AIFF Director of National Teams and former India captain Abhishek Yadav, who starred for India in the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011, feels that the AFC Asian Cup next year will be a “significant platform for our players as we are aiming to make it into Asia’s top 8.”
In an exclusive interview, he talks at length about the AFC Asian Cup 2011, the Indian Team, the targets and a lot more.
You were the one who broke India’s trophy jinx in International Football when you scored that match winner in the LG Cup final in 2002. Take us through to that moment.
Like most actions on the field, it passed quicker than I thought. It was purely made of my dreams. A goal scored is a culmination of a lot of factors. I look back at the goal and our victory with a lot of satisfaction.
You also played a stellar role for India in the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha. You even played assist to Gouramangi’s goal against Bahrain. Where does that experience stand?
The entire period leading up to the participation in the 2011 Asian Cup was the best period of my career. A lot of toil and planning on and off-the-field was put into it by everyone involved.
Where do you see Indian football going from the AFC Asian Cup?
We are aiming for top-8 status in Asia for Men’s and top-3 status in Asia for women’s National teams by 2026. All our programmes are designed to achieve this end, and the Asian Cup will massively help in our quest.
How much different, difficult and significant platform is the Asian Cup?
It is a very significant platform for players to gain recognition as a lot of people connected to continental or global football watch the event closely for talents. For Indian football in general, it is an important platform for us to increase and strengthen our fan base. I feel more people out there need to realise that this is our equivalent of the Euros or the Copa America. This is a big deal.
Can India make it out of the first round? If we achieve it, how significant will that be for Indian Football?
Yes, I am confident about the squad. It will boost the football ecosystem in the country.
How would you rate India’s opponents in the AFC Asian Cup?
All opponents are tough opponents at this level of competition.
How do you compare the two squads – that in 2011 where you played and the squad of 2019?
There has been a clear progress in our football during these years due to a combination of technical and administrative efforts from all stakeholders involved led by the AIFF.
Your message to the Indian squad going for the AFC Asian Cup.
Be well prepared and give the best ever performance that India has seen.