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FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

What is happening in the Indian football team camp in Bhubaneswar?

Published at :May 21, 2024 at 10:55 PM
Modified at :May 21, 2024 at 10:55 PM
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(Courtesy : AIFF)

Khel Now

The Indian football team’s preparations are really fun and amazing!

The sun rises in Bhubaneswar just a few minutes past five in the morning. So, it’s already nice and warm at 7 am on Monday when the Indian football team bus leaves the hotel for the Odisha Football Academy, where the Indian men’s national team have been training for the past 10 days. Today, we follow how a typical day in the Blue Tigers camp unfolds.

It starts with an early morning aerobic session led by Luka Radman, the strength and conditioning coach. The players are only carrying their joggers and no studs. Sunil Chhetri is usually among the first ones to be seated in the bus, and grabs the first seat. With a cup of coffee in his hands, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu sits across the aisle. Amrinder Singh is also sipping coffee. Perhaps it’s a goalkeeper thing.

It’s barely a five-minute drive to the ground. The temperature is 30 degrees and the sun is bright enough for the players to wear sunscreen. They enter the pitch, stretch a little, and put their foam rollers to use, while Radman explains a warm-up drill. Starting with some light jogging, high knees, and more for a dynamic warm-up. The ‘Professor’, as he’s known, makes them do a couple of short sprints followed by longer 60-metre sprints.

After every few rounds, the players take a water break, stretch, do some push-ups or sit-ups and go again. The aerobic session is wrapped up by 8 am, and they grab a banana and fresh coconut water for instant energy and electrolytes before heading back to the bus. “That’s what you need after sweating out like that,” says Liston Colaco as he towels down. “Amazing session, that was fun,” adds Jeakson Singh, the Kerala Blasters midfielder no stranger to sunny mornings.

Back to the hotel and it’s time for a quick shower before the Blue Tigers arrive for breakfast in the dining hall. Some of them head to the pool, while a few spend the rest of the morning in massages and treatments. Lunch is at 1 pm, and the mood is light in the dining hall. The players chit-chat for a while before retiring to their rooms again to relax a bit. After some evening snacks and coffee, the team are ready to leave for the ground again at 6 pm for the full training session.

The bus arrives at the Odisha Football Academy again and there’s a crowd of young kids in bright green jerseys waiting for the squad. They are the Bengaluru FC U13s, who are competing in the AIFF Sub Junior League in Bhubaneswar. They will be staying for the entire training to watch their idols.

The players get changed in the dressing room and head to the pitch. A few stop for their customary prayer before stepping in. They start with a dynamic warm-up. The foam rollers are out again, followed by some light stretching and then theraband exercises. A few minutes later, an Igor Stimac whistle brings the players into a huddle. The head coach gives a long speech, briefing them about the upcoming session and motivating them for the all-important Kuwait game.

The outfielders jog five laps of the pitch, with Sunil Chhetri, Rahul Bheke and Subhasish Bose heading the bunch, while the four goalkeepers head to the goal at the far end to begin their drills with goalkeeper coach Frano Srdarev.

Stimac then calls the outfielders for a big rondo, the size of the centre circle with four players in the middle. They can only touch the ball once and the one who mispasses heads to the middle. After that, the bunch moves to the touchline for some short passing and heading drills in groups of three. Stimac then explains a small game with the purpose of practicing throw-ins. He divides the players in groups of five to six and the players are supposed to throw to their teammate, chest the ball, run back, and repeat, completing the drill in the quickest time possible. The ‘race’ adds to the fun and makes it a competitive affair.

Then it’s time for shooting drills, one player lays the ball for the other who strikes it first time from outside the box. They do it twice for each player – left foot and right foot. It is the most fun part of training, and whether it’s Rahul Bheke finding the top corner with both his feet, Phurba Lachenpa making a diving save to tip the ball onto the crossbar, or Sahal Abdul Samad curling it onto the bottom corner, the kids watching the session are cheering every piece of action. There is plenty of humour too, thanks to the friendly banter between the goalkeepers and the shot-takers.

Stimac makes things more interesting by introducing another rule. Any player who misses and any goalkeeper who concedes a goal has to do 10 push-ups immediately. So goal or no goal, push-ups were guaranteed.

After about half an hour of fierce shots and saves and plenty of push-ups, Stimac whistles to signal the end of the training session. The players exchange high-fives and cool down near the side of the pitch, stretching before taking off their boots and socks and relaxing for a while. They then head to dressing room to shower and take an ice bath, which helps in reducing muscle soreness and preventing pain.

At around 8:30 pm, the team bus leaves for the hotel. Immediately on arrival, they head for dinner for a meal filled with a good mix of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and fibres. The dining hall is always a cheerful place during dinner as the players exchange laughs, jokes and more banter. It rounds up another day of hard work at the Indian men’s national team camp as they inch closer to the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers clash against Kuwait on June 6.

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