The gruelling, month-long fast was broken on Monday but for Mehtab Hossain, the real challenge begins on Tuesday. “I missed not being with my wife and kid on Id,” said Hossain after a practice session in Greater Noida. “But the moon has been sighted, and the festivities are over. Now it’s time to get down to business — the Nehru Cup.”
With his career having been riddled by injury, Hossain admitted the need to go that extra mile. “I’ve got this chance after a long lay-off, so I have to prove myself," said the midfielder.
The fact that the hosts come into the invitational tournament having won its past two editions has not gone unnoticed. But while Hossain said that everyone is motivated by the prospect of completing a hat-trick, Gouramangi Singh sounded a note of caution.
“One should not forget that even in 2007 and 2009, we did not come in as favourites,” said the central defender. “Syria and Cameroon are tough, so it’s best that, this time too, we begin as underdogs.”
No Oranje please
Orange marmalade, it seems, is steadily giving way to mango chutney. Once upon a time in June, India coach Wim Koeverm-ans had rhetorically — and emphatically — asked, “You know where I’m from?”
That was in response to a query regarding the style of play he planned to introduce as the new coach. But two days before his first major test, Koevermans played down the Dutch connect.
“Keeping the ball on the ground and combination play is the international style now, so one should not make the mistake of giving it the Dutch label,” he said. “Besides, it suits our players — we are not as tall or physically strong as others, but are agile.”
Asked about the present state of Dutch football, he pointed to the badge on his jersey and said, "You see this? This is where I am now!" Of course, Koevermans, who was part of the Netherlands squad that won Euro 1988, is glad that his legendary compatriot Ruud Gullit speaks well of him. “It’s good to know that he (Gullit) thinks Indian football is in safe hands,” said Koevermans after naming Sunil Chhetri as the captain.