Dubai: The India U-16 football team will play a series of four friendly matches starting with their opener against Hamriya FC on Friday.
The squad, led by coach Bibiano Fernandes, landed in the UAE earlier this week to play a series of friendlies in an attempt to move forward together in their efforts as part of their preparations for the AFC U-16 Football Championship scheduled in Bahrain later this year.
The Indian colts will play their secnd friendly against defending league champions Sharjah FC on January 18, before two back-to-back matches against the UAE U16 side at the UAE FA football ground, on January 21 and 24.
India has done well to qualify for the competition for the ninth time, and on a emphatic note while scoring eleven goals and conceding just one to finish top of Group B after three qualifying matches.
After restrictions were lifted, the squad met for a training camp at AIFF Elite Academy in Goa since December last year. After a few weeks getting the boys back into fitness mode, the squad decided to undertake a series of friendly matches to get them in the competitive frame of mind.
Head Coach Fernandes highlighted the importance of playing competitive matches prior to the squad’s departure from India. “It is great to be back playing football once again. We have been training for a few weeks in Goa and have played a few friendlies against local teams as well. But we need to get these boys up and running for the AFC U-16 Championship, and the exposure matches that they will play in the UAE will be crucial for that,” Fernandes had been quoted on the All India Football Federation (AIFF) website.
“As we know, the UAE are one of the stronger countries in Asian football, and playing two matches against their U-16 team will give the boys a good look into what it will take to compete against the best in Asia and move forward together,” he added.
India’s best performance when they played at the 2018 Championship in Malaysia was a quarter-final appearance.
The 2020 AFC U-16 Championship will be the 19th edition of the biennial international youth football championship. The competition was originally scheduled between September 16 and October 3, 2020, but later re-scheduled due to the pandemic to new dates of November 25 to December 12, 2020.
However, with sports still not fully on the mend, the AFC announced that the tournament would be further postponed to be held early in 2021. The new dates of the actual 16-team competition are yet to be known.
India is in Group C along with Australia, South Korea and Uzbekistan.
India U16 Squad: (Goalkeepers) Aman Kumar Sahani, Som Kumar, Lionel Daryl Rymmei. (Defenders) Anish Mazumder, Halen Nongtdu, Singson Paogoumang, Amandeep, Pritam Meetei Sorokhaibam, Abhishek Singh Tekcham, Shameek Caine Vas. (Midfielders) Satvik Sharma, Lalremtluanga Fanai, Maheson Singh Tongbram, Ranjan Soren, Ebindas Yesudasan, Taison Singh Loitongbam, Aula Siba Prasad, Sibajit Singh Leimapokpam, Emboklang Nonghlaw. (Forwards) Shubho Paul, Suhail Ahmad Bhat, Sridarth Nongmeikapam, Himanshu Jangra.