International Friendly: India face Tajikistan Challenge

AIFF Press Release
FIFA International Friendly
Tajikistan vs India
14th August 2013
20 Years of Independence Stadium, Khujand
Kick Off: 17:30 IST (GMT +5:30)

History says the two Teams have met only in the AFC Challenge Cup.  History further says there’s just one hat-trick scored between the two Teams. History also says the two Teams have only played thrice among themselves.

“Your Captain is a good Player. Our stopper-back has special plans for him. We won’t allow him to score,” a Tajikistan Football Federation Official who received the Team India contingent at the Dushanbe International Airport, smiled. “We are expecting 25000 people in the Stadium. It’s a special match for us,” he added.

Post practice, while changing his boots, the ‘Captain’ listens. “They are very powerful,” is all what he quips.

What are your plans? You ask.

“Football is not an individual sport. We play a Team Game and we will,” Sunil Chhetri declares.

The Weather in Khujand has fluctuated since the Indian Team has camped here. If the first day was very pleasant, the second day was quite warm while the third day was windy, rainy and a bit chilly.

“I’m happy with the preparation,” echoes National Coach Wim Koevermans. “It was a bit stressful to find the right training ground but the local people have been very helpful and the ground where we practiced was the best we could locate in the neighbourhood,” he adds.

“It’s good to see the boys back together but the match stays a big challenge for us – we are up against a very strong Tajikistan side,” he goes on.

Have you finalised on your Playing XI? “I won’t tell it at the moment,” Koevermans jokes. “Jokes apart, I haven’t finalised it as yet.”

Arnab Mondal, very highly-rated, and someone who missed out because of two untimely injuries earlier isn’t willing to read much into the starting XI. “It’s up to the Coach to decide as to who will start and who won’t. Modern-day Football is all about the specific day. We are a good Team and we need to stay positive against Tajikistan,” Mondal maintains.

“Isn’t it an irony that despite playing and dominating matches, the result hasn’t been much favourable?” Mehtab Hossain quips. “I’ve heard around 25000 or more would turn up for the Match. In such matches, you need to be mentally strong and give that extra bit. If you need to win, we need to give 200 percent,” he adds.

“The practice sessions have been fruitful. The telepathy has started to work,” he pronounces.

Methab has been an quintessential pat of Koevermans’ squad along with Lenny Rodrigues, Francis Fernandes and Clifford Miranda. The fact that India’s overseas win in an International Friendly was way back in 2004 against Kuwait crops up.

“We need to sneak out a result from this match,” Miranda pronounces. “We desperately want to change the trend. We will go with an open mind.”

For the record, Tajikistan are ranked 114 while India are presently 145 on the FIFA ladder.

Footballers all over have their own unique way to unwind themselves. With the Team Hotel devoid of any elevator, you ought to climb the stairs. And invariably at the first-floor lobby, you will see a bespectacled guy engrossed in his book. “It’s a book on World War 2,” Arata Izumi, perhaps for the first time, glancing out of the book tells you. It’s hard not to spot his Samurai hairdo.

“I did watch some videos of Tajikistan on Youtube. We have had Team Meetings where Coach has dissected them and we will be having more Meetings. We can’t lose focus even for that split second. It’s their Home match after all,” he states.

History points you to the calendar. It’s August 13 and it was on this day that five years back India beat Tajikistan to earn a ticket to the Asian Cup in New Delhi in 2008. History also points you that Independence Day is just around the corner.

Post Breakfast some boys go for a walk. With match-day approaching, they prefer to stay in their zone and talk among themselves. Some skit at the Lobby and call up their dear ones back Home while some stay busy playing Games on their snazzy Mobiles. Arata, meanwhile, has just turned another leaf of his book.

The kick-off at the 20 Year of Independence Stadium is at 5.30pm (IST).
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