Igor Stimac, the head coach of the India Senior Men's Team, has named a 23-person roster for the 49th King's Cup, which will take place in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from September 7–10, 2023. Ahead of the competition in Thailand, one notable absentee from India's squad is captain Sunil Chhetri.
Sunil Chhetri had captained India to victories in the Intercontinental Cup and SAFF Championship. Chhetri, though, will return to the Asian Games 2023 wearing Indian colours. The King's Cup dates were close to the due date of Sunil Chhetri's first child; hence, he had asked to be left out of the squad.
Veteran players Sandesh Jhingan and Subhasish Bose will handle the defense, and seasoned pros Anirudh Thapa, Roshan Naorem Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad, and Brandon will make up the midfield. Amrinder Singh or Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will be guarding the goal. The scoring responsibility will be taken up by forwards Manvir Singh, Rahim Ali, and Rahul KP.
Each year, just four teams compete in Thailand's King's Cup, which has a straightforward structure. Based on the draws, each team competes in a match against another team. The victorious teams then go to the championship game, while the losing teams compete for third place. This year's competition will have four teams: India, Thailand, Lebanon, and Iraq. On September 7, Iraq and India will square off in the semi-final match.
India's squad for the 2023 King's Cup:
- Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, and Gurmeet Singh
- Defenders: Asish Rai, Nikhil Poojary, Sandesh Jhingan, Anwar Ali, Mehtab Singh, Lalchungnunga, Akash Mishra, and Subhasish Bose
- Midfielders: Jeakson Singh Thounaojam, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Brandon Fernandes, Sahal Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa, Rohit Kumar, Ashique Kuruniyan, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte
- Forwards: Manvir Singh, Rahim Ali, and Rahul KP
“I didn’t come to India to lick a**es,” Igor Stimac blasts ISL clubs and bad scheduling:
On Sunday, India’s camp for the preparation of Under-23 began, and a total of 25, players were expected to join the camp. However, according to the PTI, only 12 members joined the camp, despite it being postponed once. This has happened because the Indian Super League clubs have refused to release the players for the camp, but according to FIFA, the clubs are well within their rights to refuse the release of players. This has not gone well with the head coach, and it has left him infuriated.
In a recent interaction with The Indian Express, head coach Igor Stimac said he ‘didn’t come to India to lick a**es’ and wasn’t ‘afraid of telling the truth’. He said, “I didn’t, pardon my language now, come to India to lick a**es. I came to India to help. If you want my help, I need to tell you the truth. You can face it, you can help me overcome the problems, or you can tell me we’re not going to change anything; please coach, go home, and I will go home happily, and we’re going to stay friends.”
He emphasised the depth of knowledge existent in India and questioned whether it was indeed impossible to change the timetable so that the national team would have enough time to prepare. He also mentioned how the issue might be impacted by competing interests.
“We have the best brains in the world in India, you’re telling me we cannot manage to adjust the calendar to make sure that the national team has enough time to work? Or are there other interests? I don’t have a problem with saying that because that’s the truth. Whoever wants to prove me wrong, he can come out publicly with me, debate, and tell me what the main problem is,” lashed out Stimac.
Stimac's remarks came amid a heated argument between top Indian Super League teams and the management of the national team over the release of players for international duty.