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Clarity on World Cup schedule has helped players psychologically: Dennerby

Clarity over the fate of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, which was to be held later this year in India before being postponed to early 2021 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, has helped players cope psychologically with the ongoing standstill, said Thomas Dennerby, India’s coach for the tournament, during a Q&A session in Facebook on Saturday.

Responding to questions from fans and journalists during the session organised by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Dennerby, who is currently back home in Sweden, said his players have also been engaged in a fitness regime supervised by the coaching staff.

“We have tried to make sure that the girls continue to have the same focus that they had when they were in the national team camp. The first step for us was to get an answer to the question whether the World Cup would take place. Because even if you try to help them on the mental side, there’s always this question among the players: is my hard work leading me somewhere or is it for nothing? So it was extremely important getting the new dates. Because when we had the webinars with the girls, they had that nice glaze back knowing that the tournament will eventually take place,” Dennerby said.

Explaining how his players have remained engaged during the lockdown, the Swedish coached said, “Before we left India, all the players were given individual fitness program to follow. They report to my and the fitness coach’s phone so we can follow whatever they are doing and what their fitness levels are. After a while, we changed the program a little bit so they get to do new drills. We also have smaller webinars. We have regular conversations one to two times a week.”

The coach also added that he would accept not being able to go ahead with exposure tours ahead of next year’s tournament if the situation with the pandemic doesn’t improve. “It was important to play against some higher-ranked teams. I hope we have another opportunity to play those games in the winter. But if we can’t go out, we have to deal with it as people’s lives are important.

Dennerby, who has previously coached the Sweden and Nigeria women’s senior national teams, was appointed by AIFF in November last year to lead the Indian team out at the FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup.

The tournament, which was to be held from November 2 to 21 later this year in India, has been pushed backed to new dates of February 17-March 7, 2021, subject to further monitoring. Five continental qualifying tournaments for the World Cup are yet to take place.

Source: HindustanTimes