Chennaiyin 'mentally and physically ready' for AFC Cup away games, says Dhanpal

The Tamil Nadu midfielder also expressed his disappointment over reports that the Chennai Football Association (CFA) senior division league will not be held this year.

Dhanpal missed the entire ISL season due to injury.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Chennaiyin FC (CFC) midfielder Dhanpal Ganesh here on Monday said the team is mentally and physically ready for the away games in the group stage of the AFC Cup.

“You can’t get the kind of (crowd) support you get in a home game for an away game. We've played home games until now, and we are top of the table. Away games are totally different because we are unaccustomed to the climate and the ground condition. We just suddenly arrive, practice for a day, and play the next day. Some teams play on artificial turf, some on natural grass. We have to adapt to these things. However, our team is mentally and physically ready,” Dhanpal said on the sidelines of an event.

He added: “Playing the AFC Cup is no ordinary feat, because you have champions from across Asia. Playing the tournament is in itself a matter of pride for CFC. The first three games have gone well – all were tough teams. As far as I know, the team is set. It’s mainly the coach’s tactics that has helped us get this far.”

Asked if the injuries to foreign players Raphael Augusto and Chris Herd has affected the team, he said: “The team has gotten strong now. It’s obviously difficult without Raphael since it’s almost like the team has never played without him. It’s unlucky he’s got injured. He’ll come back soon. The team is at the top of the table now; so, no issue. The bench strength is good.”

On his comeback from a knee injury and expectation for a National team call-up, the 26-year-old said: “I’ve just come back. I’ve come back quickly because I have the National team in my mind. It’s my dream to regularly play for the National team. I don’t know if I’ll be in the scheme of things now. There’s a new coach coming. The squad (for the King’s Cup) will be announced in 10-20 days. I hope I get named (in the squad).”

'Disappointing news about local league'

With reports emerging that the Chennai Football Association (CFA) senior division league is not to be held this year, Dhanpal expressed his disappointment over it.

He said: “A sad thing is that there’s no local league this year. I don’t know what the issue is. It’s very disappointing and hard to take (digest). I want to say that the local league is very important for us (Tamil Nadu). I came up from there. According to me, if there’s a quality local league in India, it’s the CFA league. It’s very strong. It’s almost like the I-League. I feel sad that it’s not happening this time.

“The local league should definitely be there. It’s only because of the local league, that we get a lot of government job offers. A lot of local players got benefitted by it. If this (the league) stops, definitely football in Tamil Nadu will worsen. It will be good if they (the authorities) do something about it.”