Team dinner ahead of Qatar clash instilled great confidence, reveals Jhingan

The Indian national team surprised the football community when they secured a goalless draw against Asian champions Qatar in an away match during the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers in Doha last year. Speaking to the AIFF’s official website, defender Sandesh Jhingan highlighted the importance of a special team dinner that helped improve the morale of the team ahead of their crucial clash.

“When we got on to the bus to go to the restaurant, our frame of mind was still 50-50 – on our 1-2 loss to Oman. It was still playing on our mind. But when we got on the bus to go back to the hotel, everyone had a smile on their face and the determination to succeed against Qatar. There was a complete mood change after the dinner,” Jhingan revealed.

The team dinner was organized by head coach Igor Stimac, and Jhingan believes that the Croats strong words ahead of the game instilled ‘great confidence’ in the players. “Nobody knew that this dinner and speech would have such an impact. That's the power of words for you. At those moments, those words gave us great confidence. When I think of the whole experience now, I feel lucky that I am a part of this highly talented group,” he shared.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who was the skipper in the game against Qatar and made 11 saves in the match, shared his views on the positive influence of Stimac. “All of it – the speech and dinner was timed perfectly. Our coach has played at the highest level and has been coaching for so many years at the top level. He knows how to motivate players and encourage them and picks the right moments to do so. His presence brings a lot of confidence and positivity in the team,” he said.

“Looking back at it now I can say for sure that it (the team dinner) had a very important impact on the whole team. Coming in from the previous match against Oman, we were still upset and angry about that result. But after the team dinner, the tide had completely turned and all of us were now completely focused on the task ahead of us,” the Bengaluru FC custodian added.

Adil Khan, who featured in the loss to Oman before playing against Qatar, felt that the dinner strengthened the team bond, he said, “The result against Oman was pinching everyone. But the team dinner helped us refresh ourselves. Most importantly the bond between the players grew even stronger. It was Pritam's (Kotal) birthday as well – we cut a cake for him. All this really helped us know each other better, increased communication between junior and senior players, and made our bond stronger.”

He also hailed the team’s character since the result against Qatar silenced several doubters who had tipped the Blue Tigers to suffer a heavy defeat. "When we travelled to Qatar people were saying we will lose heavily. However, we proved everyone wrong and showed our capability and strength. Each and every player showed great character. After the game we thought that we have the strength to compete against the best. We have to play together, follow the game plan and execute it correctly,” Adil said.

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