Shabbir Ali: ‘We will know our strengths by playing stronger oppositions’

AIFF is hosting a quadrangular tournament — the Intercontinental Cup — at the Mumbai Football Arena in June.

Shabbir Ali was in Mumbai for the second awards night of the MDFA, held late on Monday night. (File Photo)   -  Sudhakara Jain

Former India star striker Shabbir Ali feels that the national football team could learn to play to its strengths by regularly facing stronger international sides.

All India Football Federation (AIFF) is hosting a quadrangular tournament — the Intercontinental Cup — at the Mumbai Football Arena, here, in June. Apart from the host nation, South Africa, New Zealand and Chinese Taipei will be in the fray.

Asked about the tournament, he said, “I don’t know what will be the result, but we have to play with the stronger oppositions, as well as those who are little below us. In our time also, long back, we lost 1-0 to New Zealand. I am not sure in which year and in which tournament, but we played against them during 1977-1980.”

“We have to play. Since we are playing the Asia Cup, it will be very good that we are playing against stronger opposition, we will come to know about our strengths also,” he quipped.

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Ali was in the city for the second awards night of the Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) held here, late, on Monday night. Defender Sandesh Jhingan had described New Zealand and South Africa as good teams.

Ali, a Dhyan Chand awardee, said, “We must not underestimate India also. Take the example of the ISL (Indian Super League), when the foreign coaches came, they did not know about the Indian players. However, after two years, everybody came to know about the Indian players, because of the coverage and the performance. They have improved to some extent, but they have to perform at the international stage.”

The legendary I.M. Vijayan, MDFA president and Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, former hockey skipper M.M. Somaiya, among others, were present on the occasion, in which the awards in different categories, from U-12 to Elite division, were presented.

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