THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Anadi Barua: Bahrain a good preparation ahead of AFC Cup Qualifiers

Indian Women's national team: Tuli Goon (left) and Oinam Bembem Devi (center)

Fast cars, sky scrapers, snazzy locales, the Bahrain Grand Prix, its jaw-dropping International Circuit in Sakhir… and football!

Truly, the Kingdom of Bahrain has been in the thick of things of late as far as the beautiful game is concerned. Both on and off the field.

From Shaikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa being elected as the new Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President to the Bahrain Women’s Senior National Team locking horns with the Indian counterparts at the Football Stadium in Riffa for two Friendlies ahead of their AFC Women’s Asian Cup (Qualifiers) also in the island country, it’s time to shift attention from the just concluded Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir and look South.

“It’s football time in Bahrain,” Abdulla Brlla, the Goalkeeping Coach of the Bahrain Women’s National Team exclaimed smiling.

“It’s great to see so much of football action in this part of the world. We play our AFC Cup Qualifiers Group matches here and also two friendlies against India. It is superb. Also the AFC President is our very own ex-President Shaikh Salman (former President of Bahrain Football Association). He is just 33 and is very dynamic. No wonder he is where he is today,” added Brlla.

Bahrain are in Group C alongwith Vietnam, Hong Kong and Krygyzstan. They play all of their group engagements at the picturesque National Stadium in Riffa. Riffa is the second largest city of Bahrain.

The Indian Women’s National Football Team, placed in Group D alongwith Myanmar, Chinese Taipei, and Palestine will be travelling to Palestine after playing the two Friendlies against the hosts on May 14 (Tuesday) and May 16 (Thursday) respectively.

On the eve of their first Friendly, National Coach Anadi Barua said: Bahrain are a good side. They will be playing at home, which adds to their advantage. But I am loking at it in a different way. We will be playing Palestine in their own den too. Myanmar and Chinese Taipei won’t be pushovers too by any stretch of imagination. So tough Friendlies will toughen the girls and help me assess each and every one better.

He continued: “See Friendlies give you a chance to have a look at almost every player. We are playing two of them which is great. It is a great initiative on the part of the All India Football Federation to firstly organise a one-month Camp for the Girls and then two Friendlies before such an important tourney.”

Senior most player in the side Oinam Bembem Devi stressed on the importance of the AFC Cup Qualifiers.

“It is a very important assignment for us. We are in a tricky group. We cannot take our feet off the pedal at any moment. We have been playing some good football for of late. We won the SAFF Cup handsomely, and then beat the Combined Dutch team too in Navi Mumbai. But this is the real test. Away from known conditions and playing stronger opponents, it will be a real test of our character.”

Bembem Devi, who led India to glory in the 2012 SAFF Women’s Championships in Colombo, was not a part of the Team which beat the Combined Dutch Team in an Exhibition Match in Navi Mumbai this January. But the former India Captain will be a key figure in India’s surge to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup next year.

Full back Tuli Goon will be leading the pack for the first time.

“It’s a great feeling to lead the Indian National Team. At the same time you are given lot of responsibilities as well. Expectations rest on you. You have to deliver and I am fully focused on that. We have to get a positive result this time in the Qualifiers,” Goon quipped.

India beat Bahrain 2-1 in a three-match series back in September, 2011. Recollecting the reversals, Bahrain Head Coach Maher Abu Hantash said: “India are a very good side. They beat us the last time we played them. We have to put our best foot forward as a smiliar result will be a morale damper for our girls.”

The Indian Team rehearsed under floodlights at the Football Stadium for an hour.

The first match starts at 20.30 IST / 17.00 CET / 16.00 GMT tomorrow.

(AIFF Press Release)