The Indian football team may have a lacklustre record at the AFC Asian Cup, but defender Subhasish Bose insists it has a realistic chance of progressing to the second round in the 2019 edition in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In the 16 AFC Asian Cup competitions since its inception in 1956, India has qualified for the finals just four times. The team crashed out in the first-round in 1984 and 2011, the last two times it made it to the event. All eyes will, therefore, be on Sunil Chhetri & Co. next year, as the team fights it out with Thailand, Bahrain and UAE in the group stages.
In a media interaction here, Bose, who is training alongside India’s U-23 team here, looked ahead to the tourney.
“We have to keep crossing one hurdle at a time. We will have to play well; we can take no team lightly,” he said, adding, “If we work hard, we will have the chance the move to the second round.”
In 2011, India had crashed out in the first round with defeats in all three of its group matches. Bose, however, pointed to the changes in Indian football since that debacle to suggest that the prospects are much better this time.
“[Since 2011,] the coach has changed, [and players, too]. We have adapted well to modern standards. Players have also improved, having played in leagues like the [Indian Super League] and the I-League. With foreigners having also come on board, we have improved our standards of football. We can do better this time,” he reasoned.
Bose also has his eyes focussed on the upcoming SAFF championship, which begins next month. “[Our] coach is making us practise hard. We’re giving our 100 per cent on the ground. SAFF Cup is very important for us; it is a challenge for us [and] we will try to do well,” he added.
The 22-year-old began his career with Sporting Goa in the I-League in 2015-16 before being picked to represent Mohun Bagan. It was an alliance that improved his game significantly, he admitted.
“It was during my tenure with Mohun Bagan that people came to know of me and my footballing standards improved. Having played with the likes of Anas [Ekathodika] and Pritam [Kotal], I improved,” he noted.
But a bigger leap was to follow. After he signed up with Bengaluru FC for the ISL for the 2017-18 season, he found enhanced professional standards as well as the value of foreign experience.
“ISL is attracting good coaches, such as our coach Albert Roca from Barcelona. We learnt a lot from Roca; there were many good players in our team as well. Last year, when I played for Bengaluru, there were the likes of Miku and Dimas [Delgado], who had arrived having played a lot of matches in the La Liga. We learnt to incorporate better food habits as well. There were Indian players from whom we learnt as well, such as Sunil Chhetri. One can learn a lot from Sunil just by observing him,” he said.
The fruitful season ended in disappointment at the final hurdle, though. Bose confessed he was in tears at the end of the final — a 3-2 loss to Chennaiyin FC at home.
This season, Bose will ply his trade for Mumbai City FC, a move he terms as “a good opportunity.”
“I felt if I make this career move, it will help me professionally,” he said. “[It’s] a new club [for me], with a new coach, new team-mates, so it will be a challenge [as it normally is in such scenarios]. I will have to adjust with everyone, and perform well for the team,” he added.
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