Dubai: There is nothing fancy about Arthur Papas. The Australian has been a calming influence on the India Under-22 squad and this is evident in the way the team has responded to the challenges imposed by their new coach.
India have reached the midway stage in Group A of the AFC U-22 Championships that got underway in Muscat last Saturday.
They have three points thanks to a 5-2 opening win against Lebanon, before they lost 1-0 to Iraq on Monday night. The Indians will now face group leaders UAE in their next match on Thursday before signing off against Turkmenistan two days later.
After just under a month into the job, Papas is aware India need to improve. “The ultimate aim of this tournament is to identify players we believe can play for the national team in the long term. I believe we have substantial talent in our ranks who will make the switch from juniors to the seniors,” Papas told Gulf News at Al Wasl Club last week.
“The need for these players is to enrich themselves with experiences in strong, competitive and pressured environments to see how they can adapt and make the move forward.
“It is important [for me] to remain cool, calm and collected to solve problems rather than based on emotions. And with players, one’s relationship must be one of honesty and trust.”
Papas began honing his coaching skills as a player at age 16 before six knee operations by the time he was 25 forced him to give up playing. He added: “I am very happy with the characters within the squad. It’s a very happy group of youngsters who have a lot of focus. They are really trying to understand and implement the ideas that we are working on, and about the style of football that we want to play.
“We have some interesting individuals as well. With the right training, right exposure and the right conditions, they can improve and hopefully play for the national team in the future.
“We’ve not had a lot of time to prepare and we realise we’re introducing a new philosophy in Indian football. Whether you are the underdog or the favourite does not matter. We are the lowest-ranked in the [AFC] tournament, but that does not mean that we are the least talented. We do have talent, and we have to only make sure we stay disciplined and stick to a game plan and try to execute it.”