You have been a part of India’s Nehru Cup winning squad in the past. How do you rate this side from Cameroon?
They are a very strong side. In fact, among all the teams that have played the Nehru Cup since 2007, this is the most capable side. They are a class side.
Can you elaborate a bit more.
I have been fortunate enough to play against Japan, Australia, South Korea donning the National jersey and I can tell you they are among the strongest teams I have played against.
What’s your assessment of India’s performance against Cameroon in the last league match?
I’m very proud of the manner we played. We came back strongly after conceding an early goal. They didn’t have many shots at our goal except for the penalty and the last minute chance. Instead, we created more openings and should have scored.
Have you had any word with Bhaichung Bhutia?
Not specifically. We speak almost every alternate day and it’s not just me; it’s the entire team who are in touch with him. He is very involved with the team. And it’s not Bhaichung alone but even Rennedy Singh and others. I’m sure they are following us and want us to win as much we want to win.
Compare the last two Nehru Cup triumphs with this edition.
The only difference stays that we haven’t won this edition as yet. But the similarity stays we want to win. It’s not just about the 11 players on the field but the entire bench, the support staff and the fans.
Can India beat Cameroon?
Every team takes the field a sole aim to win. But it’s not that easy every time. To win against Cameroon, we need a concerted team effort on the field. We need to play to our potential and not bother about other aspects. We need to play like a team possessed.
Is there any added responsibility as a Captain?
Maybe yes; maybe no! It’s about eleven players playing together at the same time on the field. As a Captain, it feels good to see the team playing so well. Off the field, it’s nice to see all gelling well and moving as an unit – from the breakfast table to the field to the pool to the practice sessions to everywhere. Everyone stays committed to the task ahead. The team is certainly not about one single individual with the armband. It’s a team, a football team.
By Nilanjan Datta,
AIFF Media Team