Stimac: Excited to be back at the ‘Mecca of Indian football’

After a sensational 0-0 draw away to reigning Asian Champions, Qatar last month, an upbeat Indian national football team will be hoping to win all three points when they welcome neighbours, Bangladesh on October 15. The match, which will be India’s third fixture in Group E of the joint second round qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup, will be played at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.

The venue has tremendous historical significance and is often regarded as the proper home of Indian football. The city of Kolkata, too, enjoys a special connect with the beautiful game and the passion and enthusiasm for football in the region is often considered second to none. Adding to the occasion in ten days’ time will also be the fact that the Blue Tigers will be taking to the hallowed pitch for the first time in eight years.

This particular narrative, according to Indian head coach, Igor Stimac, has really caught up with the players, who have shown visible enthusiasm for the forthcoming tie. "I can say how happy we are to go back to Kolkata,” said Stimac during a media interaction.

“It's the 'Mecca of Indian Football.’ I can see the excitement amongst the players about playing in Kolkata. I have been told that ticket sales are going at a great rate, and there might be 60-65 thousand people on 15th,” he happily claimed.

The Blue Tigers, meanwhile, have been sweating it out at the preparatory camp which began on Friday in Guwahati. Expanding on his plans for the coming days of training, Stimac said, “We have started working yesterday. We'll have 11 training sessions, and a friendly match against Northeast United FC on Wednesday (October 9). We're happy to be back here where we got fantastic support (against Oman). We wanted to come back here to appreciate the local fans.”

The recently-turned 52-year-old also commented on the threats their soon-to-be-opponents could pose and what his team need to do to counter those challenges. “We respect Bangladesh as a team. We're aware of the difficulties that we're going to face, and we're working on them. We need to attack for 90 minutes to break two defensive blocks of Bangladesh. They are a good side who try to cover, and close the midfield,” he said.

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