There's something about Arthur Papas which is bound to impress you. You can never doubt his tactical acumen; you can never doubt his commitment; you can never doubt his feeling for his players and you can never ever doubt his liking of being 'challenged.' The India U-23 Head Coach who stays charge of Pailan Arrows this season spoke to AIFF ahead of the Federation Cup on a variety of topics. EXCERPTS:
How has Pailan Arrows' preparation been for the Federation Cup?
Our preparations have focused on further developing our playing philosophy whilst incorporating our football conditioning model at the same time. So far the squad has stuck to the philosophy which is pleasing indeed. I'm satisfied with the level of progression achieved.
At this moment, we are at a positive level both in our football conditioning and also our ability to execute it on the field. The Federation Cup is another opportunity to expose our talented Indian Youth players to a pressure environment playing against some very strong teams.
In our training we demand very high standards every single day and it's built around the competitive nature, intensity, discipline, concentration and tension of a match situation.
You had a wonderful stint during the AFC U-22 Championship. Given the fact that quite a few boys were from the Arrows, how optimistic are you for the tournament?
Yes, we did have a positive tournament in the AFC U-22 Championships but that's past. The Federation Cup is an entirely different challenge when you consider we are a youth team comprising solely of Indian players playing in a senior men's tournament. Here, you are more likely to be punished for lapses in concentration. We will be facing teams which rely mostly on foreign recruits and it's never going to be easy. We need to accept it but at the same time, try to find the solutions.
I really look forward to seeing the development of this group as the season progresses. There's always an initial adaptation period which is needed and the Federation Cup is the first stage in a very critical year in the development of this bunch.
What are your expectations from the Tournament?
Whoever the opposition may be, we will be playing with an intention to win. However, our Group stays a very strong one and it will take a special effort to progress beyond this stage. For that, we have to maintain this belief and desire that it's achievable. It's almost similar to the AFC U-22 Championship where we started as the lowest ranked team in the Group. We have nothing to lose and sometimes, it works as a favour.
What stays the biggest strength of your team?
We have a very strong mentality and fighting spirit within this group and it possibly stems from being a pan-Indian squad. In most of our practice matches, we have been very dominating in the final 30. I'd say our conditioning and ability to maintain the intensity is promising indeed.
Tactically, the group is evolving and getting better at finding solutions when faced with different tactical situations in every match.
Personally speaking, how much of a challenge is this for you?
It's exciting to be coaching the Pailan Arrows. It's always great to challenge yourself and I thrive on being the underdog in any walk of life. It's still a very different role to being a Head Coach of a professional senior team as we focus heavily on certain developmental aspects and it's important to find the balance in this approach.
From a team perspective it's also important that the top youth Indian footballers are exposed to this type of tournament format. It's critical to their development because you can identify many areas within their make-up when placed in this format and there is a huge difference from performance in training compared to performance under pressure in competitive matches.
We've nothing to lose in the Fed Cup: Papas
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