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We have a very good chance - Adil Khan on upcoming World Cup Qualifiers

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The experienced FC Pune City star is looking to establish himself in Igor Stimac's starting XI.

“It's not about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward,” said Sylvester Stallone in one of the most iconic movie lines of all-time.

Putting it into practice is 30-year-old Adil Khan, who recently made his comeback to the Blue Tigers line-up after a gap of seven years after overcoming numerous odds, including a horrific injury in 2014.

Partnering Sandesh Jhingan for the first time in the heart of India's back-line against Thailand at the King's Cup 2019 in his comeback game, the 30-year-old produced a defensive masterclass that helped his team register a clean sheet. Add to that, his assist for the game's only goal – India’s match-winner. From there on, he made two appearances in the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 as well.

THE COMEBACK

"It was extremely tough when I got injured," he recalled in an interaction with www.the-aiff.com. "It was hard financially. The worst part was not being able to even touch the ball. There was a sort of a mental block. But I never gave up as I knew I had to keep going and keep myself fit."

After starting out with Sporting Clube de Goa where he spent five years, Adil went on to play for Mohun Bagan, and then Delhi Dynamos before suffering a season-ending injury that kept him out of action. He made his comeback with Lonestar Kashmir in 2016 in the Hero I-League 2nd Division, which he termed as "one of the best decisions he ever made."

"Going to Kashmir was a great decision. The conditions were difficult. The experience made me stronger. I felt that if I can make my way through such a situation, I can do anything," he expressed.

The versatile Adil, who can play as a centre-back, wing-back and even as a defensive midfielder, then played in Goa Professional League with Dempo SC, and then Churchill Brothers in the 2016-17 Hero I-League, before signing for FC Pune City in the Hero ISL, playing in multiple positions and also finding the net on a few occasions.

"As I started playing once again, I gradually regained my fitness, and confidence. I started playing both in the midfield, and in defence, which I feel presented more options to my coaches. I knew if I'd get my chances, maybe with a mix of luck, and hard work, I may make my way back into the National team."



ROARING WITH THE BLUE TIGERS

With new Head Coach Igor Stimac at the helm, Adil was called up as a probable for the King's Cup camp which was held in Delhi, and according to National Team assistant coach Venkatesh Shanmugam, his "commitment and discipline" was a standout feature.

"From the first day to the last, he was committed and disciplined, both on and off the pitch. He set an example for the young players. He knew the importance of the camp, and that he had to fight to earn his place," Venkatesh mentioned.

Venkatesh, a former India captain himself, preferred to go back to the match against Thailand, which he felt best highlighted Adil’s perseverance. "It was Adil’s first game for India after 6-7 years, and playing Thailand in Thailand with a young line-up was always a high-pressure situation for anyone. However, he showed his experience, and composure, combining well with Sandesh (Jhingan), showcasing great communication."

Sandesh praised Adil for his performance, calling him India's "man of the match" against Thailand. "He had a terrific game," he said, before adding: "Full credit to him for his comeback to the National Team. I was a teenager when he made his debut and now, it was great to play alongside him. I feel he has many years ahead of him."

"He is mentally very strong and extremely disciplined. His passing, tackling and aggression are top-notch and he has also played as a defensive midfielder, which gives the coach more options and adds to the squad's depth," Jhingan explained.

'WE NEED TO BE TOGETHER'

The Blue Tigers will take on Oman in Guwahati on September 5 to kick off their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign and the preparatory camp for the same is currently underway in Goa. According to Adil, the team has a "very good" chance of progressing to the next round provided the players "stick to the plan."

He said, "The World Cup hosts (Qatar) being in our group is an advantage for us and if we can do well and get the desired results against Oman, Afghanistan and Bangladesh - we have a very good chance of qualifying to the next stage."

"We need to keep working hard, be together as a team and stick to the coach's plans," he continued.

The Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati will host the qualifier against Oman and Adil called on the fans to be the team's "12th man" in the crucial encounter.

"The love for football in the Northeast is immense and we have seen the passionate crowds that come in the Hero ISL games. I hope that they will come out in large numbers and be the 12th man for the Blue Tigers," he concluded.

Published: Fri Aug 23, 2019 10:38 PM IST

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