The All India Football Federation president Praful Patel met senior members of the Indian Senior National Team via video-conferencing today, May 26 to get a feel of their preparations in Doha ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup – Qatar and 2023 AFC Asian Cup – China qualifiers, slated to be played from June 3 onwards.
The AIFF President encouraged the players to stay fit and wished them good luck. “More power to all of you. I wish all of you good health and strength. We are extremely proud of you,” Mr. Patel averred.
“We spoke to the Qatar government and we were lucky that they didn’t insist on the 10-day quarantine, and that has allowed the squad to assemble in Doha and begin our training sessions,” the President informed.
“This has been a terrible time. We have not had any normalcy as such. The format of the leagues was also different – all played from inside the bubble. I understand and appreciate the concern of Igor and the entire team arising out of the difficult circumstances,” Mr. Patel stated.
Head Coach Igor Stimac thanked the President for helping the squad arrive early in Doha. “We are thankful to you Mr. President and all in the AIFF for providing us the opportunity to come earlier, and also taking our cause with the Government of Qatar and arranging for us to train even during quarantine,” Stimac expressed.
Apprising the President about the daily schedule of the squad, the coach added: “The expectations are high but realistically the situation hasn’t been ideal.”
India are scheduled to play Asian Champions Qatar on June 3, Bangladesh on June 7, and Afghanistan on June 15 with all three matches to be played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha.
The players in unison also expressed their gratitude to Mr. Patel for his endeavour in helping the squad, and expressed their commitment, despite “the preparation not being an ideal one owing to the current circumstances.”
“We are making the most of the circumstances,” talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri maintained, only to be complemented by Sandesh who quipped: “The confidence in the squad is high. We have done it earlier and there’s no reason why we can do it again. We have grown as a team and we need to take it forward together.”
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu said: “We understand that the preparations have not been ideal but we are confident in our abilities as a team. We are not scared, and moving into the qualifiers, that’s important.”