India arrive in Yangon for AFC Cup
By Nilanjan Datta, Yangon, Feb 26 : The Indian Senior National Team reached Yangon, Myanmar on Tuesday (February 26) morning for the forthcoming AFC Challenge Cup 2014 which kicks-off on March 2.
The squad which left Mumbai late on Monday evening landed early morning at the Yangon International Airport via Singapore.
The boys were greeted by a temperature of 34 degrees even as the forecast predicted a sharp rise in temperature in the coming days. India are the first team from the Group to have arrived in Yangon. Besides hosts Myanmar, Chinese Taipei and Guam are the other teams in the Group.
However, keeping in mind Churchill Brothers' and East Bengal's commitments in the AFC Cup, the squad would be assembling in three batches.
The four players from Churchill Brothers - Sandip Nandy, Denzil Franco, Lenny Rodrigues and Sunil Chhetri would be joining the squad on Wednesday (February 27) while the three East Bengal players - Raju Gaikwad, Mehtab Hossain and Robin Singh would be landing in Myanmar the next day (February 28).
"It feels nice to land in Myanmar for the AFC Challenge Cup 2014. It's a tricky Group and all the teams are very competitive ones," National Coach Wim Koevermans, said.
"This is a very important tournament for us -- in fact, the most important," winger Clifford Miranda stressed. "We need to play to our potential. The boys are in good shape," he added.
AIFF Player-of-the-Year Syed Rahim Nabi stays confident the squad will rise to the occasion.
"We need to keep our faith in ourselves. We need to back ourselves both on and off the field. We need to behave as a team," Nabi, who was voted the Player-of-the-Year by all I-League Club Coaches, echoed.
Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua who made a comeback into the National squad after almost a year said the tournament would be a "challenging one."
"We have played Myanmar and Chinese Taipei in the recent past and they are very dangerous opponents. Guam would also put up a tough challenge," Lalpekhlua, pronounced.
"I'm happy and relieved that my hard work has paid off. Every player wants to be a part of the National squad. This is a new beginning for me. I will have to work harder and wait for my chance," he quipped.
Pailan Arrows defender Shouvik Ghosh maintained the Camp in Pune was a "fruitful one."
"It was a learning curve for me. The intensity of International Football is what makes a player mature. The Coach did have some specific instructions for me and I'm improving as a player with his suggestions."
India play Chinese Taipei in their first match on March 2, 2013.
The 23-member list is as follows:
GOALKEEPERS: Subrata Paul (Prayag United), Sandip Nandy (Churchill Brothers), Karanjit Singh (Salgaocar SC).
DEFENDERS: Nirmal Chhetri, Syed Rahim Nabi (both from Mohun Bagan), Denzil Franco (Churchill Brothers), Gouramangi Singh (Prayag United), Rowilson Rodrigues (Dempo SC), Shouvik Ghosh (Pailan Arrows), Raju Gaikwad (East Bengal), Gurjinder Singh (Pune FC).
MIDFIELDERS: Lenny Rodrigues (Churchill Brothers), Lalkamal Bhowmick, CK Vineet (both from Prayag United), Arata Izumi (Pune FC), Mehtab Hossain (East Bengal), Francisco Fernandes (Salgaocar SC), Alwyn George (Pailan Arrows), Jewel Raja Shaikh (Mohun Bagan), Clifford Miranda (Dempo SC).
FORWARDS: Sunil Chhetri (Churchill Brothers) Robin Singh (East Bengal), Jeje Lalpekhlua (Pune FC).
(Image courtesy: AIFF Media) --IBNS