Kolkata, Mar 19 (PTI) Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac on Sunday called up Pritam Kotal and Naorem Mahesh Singh to the national camp here in place of Sivasakthi Narayanan and Glan Martins, who are nursing injuries.
India began their camp on Thursday in their preparation for the upcoming Tri-Nation International Football Tournament in Imphal, where they are set to face Myanmar (March 22) and the Kyrgyz Republic (March 28) at the Khuman Lampak Stadium.
"We have had three days of training so far, with the players that were not in the Hero ISL final. The rest joins us today (Sunday), so we will get one training session with them all before travelling to Imphal," said Stimac.
"Most of the players that are now joining us will be exhausted both physically and psychologically, and there’s also the risk of putting too much load on their young shoulders and risking injuries," he said.
Stimac said the team management needs to be very careful and not take risks with the players who had featured in the ISL final on Saturday, including talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri.
"The health of the players is of paramount importance. The players belong to the clubs also, and we should not be irresponsible and send them back with injuries.” The Blue Tigers are just a couple of days away from setting foot in Imphal for the first time, and Stimac is all the more excited at the prospect.
"We are very happy to be going to Imphal. It is part of promoting football in different cities and states in India, and I feel that it is a great step by the federation.
"We hope that this action will further push the government to invest more in infrastructure, so whenever the teams go to Imphal, there’s always top-quality football infrastructure present there," he said.
The 55-year-old is keen to use the two matches as an opportunity to try out different players.
“We have certain players and a certain style of play, and a plan to go ahead. All will get a chance,” he said.
“Going forward, we will start with a pool of 45 players, and then narrow it down to 35, and then concentrate on building the strongest possible team for the Asian Cup." The ultimate aim is to prepare and do well in the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar in January-February next year.
“We need to look at the months that are in front of us, and see how best we can plan things so that the national team can perform at an optimal level," the head coach said.
"If all parties sit together and discuss the best possible way for all stakeholders, and we come to a solution for the best way to utilise the FIFA windows in June, September, October, and November, then Indian football could go a long way,” he said.
"It's time we start taking football seriously in a way that all parties are satisfied.” PTI PDS PDS KHS KHS