Bangladesh Football Federation technical and strategic director Paul Smalley yesterday defended the decision to hold a training session for the U-16 women's team on the morning of their match day against holders North Korea.
The Bangladesh girls lost that AFC U-16 Women's Championship game 9-0 on Monday and many feel the morning training session ahead of the fixture contributed adversely to the team's performance.
“First let me clear it. My role is always crucial to lead the playing groups whether it is female or male teams. We did not do practice [on Monday morning], we had tactical session and it was a very easy session and it had no unnecessary impact on the game. A lot of the team had preparation on the day of the match,” Smalley told reporters in the Thai city of Chonburi yesterday.
“It happens around the world. A lot of professional teams practice on the match day when the game is in the afternoon or evening. The performance of the girls [against North Korea] was the reality of playing against world champions,” explained the British-born UEFA A licensed coach.
Asked if he would follow the same tactic ahead of Bangladesh's next group league game against Japan tomorrow, he answered diplomatically.
“Today [Tuesday] is the recovery session for the girls and tomorrow [Wednesday] is for pre-match training and watching Japan's match. On the day of the game against Japan, we might or might not - depending on the players' health, we feel we could conduct the tactical session,” said Smalley.
Smalley has been working as an adviser to the U-16 women's team for nearly one year and from basically behind the scene, he prepared all the rigorous training schedules and even made positional changes for the squad. He also visited with the U-16 women's team in every preparatory tour to Japan, South Korea, China and Singapore to see the progress of the girls.
He also refused to accept fatigue from lengthy training as one of the prime reasons for the big defeat.
“They were emotionally not very tired and mentally very vexed I am sure because it was very difficult with the climate and lot of them had no experience of it. But the girls are physically capable,” said Smalley, adding that errors early in the game proved decisive.
“The girls made two errors – one from a corner and one from goalkeeping – within the first seven minutes and went two goals down and then it is very difficult to put an impact on the game,” he added.
Asked if the noisy and at times confusing instructions from the dugout by coach Golam Rabbani Choton and Smalley himself hindered the girls' natural performance, the BFF technical director said: “The information from dugout was the same and there is no confusion and there is no unnecessary reasons. The girls were not confused because we are giving the same information over a number of weeks in preparation. The only problem was the translation of English to Bengali. The message was not conflicting at all.”
However, the 51-year-old said that the score-line against North Korea was a reality-check for Bangladesh, who are far away from the top level.
“The performance was realistic in that particular moment against the current world champions North Korea. We played against a very professional team, a team who have been playing successfully at international level. We are long way behind. We are yet to make the analysis of the game but we know we made quite a few errors and were punished by a good team like North Korea. It was disappointing but a reality for Bangladesh at the moment but it is also something that will help Bangladesh develop in the future,” concluded Smalley.