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Sunil Chhetri wants us to enjoy football and win match, says Indian midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad

Published at :June 4, 2024 at 8:42 PM
Modified at :June 4, 2024 at 8:44 PM
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Uttiyo Sarkar

Sahal also recalled his first interaction with Chhetri in the national team.

India are ready to face-off against Kuwait in a crucial 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers second round clash at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday (June 6). It will be a special occasion for Sunil Chhetri’s final match for the Blue Tigers and one where all his teammates want to gift him an ideal farewell with a big win.

This includes vibrant midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad, who is back to full fitness after enjoying a prolific 2023-24 season with Mohun Bagan. Speaking about the motivation levels of the Indian squad to win this match, especially after having defeated Kuwait earlier, he explained, “What’s done is always done. We’re looking for the game and know Chhetri is going to retire after this game. We have the feeling that we’ll fight for him, as we always do. He’s ready to give his 100% and we’ll give more than 100% to win the game. The last win gives us confidence, of course, but this is a new game and a new day.”

Need for caution against Kuwait

Despite India’s impressive recent record against Kuwait, Sahal is still not over-confident and stated, “They are a top team. It wasn’t easy to beat them at their own home and it won’t be easy to defeat them here. But, home and away system doesn’t matter, we are ready to give them a hard time here with the support we have.”

Reason for recent results and need for longer camps

When asked if over-confidence caused India’s poor performances against Afghanistan, the Mohun Bagan midfielder replied, “I’m not sure if it was over-confidence, but anything can happen in football. We always play to win and always continue to work hard, we just want to win. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we learn from our mistakes and move forward.”

Sahal also reiterated the importance of longer preparatory camps for the Indian team to produce better performance, as he explained, “We all know, the more time we have for preparing the better we’ll perform. That has always been the case with the national team. Last year we played in the International Cup and the SAFF Cup, we were together for so long. That’s what a team needs.”

Inspiration from Chhetri & Sandesh Jhingan’s absence

Sahal Abdul Samad also revealed that Sunil Chhetri’s been his inspiration from the day he began playing football professionally and stated, “He’s been an inspiration for me from day one. It’s nice to be with him, to share the dressing room and play with him. The first day of mine on the national team (was special). He kept his hand on my shoulders and told me, that this is something every player wants to be and I was really happy by that.”

Sahal also rued the absence of veteran defender Sandesh Jhingan and claimed, “Of course, a player like Jhingan bhai will always be missed. His presence is something no other player can give, that extra man at the back. Obviously, we’ll miss him, but we have a lot of players who can step up and give their best.”

Igor Stimac’s instructions for upcoming clash

When questioned on whether Igor Stimac has given some special instructions to the squad for the Kuwait clash, the Mohun Bagan man revealed, “Nothing special. It’s similar as the coach wants to win every game like the players do. What he’s saying is that we’ll have more than 70,000 people in front of us, to take that advantage, win the game and make it a memorable one for Chhetri bhai in his final game for India.”

Chhetri’s Message

Finally, Sahal revealed what has been Chhetri’s message to the squad ahead of his final match for India and stated, “He asked everyone to score, assist and win this match in anyway possible. He wants us to enjoy the football and win this match for him.”

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