The name is Ali, Muhammad Ali – the Greatest Boxer of all times; perhaps even the Greatest Sportsperson of all times. Ali’s fight with George Foreman when he came back from a hopeless situation to win is now folklore.
Ali is back again – this time at India’s U-23 squad—to provide inspiration to Coach Desmond Bulpin and his boys.
All the hard work, all the talent, all the dreams hang on balance for the next ninety minutes on the field. Life on the football field is cruel —
India’s Pre-Olympic U-23 squad is learning the hard way.
For a team which almost beat Qatar in the Guangzhou Asian Games, the match at Al Sadd is a thing of the past. “A footballer ought to forget the past fast. We need to look ahead. That’s football,” says Jeje Lalpeklua, the 20-year old who had put India ahead in the 7th minute at the Al Sadd Stadium.
Jewel Raja Sheikh, Shilton D’Silva and Lalrindika Ralte feels Al Sadd was a bad day in office. “We need to admit they are a technically better side,” Shilton quipped. “But we know what we are capable of. We need to play our best; we couldn’t do that at the Al Sadd,” Jewel adds.
Coach Desmond Bulpin’s day began as early as 9am, at the Breakfast Table. Dissecting India’s loss to Qatar on the Video Screen in the first-leg, Bulpin analysed every bit; the boys listened.
“The rain may just give us a slight edge, not a distinct one,” Bulpin reiterated.
The Qatar squad which landed at the Pune Airport as late as 4am on Wednesday looked visibly tired. The squad waited for almost eight hours at the Doha International Airport, waiting for a landing permission at the Pune Airport.
Coach Simondi Bernard stressed the 3-1 lead looks good but could have been better. “Bulpin utilised his boys well. It’s India’s Home-Match and we will be careful.”
The power and velocity of Captain Raju Gaikwad’s throw-ins makes Bulpin all the more optimistic. “He is our Throw-in specialist,” as Bulpin concentrated a lot on set-plays in the practice-session.
Raju, fully fit for the home-tie insisted India “will play for win. We have to go all out. There aren’t many other options left,” he added.
“If we go all out, we need to be careful when they counter-attack. They are very good in passing the ball,” Bulpin drew a balance.
Overturning a 1-3 deficit against Qatar isn’t impossible, the boys feel. Talks of Muhammad Ali’s victory against George Foreman make rounds in the India Camp as the boys gear up.
The kick-off is at 7pm and the match will be telecast live on Ten Action Plus and regional Bengali channel Chobbish Ghonta.
(AIFF Press Release)