India’s defensive midfielder Pronay Halder was left disappointed after fitness issues ruled him out of the World Cup qualifier at home against Bangladesh in Kolkata on October 15.
India’s match against Bangladesh is the first international match that the city will host since 2011 when they defeated Malaysia in a friendly.
“Of course it’s a big regret that I could not make the squad,” said Halder, who had captained India in the AFC Asian Cup six months back.
“An international game at my hometown is a special thing and I am a bit disappointed on missing out on the game. I can’t really express the feeling in words,” the 26-year-old told PTI in Kolkata.
Halder’s dream moment of wearing captain’s armband in the AFC Cup game in Bahrain had turned out to be a nightmare after he conceded a last-gasp penalty that led to India’s ouster.
Later, the ATK player got injured while playing in the Super Cup in Bhubaneswar in June.
“There’s nothing that I can do about it right now. All I can do is train harder, get back to full fitness and try to be back in the team for the rest of the World Cup Qualifiers,” Halder said.
“I may not be in the team right now, but they always have my full support. I was glued to the television during the Qatar game, and you can rest assured that I will be watching this game from the very first minute,” he added.
India head into the game against Bangladesh on the back of a historic 0-0 draw against AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar in their own den, something that no Asian team has been able to do against them this year.
“The team fought a lot in the away game against Qatar, and that one point that we got out of the difficult game was well-earned. It was entirely a team effort that got us that historic draw. It gave the boys that belief that we can also stand up and fight top teams,” Halder said.
He further said that the Igor Stimac-coached side will now have to follow it up with a big win when they host Bangladesh at the Saltlake Stadium.
“That gave the boys a lot of confidence and motivation, but it would mean nothing if we do not follow that up with a win against Bangladesh. That makes this match all the more important, and that is why we need all the support we can get from the fans,” he said.
Former India defender Arnab Mondal is also excited to see the city hosting an international match after eight years. Mondal believes that it could witness a derby-like atmosphere on October 15 as Bangladesh is a neighbouring country.
“Since there is such geographic proximity, I believe that we will have some fans from Bangladesh in the stands, and the atmosphere could be like the Derby,” Mondal, who had operated in the heart of the Indian defence between 2013 and 2017, said.
Recalling India’s last home game against Bangladesh way back in 2014 in Goa which ended in a 2-2 draw, Mondal said that the current national team players are much younger and fitter, something that makes them well-equipped to deal with various situations.
“We drew that match 2-2. I think the current crop is much fitter than what the unit was, back then. They also have some young bloods, who are quite talented,” Mondal concluded.