Hero Tri-Nation Cup

Igor Stimac: We have 23 boys here who are equally ready to fight for the country

M Sudharshan

March 21 2023
Igor Stimac

The coach wants to ease the ISL finalists in the squad back gradually in difficult playing conditions.

India will be hosting a tri-nation friendly on the 22nd and 28th of March against Myanmar and the Kyrgyzstan Republic in Imphal, Manipur. The North-Eastern state is set to host its first national game on 22nd March. Manipur has been producing several national players and it has got its due to host an international match. Close to 30000 supporters shall be cheering for the Indian team during the tri-nation friendly.

The pre-match press conference was attended by head coach Igor Stimac and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh. Here are the excerpts from the press conference.

Playing in Manipur

India will be playing its first national game at Khuman Lampak in Imphal. Manipur has produced several national players but has never hosted a national match before.

Igor Stimac opined. “We are happy to be here and as a coach, I am honoured to take my team to play here in Manipur. This is a very important football state for the team and out of the 33 players from the squad, seven are from Manipur which is also the leading football state in the country. The three-nation tournament is a part of promoting football all over India and expect good football games. You know that most of the players are tired and exhausted from the final but we do have 23 players so you can expect many Manipur players to play tomorrow.”

Preparations for the tournament

Close to ten players will be coming into the squad directly after playing in the ISL final. There have been heavy rains for the past few days in Manipur so it will be challenging for the players to adapt to the conditions.

The head coach said, “Few challenges are there in front of us like the players getting used to the pitch and conditions. We were hoping to have a delayed training session on the ground but it has been raining for the past couple of days. For tomorrow’s match, we are mostly not going to involve players who have played in the ISL final rather give them rest and involve them in the serious game against Kyrgyzstan.”

Fans’ Support

Manipur has been longing for footballing action and now the fans can get a chance to back the blues in numbers, “I am very excited to come out here tomorrow and expect to have 30000 supporters in the stadium. Our boys will be thriving hard to win the game tomorrow and I am not saying this very optimistically. We were waiting for a long time to have friendly matches at home. This is one of our opportunities to show that we progress in our football and mindset,” the coach added.

Watch the full press conference here

Are you going to play with the full squad?

Out of the 23-member squad, close to ten players will be coming back after playing in the ISL final. The rest of the team has been selected based on their performance. There are seven Manipuri players in the squad as well.

The 55-year-old quipped, “I am not sure what is the full squad for you but for me, each one of the 23 players is a full squad. We don’t make a difference between the players who are on the list to the national team. We have 23 boys here who are equally ready to fight for the country so whoever I put on the pitch is a full team choice.”

Are the preparations starting from this tournament for the Asian Cup?

Igor Stimac has revealed that the preparations for the Asian Cup will start in the month of June during the June FIFA window and at the SAFF Championships.

The head coach briefed the team’s preparations for the Asian Cup and said, “We have a different approach to this game and we are considering this to be the preparation for the Asian Cup. Our preparation for the Asian Cup starts in May. For the next few days, we will be celebrating the success of our players in the ISL. We are going to spend time in Manipur and would enjoy playing good football. The serious preparation will start in May for the SAFF Championships and the FIFA window in June which we are going to host. This will also be the start of the selection of players who will be representing India in the Asian Cup.”

Thoughts on the newcomers to the squad

Many players have made it to the squad for the first time. There have been instances in the past where players have got their chance after performing well in the ISL. 

Igor Stimac iterated, “We have a few newcomers this time and there were many more before for the other matches. The boys will get the chance they deserve and they deserve their presence to be in the squad with their performance in the ISL season. Hopefully, they play well and there is no reason for them not to play well as they are going to play in the same position and shall enjoy the chance of playing in the national team.”

Promoting football throughout the country

India in recent years has predominantly been playing its national games in Kolkata. Mainpur will be hosting a national game for the first time and there are chances of several states to host national games in the future.

The head coach said, “We do not have many opportunities to promote football throughout the country. After we finished our qualifiers in June, I requested to organize friendly games and this is part of that process now. India hasn’t played a single home game for two years due to the pandemic. Now we have a chance to play home games in front of the home ground which will give them more confidence. I appreciate the football federation and the state for organizing the games here.”

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

How difficult is it to lose the final and be back

Bengaluru FC lost to ATK Mohan Bagan in the final of ISL 9. Gurpreet Singh played a crucial role and was part of the 11-match unbeaten streak.

The goalkeeper iterated, “It’s pretty easy when you have a game coming up. Like the coach said we are glad to be here and it gives me the honour to play here from where many footballers have progressed.” 

For more updates, follow Khel Now on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and join our community on Telegram.

Khel Now Logo
© 2023
Agnificent Platform Technologies Pte. Ltd.