Indian football team reach Yangon for AFC Challenge Cup

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 26, 2013 08:50 hrs

Yangon, Feb 26 (IANS) The Indian national football team reached Yangon Tuesday morning for the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup which kicks off March 2.

The squad left Mumbai late Monday evening, and landed early morning at the Yangon International Airport here via Singapore.

India are the first team from their group to arrive here. Besides hosts Myanmar, Chinese Taipei and Guam are the other teams in the group.

However, keeping in mind Churchill Brothers' and East Bengal's commitments in the AFC Cup, the squad would be assembling in three batches.

The four players from Churchill Brothers - Sandip Nandy, Denzil Franco, Lenny Rodrigues and Sunil Chhetri - would be joining the squad Wednesday while the three East Bengal players - Raju Gaikwad, Mehtab Hossain and Robin Singh - would be landing in Myanmar Thursday.

"It feels nice to land in Myanmar for the AFC Challenge Cup. It's a tricky group and all the teams are very competitive ones," national coach Wim Koevermans said.

"This is a very important tournament for us in fact the most important. We need to play to our potential. The boys are in good shape," winger Clifford Miranda stressed.

All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year Syed Rahim Nabi stays confident the squad will rise to the occasion.

"We need to keep our faith in ourselves. We need to back ourselves both on and off the field. We need to behave as a team," Nabi said.

Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua who made a comeback into the squad after almost a year said the tournament would be a challenging one.

"We have played Myanmar and Chinese Taipei in the recent past and they are very dangerous opponents. Guam would also put up a tough challenge. I'm happy and relieved that my hard work has paid off. Every player wants to be a part of the national squad. This is a new beginning for me. I will have to work harder and wait for my chance," Lalpekhlua said.

Pailan Arrows defender Shouvik Ghosh maintained the Camp in Pune was a fruitful one.

"It was a learning curve for me. The intensity of international football is what makes a player mature. The coach did have some specific instructions for me and I'm improving as a player with his suggestions."

India play Chinese Taipei in their first match March 2.

The 23-member squad is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Subrata Paul (Prayag United), Sandip Nandy (Churchill Brothers), Karanjit Singh (Salgaocar SC).

Defenders: Nirmal Chhetri, Syed Rahim Nabi (both from Mohun Bagan), Denzil Franco (Churchill Brothers), Gouramangi Singh (Prayag United), Rowilson Rodrigues (Dempo SC), Shouvik Ghosh (Pailan Arrows), Raju Gaikwad (East Bengal), Gurjinder Singh (Pune FC).

Midfielders: Lenny Rodrigues (Churchill Brothers), Lalkamal Bhowmick, C.K. Vineet (both from Prayag United), Arata Izumi (Pune FC), Mehtab Hossain (East Bengal), Francisco Fernandes (Salgaocar SC), Alwyn George (Pailan Arrows), Jewel Raja Shaikh (Mohun Bagan), Clifford Miranda (Dempo SC).

Forwards: Sunil Chhetri (Churchill Brothers), Robin Singh (East Bengal), Jeje Lalpekhlua (Pune FC).

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