Sahal Abdul Samad is enjoying life with the Blue Tigers. He may not have found the net since scoring India’s first goal in the Intercontinental Cup against Mongolia. Yet the Kerala midfielder is always exciting to watch on the pitch. Be it his vision to thread defence-splitting passes or his guile in getting out of tight spaces and losing markers, it is safe to say India plays better with Sahal in it.
His performance is keenly observed, analysed, and rated by many. But Sahal is not a fan of rating his performances: “There is a lot of improvement with every match. So, I am just working on that,” he said ahead of India’s second Group A match against Nepal in the 2023 SAFF Championship.
India will be the clear favourite against Nepal, but Sahal cautioned against taking the Gorkhalis too lightly.
“We have already played against them [Nepal]. We had a video session. They are good; they fight and are fearless, but we are ready for them.”
Trusting coach and change in style of play
Sahal said it helps him a lot knowing that head coach Igor Stimac enjoys his football, adding that there needs to be a symbiotic relationship between players and coaches when it comes to respect and faith.
Throwing light on how Indian football has transformed under Stimac, Sahal said, “It’s a possession game. Keep the ball as much as we can and score the goals. We have a fantastic player who scores goals for us.”
“The coach asks us to change that, and we need to start scoring. Not just Sunil [Chhetri] bhai. Of course, we are happy to have him. It’s been a process, and it can’t be suddenly changed. After four years, we started to see the change in our way of playing, and we are really happy with the way we are going.”
Learning from the best
Chhetri is already 38 years old, but Sahal wants to play with him for “many more years.”
“It has been amazing playing with him. I have learned many things. Not only about football but also professionalism. He is the best example.”
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