INDIA’S football captain Sunil Chhetri backed head coach Igor Stimac’s demand for a four-week camp ahead of the Asian Cup early next year, saying the team needs enough preparation time to face the continent’s best teams.
Chhetri, who will compete in his final Asian Cup in Doha (from January 12 to February 10), will also play in at least one international friendly match against a top-seven-ranked Asian country such as Iran, Japan, or Saudi Arabia before the continental showpiece in Qatar.
“We are going to face Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria in the Asian Cup (group matches), that is why Stimac (as well as goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu) have spoken about long camps. We need it and I really hope we get it,” Chhetri said in a virtual media interaction.
“When you go to the national camp, there are injuries to players and they come with different mental levels from their respective clubs. You need to take care of all these, and to do that you need more time,” he said, attributing the team’s success in the last two tournaments to a long camp of more than 50 days.
India won the tri-nation international tournament in Manipur (March 22-28), then the Intercontinental Cup (June 9-18) in Bhubaneswar and the SAFF Championships (June 21-July 4) in Bengaluru. From mid-May until the SAFF Championships, the players were in the national camp.
Stimac had stated that he would require at least a four-week camp to perform well in the Asian Cup, while the top brass of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) indicated that his demand would be difficult to meet because clubs may not agree to release their players for such a long period during the domestic season.
“Eventually, how many days we get (for national camp) depends on the talks (among the stakeholders) but I really hope to get as many days as possible,” Chhetri added.