2011 Asian Cup : Indian team to train at Portuguese academy


Prime VIP
New Delhi, June 30

Set to return to elite company after 26 years, India will embark on its preparations for the 2011 Asian Cup with a two-month training tour of Portugal from tomorrow and seven international friendlies lined up before the prestigious tournament in Qatar next January.

National coach Bob Houghton and 28 players will leave for Portugal from here in the wee hours tomorrow for a two-month tour, which will kickstart India's preparations for Asian Cup next January, for which the country qualified after 1984.

Defender Gouramangi Singh will join his teammates in a few days as he is yet to reach the country from Australia after failing to get a contract with the A-League side Melbourne Heart FC. Striker Sunil Chhetri, who is also among the 30 players selected for the preparations, is not expected to be in Portugal as he has joined Major League Soccer side Kansas City Wizards in March.

“Sunil will join the team later, may be in November," Houghton told a press conference on the eve of team departure here today.

“For one month from July 1-31, the team will be based at Vierra, a small town, 200 km from Lisbon on the road to Porto. It is a peaceful place with good football facilities. A Portuguese league third division side is based there,” he said.

“In the first month we are not playing any friendly matches. The objective was to bring all players to same level of fitness. The players had come after playing in different clubs, some with injuries and later recovered, so they need to come to the same level of fitness before playing any competitive games,” the 62-year-old coach elaborated.

The whole of August, the team will be trained at facilities of Portuguese Premier League side Sporting Clube in Lisbon and play 10 friendlies against second division sides.

“The players will train at the Sporting Clube Academy for August. The academy is famous for producing two World Footballers of the Year in Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo. We will play 10 friendlies there,” the experienced British coach said.

From Lisbon, the players will directly go to Bangkok to play an international friendly against Thailand on September 4. They will return here on September 5 or 6 to host the Thai side for another international friendly at Ambedkar Stadium on September 8.