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Injuries a concern for Indian football team

Injuries to key players threaten to dampen India's chances in their Asian Cup qualifier against Yemen.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 19:08 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Injuries to key players threaten to dampen India's chances in their crucial qualifying match against Yemen for the 2007 Asian Cup football championship.

India go into the game with replacements in all the crucial areas of the pitch with seven of their first choice players unlikely to take the field.

"Several of our players who were instrumental in India winning the SAFF Cup in Karachi in December will be unable to play tomorrow," team manager PK Banerjee told reporterson Tuesday.

The latest setback came in the form of defender NS Manju sustaining a lower abdomen muscle injury.

Shanmugam Venkatesh, Mahesh Gawli, M Suresh, Alvito D'Cunha, Climax Lawrence and K Ajayan are already on the injured list which makes the job tougher for coach Syed Nayeemuddin.

Mahesh Gawli has a stress problem in the ankle. Venkatesh has a knee injury while Ajayan has a tear in his cruciate ligament.

"We have replacements for these players but they are not of the same level as the first choice players," Banerjee said.

"Number one is always better than number two. That's why they are preferred."

"The match is important but we cannot take chances with a player's whole career," Banerjee said.

India went down 0-6 to defending champions Japan in the first qualifying match in Yokohama while Yemen lost 0-4 to Saudi Arabia at home.

However, the coach and manager hinted that some of these injuries could be of a less serious nature and could have been played with had the player so wanted.

"In our times, we constantly used to play with niggles because the coach told us to. But these days, things are different," Banerjee said.

"Players come up with medical certificates which advice rest and one cannot go against medical opinion," he said.

Attributing the recent spate of injuries to overstrain during the National Football League, the former India captain said "it was not possible to stay in peak physical condition for long."

Describing Yemen, placed 21 spots below India in the FIFA rankings at number 139, as "strong opponents," Nayeem, however, stressed that the team would be going for a victory on the morrow. But he admitted that the think tank had very little idea of the team from the Middle East and its key players.

Yemen coach Ahmed Al Raee claimed that the 20 players at his disposal for the match were fully fit and prepared for the match.

The two teams had played twice in 2001 with both matches ending in draws.

Both sets of officials admitted that the match was very important from the point of view of morale as it was effectively a contest for third position in the group behind Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Banerjee admitted that the main aim was to prepare the side for the Doha Asian Games later this year.

India should start favourites based on home advantage and world rankings as the only notable result in Yemen favour's in recent times was a 3-1 home victory over the United Arab Emirates in the World Cup qualifiers in 2004.

"Big home support would definitely egg us to give our best in tomorrow's match," Banerjee said.

The Yemen coach said his team had three players who represented the country in the World Youth Cup in Finland two years ago.

First Published: Feb 28, 2006 17:00 IST