Monday, 30th October 2017

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‘World-class’ Chhetri worries Bangladesh

He is on a short vacation to Britain to be with his family before returning to Dhaka for the national camp, which begins on September 25

By Angshuman Roy in Calcutta
  • Published 15.09.19, 2:31 AM
  • Updated 15.09.19, 2:31 AM
  • 3 mins read
Bangladesh coach Jamie Day. Picture courtesy Bangladesh Football Federation

Sunil Chhetri.

That’s the name working overtime on the minds of Bangladesh national team coach Jamie Day and his assistant Mohammad Masud Parvez Kaisar. Bangladesh play India in a World Cup qualifier on October 15 at the Salt Lake Stadium.

“We know Chhetri will be a threat,” Day told The Telegraph from Kent.

He is on a short vacation to Britain to be with his family before returning to Dhaka for the national camp, which begins on September 25.

“We have to mark him closely. Having said that, everyone in the Indian team will be a threat to us,” Day added.

Kaisar, a close friend of former India international Syed Rahim Nabi, said Chhetri is the man who has the ability to make something out of nothing. “He is a world-class player. We in Bangladesh hold him in high esteem.

“You know, Bangladesh will be very lucky if we get a player of Chhetri’s calibre. We had a very good striker in Alfaz Ahmed. But after he retired, we are still searching for one,” Kaisar said from Dhaka.

According to Day, who played for Arsenal briefly, the match against India would obviously be very tough for Bangladesh.

“It will be a very tough game for us. India are 79 places above us in the Fifa rankings and have progressed really well in the last few years,” Day said.

According to Day, India’s goalless match against Asian champions Qatar proved anything is possible in football. “They did extremely well against Qatar. We will have to play very well to get a positive result. As India showed in Doha, anything is possible in football.”

Bangaldesh host Qatar on October 10 before travelling to Calcutta. “The Qatar match will be a big test for us,” Kaisar said.

Bangaldesh lost their qualifier against Afghanistan 0-1 in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. The Briton, who turned 40 on Friday, took a lot of positives from that match.

“We played very well and were unlucky not to get something from the match. We were organised and maintained a good shape throughout. What we need is to be better on the ball against teams who are stronger than us.

“Overall, we are in a positive mood,” he said.

Kaisar, meanwhile, said Indian football has improved by leaps and bounds in the last five years. “Look, there was a time when Bangladesh was on a par with India if not better. But slowly, we started lagging behind.

“India’s age-group teams started playing abroad against stronger teams and when they graduated to the senior team, they were already mentally strong. The ISL also played a big role in making Indian players technically strong.

“Agreed, most of the well-known foreign players who played in the ISL were past their prime, but interacting with them helped the Indians to grow,” he said.

“The Indians defend very well and when they lose the ball, they give their all to win it back. These are the things I have noticed amongst most of the present-day Indian footballers. It’s something which we didn’t see, say five years back,” Kaisar added.

Both Day and Kaisar refused to believe there’s no future for football in Bangladesh. “It’s wrong. Football is (still) very popular in Bangladesh.

“Only thing they need now is big investment in the national league and youth development. But it’s true we are playing catch up with India,” Day, who is in charge of the national and the under-23 teams since May 2018, said.

“Football has a future in the country. The problem is, it has become too Dhaka-centric. So, we are not being able to tap enough talent from the districts where there is still a huge following. Our national association (Bangladesh Football Federation) is trying its best to revive football,” he said.

Abahani Limited Dhaka performed brilliantly in the AFC Cup and Kaisar believes it’s a huge boost for Bangladesh football. “It’s a big plus. People are discussing about Abahani on the streets of Dhaka,” he said.