The Blue Tigers will have to cope with quite a few challenges ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers…
Indian football team is all set to travel to Qatar for their upcoming 2022 World Cup qualifiers but will have to overcome a slew of challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic that is raging across the country.
India are scheduled to play their three remaining World Cup qualifiers, against Qatar (June 3), Afghanistan (June 7) and Bangladesh (June 11), in Qatar. However, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) faces a logistical nightmare before sending the team in time for the competition amid the Covid-19 crisis in India.
The second wave of the Coronavirus has hit India badly, with more than 350,000 new cases being recorded every day. Many parts of the country have gone into lockdown with the national team players all spread out at their respective hometowns.
What is Stimac’s conundrum?
The uncertainty has most affected India head coach Igor Stimac who has been dealt a bad hand by fate with absolutely no time to help prepare the team for the important games coming up.
In fact, sources close to Goal have confirmed that the Croatian has asked those who are fit and ready to play to volunteer from the India probables group. Stimac has also excused those players who are not completely fit or have been affected by Covid-19 themselves or in their family.
It must be noted that several players including Prabir Das are currently down with Covid-19 while ATK Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya recently lost his mother to the pandemic.
Stimac will have to make do with whoever is available. However, his troubles are not limited to the selection of squad. There will be virtually very little time for him to train the squad.
What are the travel regulations that Indian team will have to overcome?
More worryingly, there are restrictions on travellers from India in many countries. In case of Qatar who allow travellers from India, the travellers will have to undergo hard quarantine for a minimum of 10 days.
However, before the team flies out to Qatar, AIFF will have to complete the Visa and other documentation formalities before assembling the squad at one place. With lockdown enforced in parts of the country, it is not an easy task for the Indian FA.
Also, it is mandatory for every member of the travelling squad to have a negative RT-PCR test report, taken within 48 hours of the flight to Qatar.
This is a time-consuming process and added to the 10 days of hard quarantine in Qatar, it could leave the Indian team with only three or four days at most to train before taking on Asian Champions Qatar on June 3.
What will India want to achieve from the World Cup qualifiers?
While India’s chances of qualifying to the next stage of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers are over, it will be important to finish third in the group and seal automatic qialification for the 2023 Asian Cup qualifying third round.
India are currently fourth with three points from five matches. And Igor Stimac has an unenviable task at hand.