In an EXCLUSIVE post-match interview with Indian Football Network editor Somesh Upadhyay, the flamboyant coach of India U22 football team Arthur Papas talked about the performance of his side, the strength of the opponent and the future course in the ongoing AFC U22 Championship Qualifiers. Here are the excerpts:
Somesh: Going into the tournament the team had not played against strong oppositions and was trying to adapt to a new system altogether. Indian football fans were not hoping much from this tournament and were looking at it as a step for the future. But our 1st result itself has given us a new hope. Fans on Indian Football Forum are already calling you ‘a magician’. What do you have to say about it?
Arthur: From a personal point of view this is not about one coach or one player, today was about a collective effort from every single person involved with this group. From a team perspective we are happy we have brought joy to many Indian football fans today and I’m personally very proud of the players for the performance they put together against a very good Lebanon team.
Of course we enjoyed the moment but have since quickly already moved on and turned our focus towards Iraq who we play within 48 hours. This will be another big challenge for our group and what is important is that we keep taking steps forward in terms of our football both in results but also with the manner we are looking to play.
As a group we dedicated this performance to both Manandeep Singh and his family, we were all touched by the sacrifice he made to stay with the team today and spoke about it in the pre-match, no one would have begrudged him if he decided to return home and we have the highest respect for him and value him as a member of our group, sometimes football can mean so much more than a one-off result, today was one of those days!
Somesh: Did the boys stick to the game-plan throughout and how would you rate this Lebanese side?
Arthur: We have worked for the past week on the game plan we would use against Lebanon to ensure we were as well prepared as possible, this way the players also knew at what moment we would try to increase the tempo or disrupt the rhythm of the game based on the situation. It was pleasing to see how the boys adapted to this challenge and the tactical questions posed by Lebanon who I feel are a very competent team and will still trouble other teams in this tournament.
Somesh: All is well that ends well they say. But 5 yellow card in a single match should be a cause of worry. What went wrong there?
Arthur: It wasn’t that something went wrong, its what happens when 3 out of those 5 yellow cards are handed to players who are making their international debuts, they were desperate to give their maximum that they were possibly over enthusiastic at times where more composure was needed. However, this is part of the development of a youth footballer at the same time and the main point for me is to see if they learn from this for the future.
Somesh: We all are excited about the pleasant surprise we got in the opening match. Although it’s too early to say, do our prospects of qualifying for the AFC U22 Championship 2014 look better?
Arthur: It’s still too early to talk about the prospects of qualifying. Today we needed to win this match to even contemplate progress and we overcame the first hurdle. Our next two games are against very strong nations in Iraq and UAE who both recorded comprehensive victories tonight.
We have a short turnaround and will rely heavily on our medical staff to firstly regenerate the playing group, in addition we will more than likely look to rotate our squad and finally find the correct tactical solutions.
Somesh: How are we preparing for the next match against Iraq? They are one of the serious contenders.
Arthur: Myself and Menon Narayan (Assistant Coach) went and watched the Iraq game after ours tonight to gain a greater understanding of their standard and all we can do is concentrate on is this game on Monday night.
One thing is certain and that is that the spirit in this group is very strong, they are all working for each other and in the long term future show some very good potential!
Somesh: Thanks a lot Mr. Papas for talking to us and best wishes for the matches ahead.
Arthur: Thanks to you, indianfootballnetwork.com and all the Indian football fans for the well wishes.