U-15 SAFF Kick-off today. Coach Shaaz speaks with

Under 15 SAFF Championship will kick-off today in Nepal. Total six teams competing ,the fourth version of the tournament will be opened by Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Tournament matches will be played in Nepal ANFA Complex and Halchowk Stadium from 18th August to 27th August 2017.

Maldives first match of the tournament will be on tomorrow against the strongest India at afternoon 14:00 hrs of local time. Maldives completed a short training camp in Sri Lanka in preparations for the tournament. So does India also carried out a training camp in abroad. was lucky enough to have a moment with Coach Shaazlee, head coach of Maldives under 16 national team, ahead tomorrow’s Maldives first match.

The under 16 team just finished a short training camp in Sri Lanka. What do you think would be the benefits of the camp to the team and its performance?

First of all the team work effect. It has lifted. Team improved a lot during the camp. It was a privilege to know the squad better because of the camp. We came to what has to be improved from the players, from the team. As we played and won two friendlies over Sri Lanka, it has helped to lift player’s motivation and self-confidence. They now believe that they are also capable and have the quality of getting out the results from the games if they keep the good fight and work as a team.

How were the arrangements of the camp in Lanka?

Well, it was very fine. Actually prior to the camp, some of the facilities for the camp were discussed to be provided by the Lanka football federation. But it did not come through. However they provided us the ground to train and the transportation. And the others arrangements, accommodations and foods, were handled by FAM. They did it up to our expectation, accommodation and food was at very best level to our hopes. But in here, in Nepal it is bit poor, not that bad but a level low to our Lanka arrangements.

Number of football personals and among the football community there are positive comments about the current teams skill level and team work and bonding. What is your comment to this?

Yes this is a very skillful team. I believe Maldives junior sides are very skillful always. We haven’t seen our junior sides lacking in that area  for the past couple of years . Always it was one thing for sure, which was with the team in these years, the talent. So it was not a concern about player’s talent, we always did have that quality in our junior teams. Now this team also they have the talent, but Maldives junior teams lack the experience for these type of tournaments. It is gained through playing experience. More matches mean more exposure to the international football. Normally Maldives junior age teams get to these exposures at the age of 15 to 16 years. I believe it is a very late. Sometimes in very few times they gain at the age of 14 also. But I believe it will be much better if they gain these kinds of exposures in their age of 12 to 14 years, then the impact will be much better for the same players when they step into the international football at the age of 16. Though we have skillful players it might not be that easy to get satisfying result. For the results from the competitions, not only the skill, but the team also needs to be well shaped tactically and players must have the experiences also. Therefore I cannot agree to, that this time the players in the team are more skillful than the previous times. No, it is not. As I said, before and now also our players always had the talent. Sure, this time under 16 team is also very skillful side.

Climatic conditions in Nepal are very different from Maldives and Sri Lanka. Hence how this change of conditions affect the player’s performance and how the players to will tackle to the Nepal conditions?

The climate in here is very diferent as this area is having high altitude. Yes it has being and will be a challenge to play in Nepal. Here the climate is way different from our neighbor countries. Climate wise we did not face any kind of problems during the training camp in Sri Lanka, where their conditions are very similar to Maldives. We will face these challenges. Our players did felt little bit difficulties during our first training session in Nepal today. Somehow players are getting use to these new environmental conditions. Tomorrow also, before our first match on the other day(Saturday), we will do continue trainings.

Maldives has been drawn in the same group as India (#1 side in SAFF region) and Nepal the host. Given how tough the group is what do you think the chances are for the Maldives under 16 team?

To be honest we are with the two favorite. The toughest. We came to experience Sri Lanka already. We got the knowledge of Bhutan also. So if we were in same group with Bhutan and Lanka, we believe if we give our best we can go ahead of them. However we are not in the same group with those two countries, we are grouped with the two favorites. Nepal is also good and they will have the home advantage. India team physic is different from our side. Their players have good heights also. They are very strong. So it will be tough fight. But we will give our best. I believe there are huge possibilities that we could go to semifinal stage “if” we were in the same group with Bhutan and Lanka. But there is no use of talking about the other way around. Players have the courage to fight, even we are grouped with the strongest. We have the hopes also. We are preparing with the same mentality to fight for a spot in the semifinals. Players and the coaching staffs are very positive about our targets.

Given that this is not your first experience managing a youth team, with past experience what are the realist goals and targets for the under 15 team in the tournament?

This time, we very much target to reach the semifinals and If possible, to get a medal also. But back then the tournament official draw did not take place. Though, we have grouped with the strongest two sides, all the preparations for the tournament was carried out with the same target as at the very first. Our hope is to reach our target. Winning against Sri Lanka twice in the friendlies, it strengthen our and players hopes for the target. Hopefully in shaa Allah we will reach our target. wishes Maldives national under 16 football team all the very best.

18 August 2017