Senior men's team reaches Maldives for SAAF Championships
Male (Maldives), Sep 28 (IANS) The Indian men's senior national team landed safely in the Maldives on Tuesday for the upcoming South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship which kicks off here on October 1.
The 23-member squad along with the support staff travelled from Bengaluru where all had assembled the previous day. Head Coach Igor Stimac joined the squad directly in the Maldives.
India begin their campaign against Bangladesh on October 4.
"The boys are excited and we expect them to do well and go all the way through winning the tourn"ment," Head Coach Igor Stimac was quoted as saying by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in a release on Tue"day. "For some of them, it is going to be a bit more difficult to shine as their clubs still'haven't started the pre-season yet. But we are very confident that each one of them will give their best," he added.
Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri lauded the organising committee for puttin" in an "extraordinar" effort".
"It feels great to b' here. It's truly an extraordinary effort that has been put in. Given the current sit'ation, it's extremely difficult to organise matches, leave aside an entire tournament. I wish the entire organising committee, the Maldives FA, and the Government of the Maldives all the very best for the Championship. I und'rstand it's a humongous task, and hope everyone stays safe for us to have a cracker of a tournament," Chhetri said.
"Since my childhood, I have heard so many anecdotes about the SAFF Championshi'. Hence, it's a different feeling for me to be in the squad for this edition. We understand that the next two weeks will be extremely tough and there will be some very close matches. The entire squad is up to the challenge," he maintained.
The Blue Tigers will be inside a secured bio bubble throughout the tournament, and the first training session is scheduled for Wednesday (Sept 29). The weather forecast predicts cloudy skies with isolated thunderstorms for the next few days.
India have won the SAFF Championship (formerly SAARC Cup) seven times - 1993 in Lahore, 1997 in Kathmandu, 1999 in Margao, 2005 in Karachi, 2009 (U23 squad) in Dhaka, 2011 in New Delhi, 2015-16 in Thiruvanant'apuram.
India's fixtures in the group stage:
October 4: Bangladesh vs India (IST 4.30 pm).
October 7: India vs Sri Lanka (IST 4.30 pm).
October 10: Nepal vs India (IST 8.30 pm).
October 13: India vs Maldives (IST 8.30 pm).