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'Doha has always had an emotional connection with me' - India captain Sunil Chhetri eager to play in Doha after five years

07:08 BST 20/05/2021
Sunil Chhetri India Bahrain Asian Cup 2019
Chhetri did not feature in the starting lineup owing to injury the last time India faced Qatar back in September 2019...

Talismanic Indian forward Sunil Chhetri is looking forward to play in Doha, Qatar as the Indian national team is all set to play their remaining 2022 World Cup qualifying matches next month.

The Blue Tigers under the tutelage of coach Igor Stimac have already reached Qatar and will begin their campaign against the hosts on June 3.

The last time India toured Qatar was back in September 2019 when they faced the reigning Asian Champions in the first leg of the qualifiers. The Blue Tigers had held the mighty Qataris to a goalless draw. Unfortunately, Chhetri did not feature in the matchday squad owing to an injury.

However, Chhetri is no stranger to playing in Qatar, having featured in the 2011 Asian Cup and 2016 AFC Cup final. 

Speaking to the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Chhetri reminisced about playing the 2011 Asian Cup and the 2016 AFC Cup final with India and Bengaluru FC respectively in Doha.

What did Chhetri say?

"Doha has always had an emotional connection with me. It was there that I played in the 2011 Asian Cup, and also the AFC Cup final for my club Bengaluru FC," said Chhetri on going back to Qatar after a gap of five years.

"Personally, I am eagerly looking forward to being in Doha. The last time I was in Doha, I couldn't be a part of the match against Qatar owing to illness," added Chhetri.

'The matches in June are extremely tough'

India will take on Qatar on June 3 followed by facing Afghanistan on June 7 and in their final group stage match they will lock horns against Bangladesh on June 15.

The Blue Tigers did not get much preparation time owing to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in India and Chhetri opined that it will be a tough test for the Indian team in Doha.

He said, "The matches in June are extremely tough and we need to take them one at a time. Given the fact that we don't have much time, the preparatory camp will add immense value helping all to gel together, and strike that chord ahead of the first match."