After a week of training in Udhagamandalam, with a couple of tough practice matches, South Zone champion Tamil Nadu is set to leave on Thursday for the main round of the Santosh Trophy national football championship in Siliguri on February 24.
“We were a little worried if the high-altitude training would be a problem, but the boys adjusted well. We won two tough matches against MRC to sign off from the hills,” said coach C.M. Ranjith.
After watching them perform against Indian Bank in a friendly match (which ended in a 1-1 draw) in the city on Wednesday, Ranjith said the short stint in Udhagamandalam actually helped the players. “The endurance was clear and there was an urgency and purpose in their play,” he said.
Looking ahead at the prospects in Siliguri, the coach is aware that Tamil Nadu is in a tough group which has in it Goa, Bengal, Punjab and Railways. “I told the boys that all these teams, former champions, are no longer the same teams now with the rule prohibiting professionals from taking part. So all are equal, and, if we make a good beginning, we are going ahead.”
Ranjith said Tamil Nadu’s first match against Railways will be crucial, like against Kerala in the preliminaries here. “We won the first match then and went on to do well. So, if we get past Railways, I am confident Tamil Nadu will surely enter the semifinals.”
On the eve of the team’s departure, State Bank of India came forward to encourage the young team with a travel kit to each player.