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New Delhi, Sep 15: The India captain expressed concerns about leading an under-prepared team for the Asian Games. Sunil Chhetri stressed the importance of fielding the best possible team despite the challenges the team faces. He clarified that he is not blaming anyone and does not want to criticize anyone. Despite objections from his club coach Simon Grayson, Chhetri’s commitment to representing his country remained intact. Sharing his views from Bengaluru, 39-year-old Chhetri said that he did not want to compromise with the reputation of the team.
Ideally, Chhetri believed that the team should have been in the training camp in China instead of Bengaluru. If this was not possible, he suggested that India should select a team composed of players who were familiar with each other and who had trained and played together, such as Clifford Miranda during the Asian Qualifiers. The under-23 squad or squads led by India head coach Igor Stimac was released by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on 1 August.
Chhetri argued that familiarity among players could compensate for the lack of training at the Asian Games. He pointed out that he has not played with Sumit Rathi or Narendra Gehlot for a long time and it will be challenging for both him and the young defenders.
There appears to be an imbalance in the squad for the Asian Games, with an abundance of midfielders and attackers but a lack of specialist fullbacks and central defenders. India’s opening match against China was scheduled for 19 September. Thirteen of the 22 players initially selected by Stimac were unavailable for selection in the final squad due to their club commitments. It is worth noting that the Asian Games football competition follows age-specific rules, whereby only three players born before January 1, 1999 can be included in the squad. Additionally, it does not generally coincide with the FIFA international window, making it challenging for clubs to release players for international duty.