Debutants revel in King's Cup outing

Igor Stimac's first game in charge of the Indian team saw him hand six players debuts during the 1-3 loss to Curacao in the King's Cup, in Buriram, on Wednesday.

Brandon Fernandes had a strong domestic season that saw him win the Super Cup with FC Goa.   -  AIFF

Igor Stimac's first game in charge of the Indian team saw him hand six players debuts during the 1-3 loss to Curacao in the King's Cup, in Buriram, on Wednesday.

Defender Rahul Bheke, who struck the winner for Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League final in March, was named in the starting line-up and expressed his delight at finally "getting to the day he was working for.”

READ | India falls prey to Curacao in Igor Stimac's first test

"Walking onto the pitch with the team is the best feeling and I enjoyed every moment of it. This was the day I had been working for all these years. I'm glad my wish finally came true," said Bheke.

“Now that I have got the chance, I want to keep improving and moving towards becoming the kind of player the coach wants me to," he added.

Along with Bheke was Brandon Fernandes, who was part of the FC Goa side that won the Super Cup this season. "I had tears in my eyes singing the national anthem. It's a special moment in my life about which I've been dreaming forever (sic)," he remarked.

Midfielder Raynier Fernandes, who came on at half-time, paid tribute to his late father. "I want to dedicate this moment to my dad. He's not there anymore and this was the only thing that was left for him to see. I was thinking about him when I was out on the pitch and played for him," he said.

Raynier Fernandes   -  AIFF


India's displayed an enterprising attacking style of play in the second half, where the side looked to keep the ball and build from the back. Two players who played a key role in the display were midfielders Sahal Abdul Samad and Amarjit Singh Kiyam.

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Sahal said: "Playing under this coach has been really great. We're playing a variety of styles now -- keeping the ball and passing. We look to play forward now too and build moves."

Talking about the feeling of taking his India cap, the 22-year old said that "this is just the beginning.”

"There were a few nerves at the start. It was certainly a proud moment. I feel this is just the beginning and from here, I want to keep playing for the national team and keep improving."

Sahal Abdul Samad put up a terrific display on debut.   -  AIFF


Amarjit Singh, who captained the Indian side at the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, also a crucial member for the Indian Arrows over the last two seasons of the I-League, expressed his delight in playing for the senior team.

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"I was really excited. There were butterflies in my stomach. It has always been a dream to play for the senior team and I am very happy," he said.

Amarjit Singh Kiyam makes his debut for India.   -  AIFF


Former Chennai City FC and Jamshedpur FC man Michael Soosairaj said playing for India was a dream he shared with his brother Michael Regin.

"I want to thank my brother. I remember he used to keep telling me that you will play for India one day. I'm glad I could make our dream come true," he said.

"I remember the coach suddenly asking me to warm up, go in and play aggressively. I was calm. In the first half, things did not go as planned but in the second, we were much better. The changes worked and we made attacks and had our chances," he added.

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