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

Colm Toal: We look forward to another tough game

India U16

Late Sunday evening, even at 7pm, the 5th floor corridor of the Parsian Azadi Hotel in Tehran, usually buzzing with excitement, looked haunted. If you stood still for a moment, you could even hear your own breath. Some of the rooms stayed half closed – reflection of light hitting the walls. You knock but hear no response. You kock again. Hearing no response you follow the trail of light.

Motionless! This time, the heads weren’t down; this time, they looked straight into your eyes. Not all were there, but those present had were seated all over – speechless, sharing the pain of the 2-3 defeat against Uzbekistan among themselves.

It needed the ice to break the ice. With ice arriving, the buzz was back, for the ice-bath. Sometime later, everyone froze back to ice.

Around ten minutes afterwards, someone knocks at your door. The group is standing outside. “What’s the score in the other match?” they query. China and Syria were playing at that time and China were leading 1-0 at the interval.

Next morning Colm Joseph Toal who had stayed back to dissect Syria against China utters at the breakfast table: “Syria are a very tough side. They have some good individual players.” Syria came back from a goal down to hold China 1-1 in their opening match.

“We are looking forward to another tough game. They are strong and aggressive who can play football at the same time. They need to be lauded for their fighting spirit – the manner in which they came back to equalise in injury time,” he adds.

“We couldn’t prepare much because of the situation back home,” Syrian coach Muhannad Alfakeer informs. I am confident about the ability of my boys but they haven’t been tested so far.”

“We have played International Friendlies against Oman and Jordan prior to coming here,” he adds.

“It was disappointment against Uzbekistan. Having shown so much improvement since the last time we played them, it’s frustrating not to get a result which we deserved,” Toal emphasises.

“There’s hardly any recovery time for the players. The injuries sustained need to be healed and the physical reaction of the boys, whether the boys would be able to recover in time would play an important role,” he quips further.

“Our game is based on organisation and pressing. We do a lot of running around. The boys will have to be 100 percent fit.”

Dig! Look Ahead! Perform! The boys sit down. Looking back at their performance against Uzbekistan who stay ranked 5th in Asia against India’s 32, it was all gain for India. The fightback in the second half prompts one to look ahead; and plan to perform.

One shouldn’t forget it’s the top-16 of Asia who are competing in this Championship. You look at the list of teams. Bahrain aren’t here; UAE aren’t here too; and neither are Qatar and even Jordan! It’s the U-16 Asian Cup!

At the Team Hotel, there’s immense interest over the Indian team contingent. People love to talk at length with you about Indian culture, art, literature and even Indian sportspersons. “Sushil Kumar is very good in kushti” a lady from the Communication Department, reflects. You feel proud.

The boys gear up as they rediscover themselves. The temporary disappointment has dried down in the glowing Tehran sun. The buzz is back, the corridor, no more haunted. Colourful kites brave the wind as they decorate the sky.

(AIFF Press Release / Written by Nilanjan Datta)