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Blue Tigers settle down in Dubai under “the big umbrella”

Indian national team head coach Igor Štimac and his squad during a team meeting in Dubai. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)
Indian national team head coach Igor Štimac and his squad during a team meeting in Dubai. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)

The 27-member Indian Senior National Team squad which landed in Dubai on Sunday (March 15, 2021) evening for the forthcoming back to back International Friendlies against Oman (March 25) and UAE (March 29) have settled down, and are focussing on the priorities ahead.

The entire squad had a meet with the coach late evening, and the first practice session is slated for Tuesday (March 16) evening. The squad also underwent the morning screening and aerobic sessions.

Defender Adil Khan said the camaraderie among the players has been exemplary from Day 1. “This season the League was a bit different. Everyone was in the bubble and with so many protocols. Hence, we had to stay a bit away from each other. So it was a nice experience to talk with all and share our experiences. It was fun,” he smiled.

Midfielder Anirudh Thapa stated that everyone met with “great fondness.”

“It is always great to be back at the National camp. All the players met each other with great fondness. During the HISL we mostly waved at each other from a distance owing to the protocols. It’s always great to be together under the great umbrella — that is the National Team,” Thapa narrated.

Adil added: “The coach greeted everyone with a big smile. He congratulated everyone for the season and stressed on his pride in the bunch of players. He wants us to do well for the upcoming matches, and for the Qualifiers in June. I am thankful to him for selecting me.”

“It was great to see the coach after a long time as well. He congratulated us on our performances in the League, and insisted on carrying those performances forward for our upcoming Friendlies,” Thapa averred.

Lalengmawia, adjudged the Emerging Player of the Hero Indian Super League 2020-21 mentioned that the coach “urged all to work hard, and with discipline.”

“The coach greeted us and made all the new players comfortable. He told us to work hard, and with much discipline. I am looking forward to the training sessions,” Lalengmawia, fondly referred to as Aupia expressed.

“All my seniors were very welcoming and made us feel at home. They congratulated me to winning the HISL Emerging Player of the Year Award. But I know my real challenge lies ahead.”

The weather in Dubai has been pleasant and with a predicted maximum temperature of around 29 degrees and a minimum around 21 degrees.

Akash Mishra, who has been a real sensation in the HISL said that the “coach made us aware about the significance of the forthcoming matches.”

“Stimac-sir urged everyone to work without any pressure. He made us so comfortable. But he asked us to focus on the job ahead,” Mishra maintained.

“It was so encouraging to get all the encouragement from my seniors like Sandesh Jhingan, Gurpreet, Amriner, Adil Khan, Pritam Kotal and others. There are also many familiar faces for me here whom I met after a long time. It’s time to concentrate heavily on the task ahead.”

India play Oman on March 25 and UAE next on March 29. The Blue Tigers had last played an International fixture in November 2019 when they played in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers.

(Nilanjan Dutta / AIFF Media)