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National football camp returns to Kolkata after 15 years

Kolkata: The Indian men’s football team’s preparatory camp kicked off here for the forthcoming international friendlies against Nepal, with 23 of the shortlisted players reporting on Monday. Those competing in the AFC Cup — currently underway in Maldives — for their respective clubs will join the camp once the tournament is over.

This marks the return of the national camp in Kolkata after 15 years with the Indian squad last having camped in the city in 2006 prior to the FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Saudi Arabia.

“It’s a nice feeling for all of us to assemble at the national camp. The primary target is to get ready in our quest to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023. There is a roadmap laid down and we are confident of making it to China in 2023,” midfielder Anirudh Thapa said.

The camp will be conducted under a secured bio-bubble, adhering to the laid down health parameters in wake of the current pandemic situation. All the players and staff have done their RT-PCR tests prior to landing in Kolkata, and the contingent will also be undergoing regular testing during the camp.

“The next few days will be intense and all of us need to be ready to rise to the challenge. With the (World Cup 2022) Qualifiers having ended, the focus has shifted to our qualification to the AFC Asian Cup, and the journey to our qualification has already begun. There cannot be any shortcuts,” defender Rahul Bheke said.

Among the list of 23, Seriton Fernandes, Ashish Rai, Rahul KP and Rahim Ali have been called to a senior national camp for the first time. Players from Bengaluru FC and ATK Kolkata will join the camp after completion of their club engagements in the AFC Cup, currently underway in Maldives.

Pronay Halder who didn’t travel to Maldives for ATK Mohun Bagan’s AFC Cup commitments, and was supposed to join the camp later, has joined his teammates here.

“The national camp is where everyone aspires to be. It’s nice to be back at the camp again. The competition in the camp in recent times has increased manifolds, and it’s no different even this time. There is a new talented bunch which are pushing everyone. We are looking forward to the sessions,” he said.

The campers:

Goalkeepers: Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, Vishal Kaith.

Defenders: Ashish Rai, Seriton Fernandes, Rahul Bheke, Adil Khan, Chinglensana Singh, Narender, Akash Mishra, Mandar Rao Dessai.

Midfielders: Bipin Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Lalengmawia, Glan Martins, Jeakson Singh, Pronay Halder, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Yasir Mohammed, Halicharan Narzary.

Forwards: Rahul KP, Farukh Choudhary, Ishan Pandita, Rahim Ali.

ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC players who will join the camp after their AFC Cup duties are:

Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Ashutosh Mehta, Subhasish Bose.

Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Ashqiue Kuruniyan

Forwards: Liston Colaco, Manvir Singh, Sunil Chhetri.

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