‘Huge motivation’ and ‘priceless education’ was how some of the players of the Indian football team described their experience from the 45-day tour to Dubai and Barcelona in preparation for the Nehru Cup to be held here from August 19.
The 34-member team returned here on Friday after an impressive display during the Nou Camp in FC Barcelona. The team played four practice matches against third-division clubs and won two and drew two, much to the delight of coach Bob Houghton.
Skipper Baichung Bhutia was happy with the overall learning process. “It was a nice trip and we gained in all areas of the game. We trained hard and concentrated on fitness. Our opponents were quite tough.”
In Bhutia’s opinion, the tour was unique in many ways. “An important thing we achieved was that every player got to play at some stage of the tour. It was hugely motivating for us all. Personally, I have not seen such facilities. We really trained in top class conditions.”
Praising his colleagues, Bhutia said, “On and off the field we spent lot of time together and it will go a long way in helping us understand each other better. This camaraderie is crucial when we compete on the field. The tour has certainly guided us in our Nehru Cup preparations.”
Defender Mahesh Gawli rated the tour a great learning experience. “I am glad I was on this tour. It was a very good exposure because we faced some high quality competition.
“It was good motivation for us before the Nehru Cup. We don’t have any inferior or negative feelings at all.”
Welcoming such ventures for the sake of young players, Gawli noted, “There was a lot to gain for the team overall. I must say that playing on their grounds was so important for us. “We could pass the ball accurately because of the evenness of the surface. The level of the game also rose because we did not have any fears of injury.”
The facilities, Gawli stressed, were simply astounding. “We don’t have such grounds anywhere in India. This experience will help us in the future. We learnt a lot about passing and functioning as a unit on the ground. It was priceless education for all of us.” The team will assemble here on August 16 for the Nehru Cup.