New Delhi, Sep 29 (IANS) The 2020-21 footballing season will get underway with the I-League Qualifier 2020 as five teams – ARA FC, Bhawanipore FC, FC Bengaluru United, Garhwal FC and Mohammedan SC – will battle it out for the direct entry in the I-League 2020-21.
Garhwal FC, who hail from the national capital, will begin their campaign against Kolkata giants Mohammedan SC on October 8 at the Kalyani Stadium and a key figure for them will be 23-year-old goalkeeper Sayak Barai, who has stated that his side is “not an underdog” for the tournament and that the team’s unity is a ‘big asset’ for them.
“All five teams want to qualify for the Hero I-League. Many might be considering us to be the underdogs but I don’t think it is correct. I am very confident about our team’s qualification chances as we are a strong unit. Other teams may have star names that draw focus but we are ready to spring a surprise,” he told www.i-league.org.
“All the players in the side support one another. We are one team – unity is important for every team and our team’s unity is one of our biggest assets. We are growing and improving as a team continuously,” he added.
The side from Delhi stood atop Group A in the 2019-20 2nd Division League with 14 points in seven matches, thanks to a brilliant run of form. Barai stated that while the players are still working towards reaching “match-level sharpness”, they are in good shape due to extra efforts being put in by the coaches.
“When we resumed training after lockdown, we were in good shape because of the plans given by the coaches. We assembled for a camp in Delhi and would train daily according to the match times,” he said.
“We are still working towards match-level sharpness but the extra work being put in by the coaches is making it easier for us. We were all very active even in lockdown and the Delhi camp was very intense so as to make us ready for the matches,” he added.
Garhwal FC touched down in the City of Joy on September 25 and are currently in quarantine in the ‘bio-secure bubble’ as they get set to resume training on the field very soon.
“Being in quarantine can be a little frustrating, as an athlete, but of course, the safety of the players is first and foremost. The AIFF has laid down a strict protocol to create a safe environment for us, which is important not only for the team but also for a player’s career,” the Delhi-born goalkeeper quipped.