Indian Arrows returned to the I-League last season after being disbanded in 2013. They finished 10th in the 2017-18 season, but since they are an AIFF developmental team, they are exempt from relegation.
The Arrows’ team comprised of players who participated in the FIFA U-17 World Cup and Indian National U-19 players. The team did not have any foreign players. They finished the season with a commendable 15 points with four wins which included comprehensive victories against Shillong Lajong and Chennai City FC. Above them on the table were Churchill Brothers SC who finished the season with 17 points.
The Indian U-17 and U-19 teams are getting much needed playing time together in a competitive league setting. A lot of Indian youth players are signed by Indian clubs, but they rarely get opportunities and playing time in the league. Very few of them make the bench and as a result, their playing time is severely compromised and it results in hampering their development. As far as the vision for Indian Arrows goes, the AIFF has submitted a bid for India to participate in the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup and if the bid is successful, the team would’ve valuable match experience going into the tournament.
This upcoming season, the Indian players born in 2000 will be released from the Indian Arrows team.
Luis Norton de Matos, the Portugese manager, coached the Indian team in last year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup and was the manager of the Indian Arrows team. He resigned in July this year citing personal reasons. Replacing him at the helm is Floyd Pinto, the head coach of the Indian U-20 National Team. Floyd Pinto holds an AFC ‘A’ coaching licence and was working with Luis Norton as his deputy for the Indian U-17 National Team and later on with Indian Arrows.
Before managing AIFF youth teams, the IT engineer turned coach Floyd Pinto guided Mumbai club Kenkre FC into the I-League 2nd Division and Kenkre FC were the youngest team in the league. While managing the AIFF Elite Academy U-18 team, he won the U-18 I-League twice and was responsible for nurturing young Indian talent like Anirudh Thapa, Jerry Lalrinzuala and Bodo.
As far as his football philosophy goes, Floyd Pinto likes to teach the beautiful game beautifully. Building from the back, employing high press, dominating possession, using different shapes in attack and defence are the main tenets of his footballing philosophy.
The 33-year old coach had this to say in a presser held a few months ago. “We could have done much better last season, the schedule of the I-League was heavy on us, but we finished our games and there were 20 days. If the games were better spaced out, our boys would have done better. The upcoming I-League is a much better indicator.”
On a side note, Floyd is a Liverpool and Steven Gerrard fan.
-Four players have joined the Indian Arrows this season from the Indian National Under-16 team which reached the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championship held in Malaysia. Goalkeeper Lalbiakhlua Jongte, fullback Gurkirat Singh and forwards Rohit Danu and Vikram Pratap Singh are the new additions.
-Prabhsukhan Singh Gill: The promising 17-year old replaced Kerala Blasters goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh between the sticks at the beginning of the year.
-Amarjit Singh: The captain of the Indian Arrows team will be key to holding the midfield together.
What to Expect
Last season, Indian Arrows were finding their feet in the I-League playing against battle-hardened opponents. Their style of football was leaning more towards being defensively solid and using the long ball. They conceded a lot of goals after the 80th minute because of lack of concentration and tiredness.
As Coach Pinto mentioned, they will be looking to play more attacking and possession-based football this season. A year later and with players wiser and mentally tough, they could jump up a couple of places on the table.