Visa trouble ahead of India’s football friendly against Bahrain

Seven Indian players are set to reach Bahrain only a few hours before the first of two friendlies after non-issuance of visas meant they had to stay behind in Mumbai. While it was unclear why the visas were not issued initially, the matter was resolved as players eventually received their documents on Monday.

Head coach Igor Stimac revealed the issue in the pre-match press conference and also said that the applications for the documents were sent two months earlier. Goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, defenders Chinglensana Singh and Akash Mishra and midfielders Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes, Aniket Yadav and Bipin Singh were the seven players who had to stay behind.

“We faced some difficulties in our travel. The first bunch of players are here, but we’re still facing some problems with seven players still in Mumbai. We’re still waiting for the visas which we applied for two months ago, ”Stimac said on Tuesday.

“Hopefully till noon today, they’ll get permission to fly and join the team tonight. Otherwise, we cannot be optimistic that these players will be involved in the game, which makes things difficult.

“To be honest, in such circumstances, I don’t know what I’m going to try because I have to see how many players I’m going to have here at the end of the day, and then try to manage to put the best 11 in the team and try a few things, ”he said.

Bahrain test

Visa hiccups notwithstanding, the Bahrain friendly offers a stern test to Indian players – most of whom have been training at the national camp in Pune – and the rest returning from the Indian Super League playoffs. The Bahrain friendly will also be the first time that the Indians face them in three years – the last time being when the Gulf nation knocked the Blue Tigers out of the Asian Cup with a last-gasp penalty.

After Indian hopes got a boost with a 4-1 win over Thailand and a spirited performance, even though it was in a 0-2 loss against the United Arab Emirates, the Bahrain game was one that tethered to hope until the final moments. One of India’s senior players in that match, and the current captain in the absence of Sunil Chhetri for these two friendlies, was Sandesh Jhingan. The ATK Mohun Bagan defender was also part of the press conference and reminisced about that game.

“I think the last game against Bahrain was a heart-breaking one for every Indian, but that’s football. For me, I should have done more that day. But now that we are facing them again, we will do our best and get better for sure, ”said Jhingan. Since then, India have played a total of only 18 national team games in three years – five of which were at the SAFF Cup with a second-string team.

Wednesday’s game against Bahrain offers Stimac the chance to test players who have done well in the Indian Super League this season. “The just-concluded season was extremely exciting and we have seen some new faces doing well in the ISL, which has given us optimism. I am going to give a chance to those boys and check how they can do at the international level.

“But, the pace of ISL is far below the pace of international football. Sometimes we are impressed with some players in ISL, but when they come to international matches there is nothing they can do. We have to be quite sure about their quality at the international matches, ”said Stimac.

No change between the sticks

Stimac also made it clear that Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was set to keep his position as goalkeeper. Sandhu, India’s long-time custodian, had a dismal season with Bengaluru FC in the ISL, keeping only three clean sheets in 15 matches.

“Gurpreet is, by me and our staff, the best goalkeeper we have in the country. I’m not in favor of changing this position often or without any need. We don’t have many games, and this position I’m always trying to keep stable, ”said Stimac.

A plausible reason to give Sandhu a rest could also be the form of Kerala Blasters goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Gill. The 21-year-old Indian Arrows product made over 40 saves this season in the ISL in 19 appearances and has taken the spot of India’s third-choice goalkeeper from Dheeraj Singh, who endured a poor season for FC Goa.


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