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India U-16 out on month-long tour ahead of AFC Championship

ANI | Updated: Jul 01, 2018 14:07 IST

New Delhi [India], July 1 (ANI): Elevating its preparation for the AFC under-16 Championship, Indian football team will be heading for a month-long tour to China, Thailand, and Malaysia, beginning in the month of July.
The Indian team will play ten to twelve international ties, including seven against Under-16 national sides.
Indian players, coached by Bibiano Fernandes, have been training in Kolkata for the last five weeks since they returned victorious from Serbia in May.
The 25-member squad and seven support staff left for Weinan city, China on June 30 to participate in the four-nation invitational tournament alongside the U-16 national teams of DPR Korea, Thailand, and host China.
On the eve of leaving for China, Coach Bibiano Fernandes said that he is lucky to have this bunch of boys and is really excited about the upcoming journey.
"I am fortunate to have these groups of boys, the majority of them being with me since U-15 competitions. It has been an exciting journey for us over the last 14-16 months in preparing for AFC U-16 final and I am happy to have got ample opportunities to test our mettle against quality opponents and different conditions to get the right balance in the squad,'' Fernandes said.
"We have reminded ourselves of our targets every time we have stepped on the field and the boys have worked towards it every single day," he added.
India will open their campaign against China on July 3 followed by matches against Thailand on July 5, and DPR Korea on July 7.
Bibiano's boys are scheduled to take on Thailand U16 team one more time mid-July in addition to playing practice games against two local clubs when they visit the country before a week-long stopover in Kuala Lumpur for a friendly against Malaysian U 16 team towards the end of the tour.
The Malaysia stopover has been planned to acclimatize the squad and get the feel of the pitch and conditions before they return for the big-ticket championship in September.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) has been on an effort to improve the quality of Indian football with investment into the age group scouting and building competitive teams for continental tournaments across categories.
After India's aspiring U 17 World Cup participation, AIFF is focused on grooming a team capable of qualifying for the FIFA events by right in future. The assembling of current India U-16 team is one such vision envisaged by the Indian Federation twelve months back.
Kushal Das, General Secretary, AIFF expressed satisfaction on the shaping up of the U16 team and progress over last twelve months.
"These are interesting days for football in India. The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports and Sports Authority of India believe in the Indian football dream. Having invaluable sport coming from the Sports Secretary and Director General SAI made AIFF's job much easier. It ensured our coach and the boys get the best of what's needed to gear up for the competition,'' Das said.
"AFC competitions are never easy, but I am personally satisfied to see the team has come together well. As we set in for the final leg of our preparation, the July tour assumes importance with opportunities to play 7 ties against China, Thailand, Malaysia & DPR Korea U-16 national sides," he added.
India has been drawn in Group C of the AFC U-16 Championship alongside Iran, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
The AFC U-16 Championship featuring 16 teams will be held from September 20 to October 7 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A top-four finish would earn India the bragging rights to play FIFA under- 17 World Cup in 2019 in Peru. (ANI)