New Zealand football coach Fritz Schmid on Tuesday dubbed India lying somewhere between “a sleeping giant and a rising competitor“. Schmid is here with his team to take part in the Hero Intercontinental Cup, starting June 2.

“I appreciate the opportunity to play in the hero Intercontinental Cup, as for countries like us, it provides an excellent option to play against three potential strong opponents and have a look at players who will take us forward for the future,” he said.

Asked what impression he has about football in India, he sounded optimistic. “India is somewhere between a sleeping giant and a rising competitor. It’s a big country and from my activity back in the Asian Football Confederation, I realised there was a lot of activity at the top level with their professional league."

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“At the same time, they were trying to put things together for grassroots and development aspects. I followed very closely their activities around the FIFA U-17 World Cup. There are a lot of efforts going on and it’s very important for them to put the pieces together to find their position, in terms of popularity of the sport in direct comparison to cricket.”

He has been following the Indian team’s progress and is aware of the challenges that await his team. “India has qualified for the AFC Asian Cup and it’s a big year for Indian Football. It’s understandable that they are preparing for the Continental Championships, while we are building up for a new campaign."

“I know Stephen Constantine is a very experienced coach who has been successful in many different countries. I expect them to be really prepared, especially after the two weeks of preparatory camp in Mumbai. They will be playing at home and it will be a tough challenge for us.”