The current schedule allows the Indian team just one training session ahead of their crucial FIFA World Cup Qualifiers away tie against Afghanistan.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) have called for a meeting with chiefs of both the ISL and the Indian football team to discuss the possible postponement of certain fixtures. According to a recent report by TOI, the AIFF have understood that the current fixture list would make it nearly impossible for the national team to effectively prepare ahead of a very important tie against Afghanistan.
Their inspiring draw against Qatar was backed up by a rather embarrassing display against Bangladesh on October 15. Although, they were able to get an equalizer late in the game, more dropped points means that their hopes of qualifying for the next round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers are now hanging by a thread. Were they to drop more points in either of their next two fixtures, the dream of a whole nation would be gone, yet again.
It has been suggested that national team coach Igor Stimac has expressed his concern about the situation at hand. “Afghanistan have chosen Dushanbe (Tajikistan) for a reason. They know they can make life difficult for teams there. They know the conditions will be tough and if the Indian team doesn’t have adequate preparation for such a crucial encounter, it will be asking for trouble,” said an AIFF official.
As Things Stand
The last ISL fixture before the national team depart for the game (November 11) is on November 10. The tie between Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC is certain to feature some of the Indian squad’s key names, including skipper Sunil Chhetri and young stars Anirudh Thapa and Ashique Kuruniyan. Considering that the fixture is played out on 10th November, that leaves the national squad less than 24 hours to convene and travel to Tajikistan.
Once the Blue Tigers reach Tajikistan, things are only going to get worse. After taking a day off to rest and recover from the pressure of the ISL, they will only have time to accommodate one full training session on November 13, before the match against Afghanistan (November 14). Although, the situation looks extremely bad on paper, the AIFF do seem to be in control of the problem. “We are trying to sort it out. The coach says 4-5 days camp (is needed). We are definitely trying to work it out,” said AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das.
There has also been talk of an agreement that was signed between the parties in September, that saw a long break being afforded to the teams before the Bangladesh fixture, while following FIFA guidelines for the remainder of the ties. Stimac has stated that he will need to observe the initial two weeks of the ISL before deciding if defensive reinforcements to his squad are required, following the injury to Sandesh Jhingan.
Although, the coach would certainly want the national team together for a few days before a big match, sources suggest that changing the schedule of a structured tournament like the ISL is an unlikely possibility, especially considering that the parties did meet and come to an agreement on the front back in September. However, at the end of the day, Indian football is the most important thing and with the AIFF essentially controlling the process, there’s every chance that the national team could get its way.