‘India were very lucky’: Afghanistan coach Anoush Dastgir in search of 'revenge' at Asian qualifier
After spending much of his childhood in New Delhi's Tilak Nagar, the Afghanistan football team head coach Anoush Dastgir is on a visit to the country but with a renewed purpose. His boys are all set to compete against the Blue Tigers at the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, but before that they'll have to take a tricky Hong Kong test at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Ahead of their arrival in the city, the Afghanistan unit, which has almost 14-15 players from Europe, assembled for a two-week long boot camp in Vietnam to adapt to the weather conditions.
Dastgir is confident that the current bunch, which he proudly claims to be the best in the last five years, will deliver the results.
“For the first time I've 20 fit players," said the coach at a press conference at the stadium on Tuesday afternoon. "I've picked the strongest ones, not only quality wise but players who can adapt very well in the weather as there were different factors to think. But I can say, the team I've at the moment is the best I ever had in the last four-five years.”
Dastgir is not very happy about the changes in Afghanistan's schedule but chooses not to crib about it. In fact, one thing the 32-year-old coach is determined about is to exact “revenge” against the hosts, who he claimed had been “very very lucky” in the previous two meets. To those unaware, the last two encounters between the sides ended in a 1-1 draws.
"As you know our game is on 5 pm but at first all our games were scheduled at 8:30 pm, that's what AFC did. But Indian football federation they took time to put themselves at 8:30 and put us at 5 o' clock. No problem, we are not going to talk about that because we are prepared more than before.
“In the last two games against India, I can tell you they were very very lucky. So this time we are also here for the revenge,” the coach further stated.
However, the animosity is just limited to 90 minutes on the football pitch, as Dastgir still calls India his “second home".
“I've lived in India for than 10 years, I speak very good Hindi. I was one year old, when I came to New Delhi, Tilak Nagar and we lived here before I moved to Holland with my parents. I love the country and I feel like it's like my second home here,” he said.
Dastgir started coaching at a young age of 20 and now carries an experience of over 12 years.
“I'm 32 and if you would have asked me 12 years ago, what's my dream I would tell you coaching the national team of Afghanistan is my biggest dream. But sometimes you have luck in your life and national team becomes one of your first step,” he said.
Being a war-torn nation, the Afghanistan players don't have the luxury to play at home and considering the match will be played at the ‘Mecca of Indian football’ with a fullhouse anticipated at the stadium. However, the players have formed an unique ideology to turn the adversity into their own advantage.
“Afghanistan is never playing at home so the more crowd is there, the more motivated we get. So we will be happy if the stadium will be full against India. We're never playing at home, so we've accepted that just enjoy every game,” the coach said.