Soosairaj heaps praise on Stimac’s style of play

The signing of Igor Stimac as the coach of the Indian national team was surely a sign of intent. The Croat has vowed to bring a more possession-based football with an emphasis on youth development, in a bid to take the team to newer heights. As seen during the course of the King’s Cup in Thailand earlier this month, the change in the style of play was evident. The team kept the ball on the ground, looked to hold on to possession and searched for gaps to exploit. Six Indian players got their debut under him as a younger, more athletic looking squad gear up for the next chapter in Indian football.

Michael Soosairaj was one of the six debutants in the match against Curacao. Impressive displays in Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 for Jamshedpur FC led to the winger getting noticed by Stimac, followed by a call up to the national team. For the 24-year-old, the moment he came on to the field for India is his best till date in his playing career.

Recalling that match, he told in an interview with AIFF, “I remember it. Coach pointed at me and asked me to gear-up,”. He was a little nervous but kept telling himself, “Okay, Soosai! Be cool. Do not get nervous.” He added, “I did feel the pressure for the first five minutes, but once I got used to the pace of the game, it was all okay since then.”

It has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears for him to achieve all that he has. Hours of practising and perfecting his game have seen the Eraviputhenthurai born player go on to represent his nation and recently earn a move to two-time Hero ISL champions ATK.

When asked about Stimac, he said, “The new coach has brought in a lot of fresh ideas on how to train the players and prepare them for the style that he wants us to implement on the pitch. It’s not just the technical abilities that are tested, but physical attributes like strength and stamina are also given equal importance while assessing players.”

Now back in the national camp for the upcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup, the squad has been working hard to fulfil the demands of the system. He went on to say, “We all need to work hard for that. We were provided with individual programmes. There wasn’t any room for any compromise. We have to stay fit if we are to have a chance of making it to the team. And by saying ‘staying fit,’ I mean attaining top international fitness standards.” He continued, “In his style of play, Stimac ensures that the whole team fights together. We defend together, and we attack together.”

The squad has been putting in the hours in Mumbai and the training camp continues. Every player will be giving it their all to have a chance of making it to the final 23-man squad for the tournament. With not too much time left before the team leaves for Ahmedabad, Soosairaj will surely want to capitalise on the opportunity once again.

Lastly, he said, “Last year, I watched it on television from my home. But this time it's different. I am really excited to be a part of the camp ahead of the tournament. I shall most certainly give it my all if I'm picked.”

India is set to take on Syria, Tajikistan and North Korea between the 7th and 19th of July. Stimac has repeatedly emphasised that getting the players to play in his style is the main objective of the tournament. Results aren’t that important as the team is undergoing a transition phase. This will be the first time the Croat sees his side play on home soil. With the crowd on their side, it will act as extra motivation for the Men in Blue to put on a show. 

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