Local boys Pritam Kotal and Subhasish Bose are thrilled at the prospect of playing before the home crowd when the Indian football team takes the field in its AFC Asian Cup final qualifying round matches at the Salt Lake Stadium from June 8.

“Kolkata is the Mecca of Indian football. So many clubs have dedicated fans here and it’s great that they will all come together to cheer for India,” said Subhasish, in a video interview posted on the All India Football Federation (AIFF) portal.

As the Indian team will play in the country after three years, Pritam looked forward to enjoying the home advantage during the host's Group-D matches against Cambodia (June 8), Afghanistan (June 11) and Hong Kong (June 14).

“We have not played in front of our fans for a long time due to Covid. I would like to encourage the fans to come and support us,” said Pritam.

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“It’s crucial for us as a nation to qualify for the Asian Cup and all of us in the team are completely focused on that. We need to take it match by match.

“All the teams are capable of defeating each other in this group and it will be very tight. We need to make sure that we will do all the positive things on and off the ground and come out with the (desired) results.”

Subhasish recalled the last edition of the Asian Cup in 2019, when the Blue Tigers played in front of packed stands in the UAE.

“So many Indian fans had come to the ground there. We could not make it to the knockouts. We would love to go one better in the next edition. But first, we need to qualify,” Subhasish said.