The Blue Tigers’ head coach has also identified three European countries to train abroad provided air travel restrictions are relaxed.

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, football in India is yet to resume and there still remains very little clarity and direction on a fixed return date due to the various complications of the current ordeal. India is set to take on Asian champions Qatar at home on October 8 followed by games against Bangladesh (away on November 12) and Afghanistan (home on November 17) in their three remaining FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. However, the players, as well as Igor Stimac are still in their respective abodes as they await further instructions pertaining to resumption of team training.

“It’s difficult to plan right now because nobody knows anything. Air traffic is closed and I am stuck here (in Croatia). Hopefully, we will have clarity soon,” the head coach told The Times of India.

Most Indian players that are set to be included in the qualifiers, were part of the sixth edition of the Indian Super League and that was their last experience of competitive action. Since then, they have been training at home following the fitness plans given to them and Igor Stimac revealed their fitness would be evaluated immediately when they report back to training.  

“All players who were shortlisted earlier have been handed a fitness programme. When they assemble (for the camp), we will assess them for the first five days to see if they have been following the guidelines seriously,” the Croatian stated.

Moreover, the head coach has identified Turkey, Croatia, and Slovenia as possible destinations for training abroad provided air restrictions are relaxed across Europe. Igor Stimac believes that he would need eight weeks to prepare his side duly ahead of the qualifiers and will be calling 45 players for the camp before shortlisting 27 for the game against Qatar. Lastly, if a trip to Europe doesn’t come to pass, Bhubaneswar remains the preferred choice domestically for training.

“Unless I see the test results, I do not know the condition of the players. I will need eight weeks to prepare the team and also some friendlies, which we can arrange whether at home or away.”

India is yet to register a victory in the World Cup qualifiers with a draw against Asian heavyweights Qatar in Doha their most positive result after five games. The Blue Tigers are fourth in the standings with three points in their tally and are behind the likes of Qatar (13), Oman (12), and Afghanistan (4), who occupy higher positions on the table. Bangladesh find themselves at the bottom with just a single point on board but still have a game in hand against Afghanistan.

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