Indian National Football Team coach Igor Stimac, who is in Guwahati to prepare for the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier against Bangladesh on October 15, said that he is thankful to the fans of the region for the enormous support during the last game held in Guwahati.
India played their first FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier match against Oman in Guwahati on September 5 in front of a packed crowd.
Though the next match against Bangladesh will be played at Kolkata, the India players are practicing at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati.
On choosing Guwahati as their practice ground, the 52-year-old Croatian said that they wanted to come back to show appreciation to the local fans.
“We are happy to be back here where we have fantastic support in the game against Oman. It was a heart breaking game but we are happy to be here to prepare against the Bangladesh match which is very important for us. We felt good and everything was provided. The training facilities were very good and the main ground too was fantastic. We also wanted to come back to show appreciation to the local fans who supported us in a fantastic way…who kept on pushing us to give the best. And that’s how we are going to operate in the future as well,” said Stimac.
On September 5, India lost to Oman during their first FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifier in Guwahati even after taking the lead. But in the next qualifier match, the Blue Tigers did a fantastic job by playing a goalless draw against a higher-ranked Qatar in their own backyard.
Stimac was hailed for this brilliant comeback with a much younger team.
“You have the full rights to celebrate (after the Qatar match) and keep flying high but I have told my players that we don’t have much time to do that. I have told the boys to forget that match immediately because we have another important match coming up. If we don’t get three points from the next game, the point from Doha means nothing. It was a great result, it will be written in the history of Indian football. But for us it doesn’t mean much because, we have many points in front of us… we need to keep working hard together,” Stimac, who won bronze in 1998 World Cup, said.
Before going to Kolkata for the Qualifier against Bangladesh, team India will also play a friendly game against NorthEast United FC on October 9 at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati, which is the home ground for the ISL side. The match, scheduled to kick-off at 7:30 pm, will be an open door event for the fans.
“It’s a chance for my players to prove themselves and earn a place in the team. We just need to decide how many changes we can make during the game. It will be nice to try as many players in the game. I expect them to do with the best of their abilities and competitiveness against the NEUFC,” he added.