Kolkata, May 28 (PTI) Livid with the strict quarantine arrangements in Qatar, Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac on Friday said their preparation is 'far from being ideal' for the upcoming World Cup and Asian Cup Qualifiers.
Already out of contention for a World Cup berth, India will face Asian champions Qatar on June 3 before taking on Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15) in their remaining group E matches, with an aim to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
The Sunil Chhetri-led Blue Tigers, who were originally slated to reach Qatar on May 30, advanced their arrival to May 19. As per the strict quarantine, they are not allowed to train in gym, use the meeting hall or even eat together.
'If I knew that everything will be like it is today, I would never accept to be honest. We could organise such games in such way in India also. At the end we lost possibility of playing two home games,' Stimac told reporters during a virtual interaction.
'Here we are now, not in great conditions. This is far away from a proper preparation for the World Cup qualifiers, but it is what it is. This is not a proper football work which needs to be obtained before the World Cup qualifiers.' Frustrated with the arrangements, Stimac continued: 'I'm well aware that Qatar is future host of the World Cup, and we all know about the great facilities for football teams.
'But, as a coach, personally I expected a lot more from this organisation. I know that we changed all our plans due to the pandemic. I say a big thank you to Qatar government for allowing us to come over here.' Under the current circumstances, the Indian players are forced to practice on the corridor, in front of their respective rooms, the 53-year-old Croatian World Cupper said.
'I didn't expect this. I expected as a coach that we're going to have a possibility of using the gym.
'We are doing our morning sessions in the hall in front of our rooms, and our players are eating delivery food, which is left in front of our rooms.
'That's not proper preparation for a football players, I'm quite sure that the Qatari team is not in the same position.' Stimac said they are forced to go through all this despite being tested COVID-19 negative three times.
'We were tested three times already, all the tests are negative. Why we don't have a proper meeting hall, so we can discuss and analyse our opponents, why we don't have a possibility of spending more time together, eating together.
'Instead of that we have one chance going out in the evenings for the training session, that's all.' With India reeling under a second wave of the pandemic, most of the players, barring the ones from Bengaluru FC and FC Goa who were involved in the AFC club tournaments, have not played any match since the ISL got over earlier this year.
But Stimac is hopeful that they would make the Asian Cup. Currently placed third with three points, India still have a bright chance to make the continental showpiece even if they finish last in their group.
'I'm very confident that at the end of this journey, we will be in the AFC Cup. I know that our actual situation at the moment is far from ideal. The Qatar team is fully prepared.
'The Bangladesh side was playing in their league until recently. They will be much better prepared. 23 out of 28 players in the Afghanistan side are playing in Europe or in the United States, so they will be in full swing.
'On the other hand, you know the situation of our team. But what I can promise to all of you we're going to give everything we have at the moment, playing these games.
'Our players will leave each atom of energy on the field, will do everything to get as many points as possible in these matches to qualify for the for the AFC Asian Cup. We can judge ourselves after that.' Stimac said they are eying a third-place finish in the group to make the cut.
'We will try everything to finish third but if it's not possible, from whichever position we start further, we're going to do everything and qualify for the AFC cup.' The Indian team is bolstered by the return of their talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri who missed the two international friendlies in March due to COVID-19.
'Having Sunil Chhetri back is great for all of us. But we also need to be clever here, because there are three games in few days, so I need to be careful in where I use him.' The former Croatian coach's contract is up for renewal having served a two-year tenure already.
'I'm not thinking about that (renewal). I'm fully concentrated on the job I need to do here. Everybody knows that in last 12 months we didn't have any action.' PTI TAP AH AH