A lot has changed in Indian football, stresses Prasanta Banerjee

Prasanta, who was part of the Indian squad in the 1984 Asian Cup, talks at length about how things have changed in Indian football, the current team, the exposure trips, UAE’s home advantage in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

Prasanta Banerjee feels India football has made good progress over the years.   -  Prashant Nakwe

During his playing days, Prasanta Banerjee could wreak havoc with his magical left foot while playing for Mohun Bagan and the national side. The superstar of the 80s feels the exposure tours the Indian national teams are having across all age groups is sure to help Indian football in the right manner. In a freewheeling interview, Prasanta, who was part of the Indian squad in the 1984 Asian Cup, talks at length about how things have changed in Indian football, the current team, the exposure trips, UAE’s home advantage in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and much more. 

EXCERPTS:

Could you recall some of your memories from the campaign back in 1984?

More than the memories it’s about preparation which is important for big tournaments. Back then, a lot of players from the Kolkata clubs used to play in the national team. Hence, the Calcutta Football League was a huge deal for all of us. Due to this, we had to shorten our camp ahead of the 1984 AFC Asian Cup.

This time India are the first team to land in UAE.

A lot of things have changed in Indian football, and for good. It’s nice to see the guys in the current national team getting the opportunity to prepare for a big tournament like this. They are going in for long training camps where they can work on different aspects of their game.

File image of Prasanta Banerjee PHOTO: AIFF MEDIA

 

How are foreign exposure trips helping the current national side?

The more these players will play together, their chemistry will increase. The coach will be better able to assess their strengths and weakness, and plan his tactics accordingly. To add to that, even if one of the top players is not able to play, the fringe players know exactly what their role is. It’s up to the coach to mix things up.

Another thing that has helped this side is that they have played a lot of matches abroad. So these guys are used to playing in foreign conditions. These are big factors, especially during big tournaments.

India is set to play host UAE in the group stage. How difficult will it be?

There is always a big advantage for the home team. It’s on their pitch and the weather conditions are never alien to them. Not to forget the home support. Despite that, I believe that our Indian players are now used to playing in different conditions. So that should not be much of an issue for them. A lot of guys have played with a lot of foreigners in the ISL -- so they get to learn a lot from these guys.

How big an achievement would it be for India to qualify for the round of 16 or the quarterfinals?

It would be a great achievement if we can qualify for the round of 16 and beyond. A lot of good is already happening in Indian football, and we can already see that in the results that the junior teams are bringing us.

What is more important is that the juniors should use the experience of the exposure tours. If the seniors can get a good result in UAE it will inspire a lot of juniors to come forward, and take up the mantle a few years down the line.

What would be your message to the boys ahead of this big campaign?

Play with all your heart. Do not think of winning or losing – just give everything you have. You need to play all the matches as if it’s the last 90 minutes of your life. You’ll get 90 minutes to show the world what you are. We are cheering for you.