AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT Sports Editor
Hopes are running high that Goa, the oldest nursery of football in India, will nurture world-class players as it plays host to Group C of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the Nehru stadium at Fatorda from Saturday.
Germany, Iran, Guinea and Costa Rica have during their training in Goa, since their arrival, opened an assortment of talent and a bag full of statistics that may make those who have still not purchased their tickets rue their luck.
Not a single boy from the state is playing for India. Yet, in these five days Goa will be hosting eight teams – two of which will be determined as the tournament wears on. From the six known, two are the countries that constantly nurture football to heights that leave many lose control of their emotions.
Germany is one team which will play during the first three days of the tournament in the state. They were the first to arrive and could be the last to depart if they maintain their quest right up to the quarterfinals.
The reigning world and European champions look resolute; they have demonstrated a lot of composure and have rarely left bystanders realise that they belong to the batch of 2000. Germany is yet to win the U-17 title, and has stood third twice and fourth once.
From the six announced teams to play in Goa only Brazil has won more than the Germans. Brazil has won the title twice; they were runners-up twice and finished fourth once.
Like India, Goa too is host to a tournament of this magnitude for the first time and talent is not bound by age restrictions. The good always finds a way of showing itself and this will be a bounty that will be left by all the matches to be played in the state.
Iran of Group C is not new to Goa. They won the U-16 AFC Cup on the same ground and will be looking to continue impressing with India playing in New Delhi. Iran played decently to be champions a year ago but the boys have grown skillfully and physically. Iran, like India, is showing a more intense relationship with the ball and they could well be the team that could start spilling beans of surprises in this edition of the World Cup. However, their surprises will not leave football fans aghast.
Costa Rica is full of South American tang in them. Filled with the spirit of living, the boys from Costa Rica have in practice shown that they have come prepared not just to be noticed during this World Cup but to make themselves marked in the eyes of the scouts coming from major football countries in the world. Four countries from South America have shared the limelight in 16 years of the World Cup. Costa Rica could be the fifth.
Guinea is the fourth team with the youngest player of the tournament in 15-year-old Sylla Ibrahima. A few players from Guinea do not have the height but that does not deter them from playing their game with the ball.
Football is not about passing and shooting. Or about scoring and saving. It is about how human emotions – and the best emotions – can be experienced through discipline.
If anything, this U-17 World Cup in Goa will leave our colts a lesson on discipline, best taught by the ball.