An interesting fare in store

Playing for their clubs in the I-League, the Indian stars had been bitter rivals the last few days. On Tuesday, on the eve of India’s international football friendly against Palestine, the home coach Wim Koevermans found a wonderful way to foster a sense of unity among the divided minds.

Koevermans asked the team’s six newcomers to step forward and sing the National Anthem. Soon, the others joined in.

“You belong to the national team. The pride and passion of representing your country is what you have to feel for yourselves,” Koevermans, a former Dutch international who played alongside stars Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard many years ago, told them. “But at the same time, you need to feel the tempo of international football. It’s played at very high intensity.”

After guiding the Indian team to the Nehru Cup victory a few months ago, Koevermans has a new goal now: To raise India’s world ranking, which is at a dismal 166.

Chance to get points

The Nehru Cup did not come with any world-ranking points but Wednesday’s friendly, which is being played on a FIFA date, offers India a nice chance to pick up a few valuable ones.

Palestine, ranked 152, has been talking about the match being a game between friends but Koevermans was quick to point out that the rival team was a powerful one.

“We in India treat our opponent with a lot of respect and we know we’ll have to work hard to get good results,” he said.

“We play a strong team and hopefully we’ll also have a good crowd. The fans are great in India. We should have a great match and we will try to win.”

Despite Palestine claiming that it has come without many of its professional stars, Koevermans said, “their nine best players from the West Asia Cup in December are here. Of course, there will be lot of new players but it’s the same with us. That is always what you have in international football, sometimes you have new players and you cannot prepare for that.”

‘Fierce fighters’

Palestine is a young bunch but the problems back home — even going to the West Bank for the professional league there is a problem for players because of the Israeli checkpoints — should see them emerge as a tough side. Well, these ‘friends’ could be fierce fighters.

“If you have a game at 5 p.m., you need to leave from Ramallah at 10 a.m. because you need five or six hours to Nablos for should be just one hour,” said Abdalah Alfara, the team’s Head of Delegation.

Both the teams will use the game to prepare for the AFC Challenge which begins in March. The match has a 6.30 p.m. kick-off and will be telecast live on Ten Action.

The teams (from):

India: Subrata Pal, Sandip Nandy, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury (all goalkeepers); Nirmal Chhetri, Gouramangi Singh, Shouvik Ghosh, Syed Rahim Nabi, Gurjinder Kumar, Raju Gaikwad, Denzil Franco; Lenny Rodrigues, Lalkamal Bhowmick, Arata Izumi, Mehtab Hossain, Francis Fernandes, Joaquim Abranches, Alwyn George, Jewel Raja, Clifford Miranda, C.K. Vineeth; Sunil Chhetri, Manandeep Singh and Sushil Kumar Singh.

Palestine: Tawfiq Abuhammad, Mohammed Shabhir (both goalkeepers), Raed Fares, Nadim Baraghtha, Khader Abu Hammad, Iyad Gharqoud, Mousa Abu Jazar, Abdal Latif Albahdari, Khaled Mahdi, Mali Kaware, Ashraf Alfaawaghra, Husam Abusah, Mahmoud Shaikhqasem, Khaled Salem. Abdalrahim Kabiya, Abdul Hamid Abu Habib and Ahmed Salama.

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