The Blue Tigers are a young squad, with an average age of 26.6. However, they have only five players who have not clocked double digits in terms of the number of international caps.
Over the last few years, several youngsters have been brought into the team and tried out against various opponents, before the finest 26 from the land were selected for the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023. However, those who have not had as many chances with the senior team, have been knocking on its doors in the past and now could have a chance to prove themselves.
Rahul KP is a household name, especially in Kerala. The tricky winger has captivated many fans since his days in the junior national teams. While he does have four international caps to his name, Rahul will be playing a major international tournament for the first time in his career.
“I feel proud to be a part of this team. It feels like we are an army going to war,” said Rahul to the-aiff.com. “I get a lot of love at my club, but being in the national team is special. My parents especially love it. And that too, being selected for a tournament as big as this is a special occasion.”
A product of the AIFF Elite Academy, Rahul has been around across various levels of junior international football, and has even represented India at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, as well as the Asian Games last year.
“I really must thank the AIFF for all it has done for me. I’ve been a part of this system for a decade now, and played in almost every junior national team,” he said. “Playing in the World Cup (U-17), the AFC junior championships, and the Asian Games were great experiences, and they helped make me what I am today.”
Forward Vikram Partap Singh has been on the fringes of the senior team for some time now, and has finally been picked in the squad for a major tournament.
“It was a proud moment for me and my family to be selected for the Asian Cup. I’ve been missing out on little bits, but happy to be here now. Hopefully, I can make my debut and also score my first international goal at the Asian Cup,” said Vikram.
A goalscorer by profession, Vikram is relishing the opportunity of learning from the very best.
“Just by watching Sunil Chhetri, I am learning a lot. I love it when we train how to finish, and the way he finishes, and his movements inside the box,” he said.
Vikram was a crucial cog in the India U-16 side that made it to the quarter-finals of the AFC U-16 Championship in 2018, and believes that the experience helped him comprehend the level required of him to play international football.
“The U-16 Championship helped a lot. We knew what to face in Asia, and at what level we had to play. I learned a lot during those days, and those learnings keep helping me to date,” said Vikram.
Midfielder Deepak Tangri is also one who has been a part of the junior national teams in the last decade. However, training ahead of the Asian Cup, the uncapped 23-year-old feels that the Blue Tigers have a great opportunity to prove themselves.
“It’s the biggest tournament in Asia, and it’s a great chance for us to work hard, and prove our mettle,” said Tangri. “There’s some great intensity in training, and we are really enjoying it.”