SAFF Championship 2013: India vs Pakistan Preview

AIFF Press Release
Team India face Pakistan tomorrow in the 2013 SAFF Championship

Amidst the honking in the chaotic traffic another Blue Bus accelerated to catch hold of the other. The two Buses travelled side by side for the next five minutes and then both the buses stopped at one destination. The Indian Team were getting back from their practice session while the Pakistan Team were shifting their base to the ‘Official’ Team Hotel.

That was some three days back.

Three days later, the two Buses leave the same Hotel for separate practice sessions form the Hotel Lobby only to come back again. On Sunday (September 1), they would again be travelling one behind the other to the Dasrath Stadium, barely a stone’s throw away from the Hotel. The aim stays common -- make a winning start to the 2013 SAFF Championship.

Motivated? “We are hugely motivated to play against India. There’s no extra pressure,” Shahzad Anwar, Pakistan Coach uttered at the Official Press Conference. “My Team can beat anyone,” he went on.

Pakistan have come into the Championship with five Europe-based Players including Zesh Rehman who has played for Fulham. “They add strength to our Team,” Anwar informed.

Indian player practicing before the big match against Pakistan, Picture
National Coach Wim Koevermans, wiping his eyebrow further informs: “Yeah, we know about them. But we are more concerned about ourselves. We are the Team to beat and it’s understandable everyone will play their Heart out against us. But we know the potential of every opponent and rate them very highly.”

Subrata Paul adds: “We have good Players too. Sunil Chhetri, Mehtab Hossain, Gouramangi Singh, Rahim Nabi are our stars. Besides, we also have Francis Fernandes, Lenny Rodrigues, Raju Gaikwad, Jewel Raja Shaikh  and all others in our squad of 20. It’s 11 vs 11 on the field.” The mighty Himalayas overlooking the Valley of Kathmandu, listens.

AIFF Player-of-the-Year Syed Rahim Nabi feels it will be a “close match.”

“This Pakistan Team is a very strong side. “I’ve been a part of quite a few matches against Pakistan. Whatever we have been told by the Coach, we need to implement it on the pitch. That’s the most pertinent point,” he quips in the Official Interaction at the Police Headquarters Ground. “We need to change our record while playing outside our Country.”

You prefer to take a Tour of the Hotel. Post practice there’s the ice-bath and Lunch and then the compulsory afternoon rest – all doors are closed, all TV sets shut down.

In the last two meetings against Pakistan there’s someone who has scored five including a hat-trick – Jeje Lalpekhula. When you make him take a trip down memory lane, he hesitantly smiles. Roommate Sandip Nandy pats him on the back. “Yesterday you scored a beauty in practice. Our Country wants more,” Nandy quips even as Nandy has a look at Jeje’s boots by his bedside.

“If I play, I will give my best. We all will give our best. It doesn’t matter who scores as long as it’s scored,” Jeje, by that time, is having a close look at Nandy’s gloves on the Table.

“Stick together as a Team. Help each other as a Team. Do it as a team,” Koevermans tells his boys. “It’s our First Final against Pakistan.”

At the Hotel Lobby three members of a Chinese Tourist Group walk up and ask: “Is India playing Pakistan in the Tournament? When is it slated for? Where can we purchase Tickets?”

“We had come on a Holiday to India’s Golden Triangle and have a halt in Kathmandu for two days. If we get to watch an Indo-Pak clash, our Tour would be complete,” an elderly man states. “Is this Football for Fun? Or is this Football for Friendship?” he queries only to answer the next moment: “In fact, both.”

Push everything else to the background. Salute Football!

The kick-off at the Dasrath Stadium on Sunday (September 1) is at 6.15pm (IST).
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