Sunday, Jul 22, 2018 | Last Update : 08:04 PM IST
The sweltering heat has made it difficult for football players early to get acclimatised to the Indian weather.
The souring heat in Mumbai might put foreign teams here for the Fifa U-17 World Cup under stern test. The teams have practised keeping the Mumbai heat and humidity in mind but excess temperatures in the past few days may be demanding for their players, especially during 5pm matches.
Mumbai fans witnessed quality teams from four continents in Group B on Friday and will watch North American team USA in the last league match here taking on Latin America’s Colombia in Group A. However, whether they see will the best from these players on a consistent basis will depend on how players cope with the sweltering heat.
Each team claims they are better prepared for the conditions. African champions Mali and European qualifiers Turkey had preparatory camps in the Middle East to get used to the hot climate while New Zealand arrived here two weeks early to get acclimatised. The fourth and final team playing group B matches in the city, Paraguay have almost similar temperatures back home in South America and adjusted to Indian timing by practising at 2am back home.
“In Paraguay, the temperature is quite like this and we are acustomed to this climate,” Paraguay player Alexis Duarte said. “To adjust to the time difference (8.30 hours, behind) we had practice sessions starting at 2 am in the morning,” Paraguayan coach Gustavo Morinigo said.
Turkey had a camp in Doha before arriving in Mumbai while African champions Mali were stationed in UAE.
“We are aware of climatic difficulties that is why we arrived earlier here after camping in Qatar to close the distance and adapt to the temperature here. Of course the climate will affect all the four teams, not only us,” Turkey coach Mehmet Hacioglu said.
“We were in UAE for 20 days before coming here,” Mali coach Jonas Komla said.
New Zealand came to Mumbai on September 22 and trained at Mumbai Football Arena, also playing two practice games with Brazil and England.
Mali, who finished runners up last time, losing to Nigeria in the final, are one of the favourites in the tournament. Though Mali are yet to win this title, they won the African Cup this year. Nigeria are the most successful team with five World Cup titles but they didn’t make it to the tournament due to age fudging issues. Another African team, Ghana has won the tournament twice.
“We won the African Cup and things are going well for us, we don’t feel any pressure to do well in the absence of Nigeria,” Komla said.
On why African junior teams have done traditionally well in Fifa Junior World Cups and not at senior level, Komla reasoned, “At junior level we have young and natural talent. We get young enough time to give them a proper approach, there is continuity. At a young age players concentrate well on the coach’s style of play. At senior level, there is more international exposure, players have their own style of playing.”
Players are not worried about their individual game to impress scouts from top European clubs and other clubs who will be watching them. “We are not looking for individual glory. Our focus is to play as a team,” Mali player Abdul Salam said.