‘AFC Champions League will help Indian players mature faster’


Former senior national football team captain Bruno Coutinho has said that India hosting the AFC Champions League in Goa from April 14 is not just a big honour for the nation but the experience will help the country’s players “mature faster”.

Bruno, who represented India in 44 matches, and has also been the recipient of the AIFF’s (All Indian Football Federation) Player-of-the-Year Award in 1996, said: “It is an honour for the country, the players and the team to compete at this level. The experience will help them mature faster. I consider them lucky as they are getting to play at this level. Such moments call for giving 200 per cent on the pitch.

“There is nothing to fear. You have to go with a winning mentality, which is most important,” Coutinho added.

It is for the first time that India are hosting the AFC Champions League action and will be represented by Indian Super League (ISL) 2019-20 champions FC Goa, who will compete alongside Iran’s Persepolis, Qatar’s Al-Rayyan and the Abu Dhabi-based club Al-Wahda in the group stages of the most prestigious club competition in Asia.

“The tournament coming to India for the first time and an Indian team — FC Goa — playing for the first time — is great. I would like to wish good luck to them. All the best and go for the kill!” Coutinho said.

In a career spanning a decade-and-a-half, Coutinho led the country in several international tournaments, namely the President’s Cup in Dhaka in 1989 and the SAF Games in 1995 and 1996.

Talking about the level of the teams that will compete in the Group E, Bruno stressed the importance of being “well-prepared” and mentioned that the players will be “highly motivated to put their best foot forward”.

“The clubs that are coming here have been playing at this level from long. For them, this is not the first time in the competition. They have very good players, and it is not easy playing against teams from West Asian countries. In contrast, we are the debutants. So, we need to be meticulous.”