Sports

Football’s promise lies broken in disbanding of Indian Arrows

Saba Nayakan Kolkata | Updated on September 01, 2013

Play time: Young footballers refresh their skills in Kolkata in this file photo.

AIFF president Praful Patel came up with the idea of developing the talented under-19 boys and a team was formed and fielded in the Federation Cup and later in the I-League.





It will remain a dream forever. When the All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided to have an experimental under-19 side of talented youngsters in 2010, the decision was hailed as one of the best to revive India’s hopes of gaining a berth in the World Cup 2018.

After about three seasons, the dreams lay shattered as the AIFF finally decided to disband the team that was headquartered at Pailan World School on the outskirts of the city. A cryptic one liner summed up the demise of the Pailan Arrows. “Due to major financial and infrastructural problems, the AIFF had no option but to disband the Pailan Arrows,” it said.

Bob Houghton, then head coach of India, was appalled to see the talented youngsters warming the bench during the I-League games and thought there should be a separate team for them. AIFF president Praful Patel came up with the idea of developing the talented under-19 boys and a team was formed and fielded in the Federation Cup and later in the I-League. Soon, it was named Indian Arrows.

I-League

The outfit did well in the first year of I-League by finishing ninth. Bythe end of the season, the AIFF found it hard to maintain the team and its support staff and began to look for sponsors. It got one in Pailan Group. A five-year deal was signed between the group and the AIFF where the former would look after the welfare of the team and the latter would support the effort with technical know-how.

After the team was moved from Gurgaon to Kolkata, the I-League clubs began to lure better players to their squads. Players like Lalrindika Ralte, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Manandeep Singh, Raju Gaekwad and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu were absorbed by these clubs.

As more and more freshers were brought in to strengthen the Pailan Arrows, the scouting of talent looked to have suffered due to a complete lack of attention from the AIFF.

In the meanwhile, coaches Desmond Bulpin and Sukhwinder Singh came and went and reports began to appear that all was not well with the arrangements as the sponsor began to default on many counts. Finally, the news of disbanding came late last month.

A large part of the blame should go to the AIFF, which, having come up with a brilliant idea, did not put in place an effective system to back it up. Now, it seems the AIFF was never serious about this project, quite likely because the cost involved in maintaining a team would have been high. sabanayakan.s@thehindu.co.in

Published on September 01, 2013

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