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‘Good to have players with I-League experience’

The Santosh Trophy South Zone qualifiers are to be held at the Nehru Stadium from February 9 to 14 and the 29 probables selected to represent the State have now started practising at the venue.

Robin Charles Raja, State head coach, was seen monitoring and instructing his wards as they sweat it out.

For the prospect of playing in the Santosh Trophy, surely, is alluring enough. “After all, everyone wants to get noticed,” the coach said. But, at hand, is the immediate task of topping a pool of four teams to stand qualified for the main competition.

“We’re taking it one match at a time. Our immediate focus is on the match against Telangana, our first match in the qualifiers. By the end of this camp, a squad of twenty players will have to be finalised,” he said.

Two groups of four teams each will go into the qualifiers by the end of which two of them would’ve earned a place in the country’s long-running football tournament.

Right-winger Prem Kumar, one among those with I-league experience, joined the squad on Monday. “It helps to have such players in the squad; those with I-league experience. With them in the lead, it serves as a motivation for the others as they get to learn a lot.” Sirajuddin, another from the experienced lot, is set to join practice on Tuesday. These additions, according to the coach, will make up for the absence of Sudhakar and Charles. What’s his observation as to how the players have been shaping up?

“The flow, when they play, has gotten better now. Today (Monday) we focused on taking one on one which was followed by a practice game. With the amount of experience in the squad, hopefully, we should do well.”

Robin is assisted by Aldroy Atkinson, the assistant coach, Muruguvendham, the goalkeeping coach and Raghunath, the physiotherapist.

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