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The Indian U-17 team will play two matches against Mali next month as part of preparations for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup and efforts are also on to arrange games against Portugal and England during its exposure trip to Europe.
The two matches against Mali are slated to be held on April 6 and 9 in Mumbai.
Considering Mali's impressive record in the age-group global tournament, it is welcome news for new coach Luis Norton de Matos, who wants foreign tours for his boys. He also wants them to play against stronger national sides in the run-up to the mega-event, to be hosted by India in October.
"We are playing two matches against Mali in April in Mumbai and then we are also trying to get matches against England and Portugal during the Europe tour," All India Football Federation (AIFF) secretary Kushal Das said here today.
Recently, de Matos had said, "The plan is to travel to different countries for the boys to have an idea of what to expect in the World Cup. It will help them prepare in the best possible fashion. As part of the preparation, we need to play stronger teams. There is no point winning against weaker teams and winning comfortably."
Indian two-wheeler manufacturing giant Hero MotoCorp was today signed up as 'National Supporter' for the U-17 World Cup.
Das informed that a 'mental motivator' had been appointed to work with the U-17 team.
"He has been there for a month and the boys have given very positive feedback. He had worked with the Vidarbha Ranji Trophy team."
The team was in the news when it emerged that former coach Nicolai Adam had allegedly physically abused the boys, eventually leading to the sacking of the German coach.
"I agree it was not the ideal thing to happen but we were left with no other option but to go ahead with it. The boys have done pretty well though."
Asked about singer-turned-politician Babul Supriyo's appointment as vice president of the Local Organising Committee, Das said the union minister is a huge football fan and has contributed with his inputs.
"He is a football fanatic. He has submitted a proposal to FIFA in which he has has talked about doing away with the penalty shootout. He is also involved with the tournament anthem. He would be a part of the board of directors, he is extremely knowledgeable about the game and I am sure he will contribute immensely.