Runners-up in the last Nehru Cup and India coach Bob Houghton's favourites for this edition beginning on Wednesday, Syria reached in New Delhi on Monday with a litany of injury worries, absentees and the news that Mahar-Al-Saeed, their skipper in 2007, has retired.
“Three of my key players are injured while two more are in Kuwait playing for their clubs. Another one is in Damascus with some personal problems. And Mahar, the skipper in the previous edition here, has retired. We are going to miss him dearly here,” said Fajir Ebrahim. Striker Majid-al Haq, midfielder Adil Abdullah and Ali Gali-Um have been left out because of injuries while forward Feras-Al Khalib and medio Jeha-Al Husain are in Kuwait. There are though 10 players here who were in the squad which finished second-best to India.
Goalkeeper Mosabul Husain will lead the squad which trained at the Janaki Devi College on Monday.
Like India, Fajir said this tournament is part of preparations for the 2011 Asian Cup. “The fact that I am missing six important players here doesn't hurt me because I know that Nehru Cup is not my target.”
Fajir also said that the team practised for 10 days before coming here. “The last match that we played was the Asian Cup qualifier away leg against Lebanon and won 2-0.”