These are the start of dreams: Sahal Abdul Samad on playing at AFC Asian Cup
Having secured a spot in Igor Stimac’s 26-man squad, Samad is one of the 17 new Indian players included for the AFC Asian Cup.
The Indian football team's standout midfielder, Sahal Abdul Samad, is eagerly anticipating the AFC Asian Cup as India kicks off their campaign against Australia on Saturday. This marks Sahal's debut at Asia's premier international tournament, having secured a spot in Igor Stimac’s 26-man squad.
Since his debut in 2019 against Curacao, Samad has participated in 35 matches for the Blue Tigers, contributing three goals and two assists. With his nimble footwork, creative flair, and precise ball control, Sahal has consistently delighted fans in the Indian jersey.
🚨 BIG NEWS coming from #Qatar!! 👀— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) January 12, 2024
Watch the #BlueTigers live in the #AsianCup2023 only on @JioCinema and @Sports18! 📺#BackTheBlue #IndianFootball #AsianDream | @IndianFootball @qatarmanjappada @sahal_samad pic.twitter.com/JxWkUDtwwr
Expressing his delight at being selected for the tournament and facing top Asian teams, Sahal is looking to make the most of this valuable opportunity.
“We all know how big the stage is. I am feeling very happy and proud to be a part of this team in this biggest tournament. Opportunities like this won't always come. These are the start of dreams; we have to grab them,” Sahal stated in an exclusive interview with indiansuperleague.com.
Sahal initially made waves in the Santosh Trophy and later joined Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Kerala Blasters FC, starting with the reserve team before earning a place in the first team. His impressive performances with the Blasters earned him a call-up to the national team. In 2023, Sahal moved to Mohun Bagan Super Giant.
While shining in the ISL, Sahal now aspires to make a mark on the international stage and dreams of achieving more significant milestones. “It’s a different feeling to play against some of the best players in the world,” he remarked.
“When we come to ISL, we think of (doing) something big. When we play tournaments like this, it keeps us (thinking) bigger. And I think we deserve where we are. We fought for this. It’s an amazing feeling (to be here),” he added.
Currently nursing an injury from his time at Mohun Bagan SG, Sahal disclosed that he won't be able to play in the opener against Australia but remains hopeful for subsequent matches against Uzbekistan or Syria.
“I have had this injury before with the club. I am getting back in shape and feeling better,” he explained.
“But still, I’m not ready for tomorrow’s game (Saturday). Hopefully, for the second or third game, I might be ready to play. I am training hard with the help of the physiotherapists and coaches, and I am talking to the psychologists we have. I am feeling great, and hopefully I’ll be back soon,” he continued.
Sahal and the entire Indian team received a warm welcome in Qatar from Indian fans who came to cheer the team upon their arrival. He expects more Indian fans to show their support.
Speaking in Malayalam, he said, “As I always say, football is an emotion.”
“For the people back home, they have always supported us. So, there is no doubt that everyone will come to support us,” he concluded.