'I see last few months as an education': Udanta Singh on return to India squad for SAFF Championship | Football News - Hindustan Times
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'I see last few months as an education': Udanta Singh on return to India squad for SAFF Championship

ByKaran Prashant Saxena
Oct 03, 2021 12:54 PM IST

Udanta has struggled with his form for the past several months, even while playing for Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League last season. But the Indian forward believes he has to fight for his spot in the team, and added that he sees the past few months as a learning experience for himself.

The stage is set for theIndian football team to face off against Bangladesh in their first match of the prestigious SAFF Championship in the Maldives. The regional tournament kicked off on October 1st, and India will face their neighbours in their first game into the contest on Monday.

Udanta Singh in training.(AIFF)
Udanta Singh in training.(AIFF)

Ahead of the match, India winger Udanta Singh, who has made a return to the squad after missing the friendlies against UAE and Oman in March, and then against Nepal in August, spoke to Hindustan Times, and explained his thought process on making a return to the side.

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Udanta has struggled with his form for the past several months, even while playing for Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League last season. But the Indian forward believes he has to fight for his spot in the team, and added that he sees the past few months as a learning experience for himself.

Excerpt:

Q1) Udanta, you have returned to the squad after missing the friendlies against Oman, UAE, and also against Nepal. Do you feel like you have a point to prove at SAFF to cement your place in the squad?

“Every player has a point to prove in every match – be it for your club or the country. The job of a player is to understand his role and stick to the job entrusted to him by the coach. I will have to fight for my place in the first XI, like everyone in the squad including our captain Sunil-bhai (Chhetri). I look back at the last few months as an education, and I am looking forward to the SAFF Championship.”

Q2) It has been a tough year for you - form wise. How have you coped with the mental pressure of it all?

“Honestly, there isn’t any mental pressure. To me it’s just a term used by the external media, and fans. You need to get into the mind-set of a player to understand what ‘pressure’ is. The job of a coach is to guide and instruct; the job of a player is to listen, understand and perform. I have been doing it day in and day out at my club, and whenever I have played for my country.”

Q3) India has a stacked squad for SAFF Championship. But would Sandesh Jhingan's absence affect the team's defence line-up with Chinglensana being the only natural center-back in the squad?

“In sports there isn’t any space to complain and cry over what you have, and what you don’t. Obviously if Sandesh-paaji was here, it would have strengthened our squad. But at the same time, there have been able replacements. Our defence line is quite versatile as there are many who can play in various positions – eg, Rahul-bhai (Bheke), Subhashish-bhai (Bose), Pritam-da (Kotal) well equipped to play both as a central defender, and also as wingbacks. Most importantly, they have the experience. You need to remember that this is a team sport, and we need to back each other up.”

Q4) Coach Stimac's possession-based style of football increased the role of midfielders in the team. Do you think it has helped players like Brandon Fernandes and Glan Martins to grow in confidence and become consistent performers?

“Not just them, but everyone. Coach Stimac backs his players and there’s clarity in his thought process. He allows space to the players, allows them to express themselves. Not just Glan and Brandon – we also have Lalengmawia, Suresh, Yasir, Liston – all of whom are kind of newcomers, with a certain Anirudh Thapa becoming more deadly as a player with every given day.”

Q5) Coach Stimac has stressed upon it, but from the players point of view, how important are the SAff Championship games for the Indian football team in preparation for the 3rd round AFC Asian Cup qualifiers next year?

“Every International match is important for us, and here we are speaking about a minimum of 4 matches in 10 days, and possibly another (the final) in the next three days. That’s the kind of schedule which we get in Continental championships, and such events are the true test of character of a team.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Karan Prashant Saxena is a reporter/writer/editor, who specialises in sports. His primary areas of interest include football, Olympics sports, and pro-wrestling. When not working, Karan spends his time reading, travelling, and pondering on the question - What If?

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