The Indian football team have been in great form over the past few months, winning the Hero Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championships. Major tournaments like the Asian Games and the AFC Asian Cup 2023 in Qatar are awaiting the national team. For the latter, India is pitted against the likes of Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria in the group stage.

Defensive mainstay and one the most notable names in the current setup, Pritam Kotal, who has 52 caps for the Blue Tigers and led the Mohun Bagan Super Giant to the Indian Super League (ISL) title last season, believes that the league has instilled significant fearlessness amongst Indian players.

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Kotal said that the exposure that youngsters have garnered by rubbing shoulders with their international counterparts has honed them to execute a spirited style of football for the national team.

“See now, the mindset of the players has changed a lot. The quality of the training has changed, and even the players now know what they are supposed to do according to who they are playing against. And for me, whenever we play in the ISL, whichever foreigner is there in front of us, we play without fear. This is a new development that whoever is in front of us, we will compete,” Kotal stated in a recent episode of In the Stands.

Further, the 29-year-old hailed the impact of the various tacticians at the helm of different ISL outfits, mentioning that their philosophies reflect in the performances delivered by the Indian side lately.

“And there is also the influence of coaches. How the coaches give confidence to a player – build up, pass – whatever will happen, we will deal with it. But it’s important to play how we want to. So this is a change since 2015 when we started the Asian Cup qualifiers for the first time. The process started then, and now you will see the way we are playing. This is good for the national team, and good for the individual players as well,” Kotal added.

After a successful stint with the Mariners, Kotal secured a high-profile transfer to the Kerala Blasters FC last month for the upcoming season. The defender rounded off his stay with the Kolkata club on a high and is now eagerly looking forward to the fresh environment awaiting him in Kochi.

Kotal has been one of the standout stars since the commencement of the ISL. He was the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Emerging Player of the Year in 2015. He is a three-time ISL title winner, one-time I-League champion. Besides that, he has won the Hero Intercontinental Cup twice, and has been a part of India’s SAFF Championship-winning squad thrice. However, nothing matches the challenge that the national side will face in the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup and Kotal reiterates that the players will leave no stone unturned in giving it their all and more on the pitch.

“As players, we are confident that we will do something different this year. And we will try to do that both individually, and as a team as well as when we start the camps. We will have the King’s Cup, Merdeka Cup, and a few friendlies. So I just want to tell the fans to stick with us. Support the Indian team. Whoever we play, we will not be intimidated. We will go face to face and fight. Be it Australia, Uzbekistan, or Syria. This, I am telling you today,” Kotal explained.