New Zealand head coach Fritz Schmid labelled India lying somewhere between “a sleeping giant and a rising competitor.”
In an exclusive interview to www.the-aiff.com prior to the kick-off of the Hero Intercontinental Cup, Schmid speaks at length about how he feels India will be more prepared for the tournament after their two-week camp, Stephen Constantine’s experience as a coach, the grassroots activities in India and much more.
What do you feel about Hero Intercontinental Cup which is in its first edition and being played in a new format?
I appreciate the opportunity to play in the hero Intercontinental Cup as for countries like us it provides an excellent option to play against three potential strong opponents and have a look at players who will take us forward for the future.
What impression do you have about Football in India?
India is somewhere between a sleeping giant and a rising competitor. It’s a big country and from my activity back in the Asian Football Confederation I realised there was a lot of activity at the top level with their professional league.
At the same time, they were trying to put things together for Grassroots and development aspects. I followed very closely their activities around the FIFA U-17 World Cup. There are a lot of efforts going on and it’s very important for them to put the pieces together to find their position in terms of popularity of the sport in direct comparison to cricket.
How much have you followed the Indian National Team prior to travelling to India? What do you expect while playing against India?
India have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup and it’s a big year for Indian Football. It’s understandable they are preparing for the Continental Championships while we are building up for a new campaign.
I know Stephen Constantine is a very experienced coach who has been successful in many different countries. I expect them to be really prepared especially after the two weeks of preparatory camp in Mumbai. It’s obvious they will stay focussed and will be very sharp. On top of it, they will be playing at home and it will be a tough challenge for us.
Are there any other challenges while playing in the Indian sub-continent?
We have to deal with the time difference and acclimatise to the weather which is a big difference from what we have back home at the moment. In addition, we are aware that we are facing two very competitive opponents in Kenya and India. While the former is preparing for the African Cup qualifications, India are getting ready for the AFC Asian Cup.
What is the significance of the Hero Intercontinental Cup in New Zealand Football?
Since we are in the beginning of a new campaign, it’s important for New Zealand to reassess and rebuild a new project. Obviously it’s very important for us to have an opportunity for international exposure specially for players who might not have been on the radar in the recent campaign.
Unfortunately, Winston Reid and Chris Wood are not travelling. While Winston is injured, Wood has just finished a very challenging season with Burnley. He has been playing non-stop and needs rest to recover from the demanding season.