,’ they know. The kick-off is at 6.30pm (IST: 8.30pm).

(AIFF Press Release / Written by Nilanjan Datta)