India faced with tall order: AIFF general secy ahead of WC, Asian Cup Qualifiers
All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das on Monday said the men's national team will have its task cut out in the remaining joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers in Qatar next month.
The team, bolstered by the return of talisman Sunil Chhetri, is undergoing a preparatory camp inside a bio-bubble in Doha before its first match on June 3 against hosts Qatar. The other two matches are against Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15).
"Coach Igor Stimac is faced with a tall order with Bangladesh having just finished their premier league and having been in a camp since then," Das told PTI.
"Many of the Afghan players also play in Europe and they have been in a camp in Dubai for some time now hence having more exposure and training," he added.
The Indian team, fourth in Group E with three points, is out of contention for a World Cup berth but is still in the reckoning for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
The Blue Tigers were to have a national camp in Kolkata from May 2 onwards but the raging COVID-19 pandemic in the country led to its cancellation.
The AIFF was, however, determined to salvage the situation, and hence, managed a shorter camp in Qatar following the mandatory testing and quarantine protocols in India.
"Circumstances are difficult but there is no choice as quarantine and bio-bubbles have become necessary for now with the team's safety being our top priority," Das said.
The AIFF general secretary expressed his gratitude to the Qatar Football Association (QFA), which, despite quarantine and other restrictions, allowed the Indian team to train in a bio bubble.
"Had this interim solution not been implemented, it would have been difficult to even participate considering most of the players have been unable to train since the last two months," Das stated.
One of the most high-profile coaches to manage the Indian men's national football team, Croatian World Cupper Stimac was appointed to the top post in May 2019 for a two-year term.
During his tenure, Stimac has given opportunities to many promising youngsters in the team allowing them the freedom to express themselves on the field with a vision of nurturing a future-proof squad.
The AIFF top official is also all for grooming of players.
"Modern day football is all about the youth. The perfect conglomeration of youth and experience is the bedrock for success at the senior level.
"With so many talented youngsters who have come out of the AIFF academy set-up and are knocking at the door of the national team on merit, it was pertinent that they are groomed and put in together with the experience of the senior pros -- all in an effort to make the national team set-up stronger and take Indian football forward together."