Fri, 29 Sep 2023

New Delhi [India], June 2 (ANI): Former India winger Harjinder Singh, who was one of the star forwards of the junior Indian side in the AFC Youth Championship said a good showing in AFC U-17 Asian Cup could bring a huge change in Indian football.

Singh is also the head of scouting in the AIFF, and has played an integral role in spotting many of the boys who will represent India in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup in Thailand.

A robust junior Indian team sprung a surprise when they emerged as joint champions of the AFC Youth Championship after a 2-2 draw with Iran in the summit clash in the year 1974 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Almost half a century on, yet another junior Indian team, the U-17 Men's National side, have set foot at the same venue, as they prepare for the AFC U-17 Asian Cup. The one link that bridges the two sides is former India winger Harjinder Singh.

"These boys are at a crucial juncture in their careers, and as such, the U-17 Asian Cup is as big as it gets right now, in terms of them playing competitive international matches against the best players in Asia in their age category," Harjinder told AIFF.

"It's their first big international tournament and acts as a point of motivation in life. I remember winning the championship in 1974, and how it completely changed my life thereafter.

"When you come back triumphant, your confidence levels are as high as ever. There is a constant feeling of pride when you go back to training and even in competitions that you play after having represented the country," he said.

The India U-17s have been together as a side for over a year now, having won the SAFF U-17 Championship in Sri Lanka and secured qualification for the AFC U-17 Asian Cup, in Saudi Arabia, in 2022. While the core of the squad remains the same, a number of new faces have been added to the team, after rigorous rounds of scouting and trials.

"Bibiano Fernandes (India U-17 Men's Team head coach) is a very good mentor to the boys, and he is very well placed to coach the talented kids that we have scouted out for his team," said Harjinder. "The scouting network that we have is composed of former players and experts, who have paid a lot of attention to the core skills that are needed for various positions. (ANI)

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