Fitness in focus for Stimac's new Team India

The Indian national football team's preparations for the upcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 began on June 24 in Mumbai. Most of the players are re-assembling after a 14-day-long break post their King's Cup campaign in Thailand. The first day of the camp saw new head coach Igor Stimac getting the players up to speed with the plans for the upcoming tournament.

In between the drills and practice sessions, some of the players took out the time to reveal how Stimac and his backroom staff have been working tirelessly to keep them fit, even when they were off national duty.

Defender Pritam Kotal was full of praise for the Croatian and his team. "Coach Stimac and his support staff had drawn up a schedule for every individual player. It was a kind of an off-season, but we had to deal it as a kind of pre-season for the camp," the ATK right back stated in an interview with the official All India Football Federation (AIFF) website.

"I enjoyed the break, spent quality time with my family, stayed with them. But I never compromised on my fitness schedule. In fact, I did more. The awareness levels were higher," he added.

Sandesh Jhingan was particularly impressed with ‘the Professor’ Luka Radman - the team's new strength and conditioning coach. He said, "Professor was very categorical. He highlighted what a player needed to do when he is away from his Club, and National team set-up. Now everyone will come back fitter. The Coach can work on technical aspects, and on the system, on how we want to play. If you are on the path of trying to be the best version of yourself, and if you are in the path of fulfilling your full potential, or going beyond, you can’t take the liberty of taking too much rests."

Jhingan also revealed how Stimac has been putting as much thought to the side's mental preparations as he has been to their physical conditioning. "Apart from the physical and technical training schedule, we were also provided match analysis videos by the coach. Emphasis was paid on the quintessential mental part. If you are mentally strong, and understand football, it’s your biggest strength as a player," the Kerala Blasters man remarked.

Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, too, continued on the same line as his colleagues and added, "I did see my family, but haven’t taken a break after the King’s Cup. I have been working day in day out to stay fitter. The camp will be a different one. All are fresh, and ready to carry on the momentum of learning the new system, and implement it on the pitch."

Stimac is yet to announce the final squad for the tournament, which will be held from July 7 to July 19. The Blue Tigers will take on Syria, Tajikistan and DPR North Korea in Ahmedabad’s EKA Arena.

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