The Chennaiyin FC Under 15 side has qualified for the final round of the Under 15 National Youth League in its debut season. Formed along with the Under 13 and Under 18 teams on the club’s third anniversary last year, the CFC U15s will be challenging for the top honour in their age group. The final round comprises the best 16 Under 15 teams from across the country, divided into four groups of four teams each, with matches being played at the Utorda Sports Complex and Nagoa Ground here. Winners from each group face off in the semis, before the final match on February 8, 2018.
The CFC U15s qualified for the final round by winning the Chennai zone, unbeaten. Five wins on the trot followed by three fighting draws saw Chennaiyin FC make the final cut on the first time of asking. What stood out was their resolve in the face of defeat as on two separate occasions against RV Soccer School, the CFC U15s equalized in stoppage time to maintain their unbeaten run.
Under the watchful leadership of Syed Sabir Pasha, CFC’s Technical Director, Youth Development & First Team Assistant Coach, and with the assistance of Development Officers K. Sakthivel and Ganesh Prabhu, Head Coach Aldroy Atkinson has put together a squad with immense potential. “The boys have been constantly learning and developing, from day one. They have trained well, performed excellently and shown tremendous fighting spirit in matches, giving themselves an opportunity to be in the final round in their debut season. The advice now will be to continue doing more of the same,” the CFC U15s’ Head Coach said ahead of his team’s opener against current U15 title holders Minerva Punjab FC. Churchill Brothers and FC Mumbaikars make up CFC’s other opponents in Group C.
One of three Indian Super League teams in the final round, the CFC U15 squad comprises 20 boys, all of whom are from Tamil Nadu. 14 of them are from Chennai and six are from other districts in Tamil Nadu. Captain Sai Krishnan has led the side with maturity beyond his age, manning the defence alongside Suriya Kumar, a native of Dindigul district. Goalkeeper Aron R., who is from Tuticorin, must also be mentioned in this regard, for having put in some fantastic displays, especially keeping the opposition out with some astute handling in the latter fixtures against RV Soccer School and Football Plus.
At the other end of the pitch, Harsha Vardhan from Coimbatore is the CFC U15s’ top scorer with 6 goals so far. Operating from the right flank, Harsha Vardhan along with J. Jaya Ruban in midfield and Mathew Stalin upfront, have broken down oppositions with efficiency. J. Jaya Ruban, who hails from Neyveli district, is CFC’s creative force in midfield, with the target man Mathew Stalin having already netted on 4 occasions this season. U. Yogesh has also been a threat for CFC on the left-flank, with the likes of Rishabh Menon and Devadath S. coming off the bench and scoring crucial goals in matches. Rishabh memorably scored with a last-gasp scissor-kick in injury time to salvage a point against RV Soccer School in a crucial tie.
The CFC U15 squad functions as a team, as is underlined by the fact that they’ve had 12 different scorers this season, also possessing versatility in their ranks with players like Raul Palin, Ashwin M. and Deepak Thapamagar who can play in midfield as well as defence. It will be a first experience of its kind for this talented lot from Tamil Nadu, who will be looking to make their team, families and themselves proud.
CFC U15s’ Final Round Group Fixtures: Minerva Punjab FC vs CFC (29th Jan – 9 AM), CFC vs FC Mumbaikars (31st Jan – 3:45 PM), CFC vs Churchill Brothers (2nd February – 3:45 PM)
CFC U15s’ Final Round Squad List:
Goalkeepers: Aron S. (Tuticorin), Therason Smith A. (Chennai)
Defenders: Sai Krishnan [c] (Chennai), Rakesh Ranganathan (Chennai), Valampuri Pandian (Sivagangai), Suriya Kumar (Dindigul), Ashwin M. (Chennai), Raul Palin (Chennai), Jeet Sampath (Chennai)
Midfielders: Yogesh Umapathi (Chennai), Deepak Thapamagar (Chennai), J. Jaya Ruban (Neyveli), Ajay Raj Nagaraj (Chennai), Harsha Vardhan (Coimbatore), Rishabh Menon (Chennai), Anup P. Narjinary (Kanchipuram)
Forwards: Mathew S. Stalin (Chennai), Praveen Saravanan (Chennai), Devadath S. (Chennai), Mohammed Tharik (Chennai)
Head Coach: Aldroy Atkinson