'Focus on FIFA rankings'
Long term plan is to take the team to higher level: Koevermans
With very little international activity and fewer friendlies on FIFA dates -- important factors in determining the rankings -- India have always been on the slide and are currently placed at a lowly 166, much below some South East Asian nations.
“The first target when I took over the team last July was to win the Nehru Cup which we did,” said Koevermans on the sidelines of a charity function organised by Toe To Heart here on Sunday. “The players put in a lot of effort and I’m very happy to have started on a winning note. The next target is to climb up in the FIFA rankings.
“In order to do that we need to play more international games on FIFA days. So far, under my charge, we’ve gone up three places. We intend to utilise every FIFA Date available. We played Singapore last year and we begin this year with a friendly against Palestine at Guwahati on February 6. The calendar is out there on the website and it’s our job to make sure the players are available during that time and get countries to play against us. This year we also have the AFC Challenge Cup (Group A) in Myanmar in early March and the SAFF Championship in Nepal (Sept 20-Oct 2) and if we do well in these tournaments, we definitely can achieve our target of improving our rankings,” he said.
The Indian team definitely has a lot of weaknesses but the Dutchman chose to look at the brighter side. “I don’t like to speak about the weaknesses because that is what everybody is talking about. The team played really well and according to the plan in the Nehru Cup. I’ve been to Kolkata and few other cities and I see that there are a lot of talented players in India.
“The I-League clubs may have strikers and defenders from abroad but there is a lot of quality locally. I’m quite happy with what we have but that doesn’t mean we are okay. The standard of I-League is much different to some other leagues in the world. (Technical Director of the national team) Robert Baan has a lot of plans and it needs to be implemented step by step. Progress is not made in a day, it’s gradual and we have to stay committed. The long term plan is to take the team to a higher level.”
When asked what kind of style he would like to train the team, Koevermans said it would be a combination of attack and defence. “I said a lot about the style when I started and we want to play the combination style. We did it in the Nehru Cup. In international football, most teams do that and I would prefer that as well.”
The AIFF decision’s to hand a two-year ban for Mohun Bagan following Kolkata Derby fiasco shocked much of the football fraternity in the country and Koevermans said his main worry is the Indian team players. “At the end, it is all about rules and I believe the AIFF just followed that. The decision is harsh but that rules are like that. What I am more concerned about is the Indian players in the club. They’ve not played a game since that Derby match and it’s not good. They need to be playing games week in and week out. We need to fix that issue at the earliest.”
Meanwhile, Vinodh Ravindran of Globalize Me successfully bid for a football autographed by the national team while an anonymous person picked up the national jersey. The jersey was later gifted to one of the underprivileged kids in Toe To Heart.