December 20 – India were the first team to arrive for the 24-nation Asian Cup when they landed today in Abu Dhabi and were greeted with a fervent reception from their supporters thanks to the staggering 3.3 million Indian community who live in the United Arab Emirates.
The Blue Tigers will be competing in the continental showpiece for the fourth time in their history, having previously participated in the 1964, 1984 and 2011 editions.
India have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts UAE, Bahrain as well as Thailand who will be their first opponents on January 6 at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Dubai. All eyes will be on the Blue Tigers’ contest against the home side on January 10, in what promises to be an electrifying atmosphere at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.
“The fact that the tournament is in the UAE is a big plus for us given how many Indians have made it their home,” said Sunil Chhetri, India’s most capped player and all-time top scorer.
“We’d love to see as many of them as possible to come and fill the stands whenever we are playing. We’ve been enjoying some good support over the last few months at home and it’s a nice feeling to play in front of your fans. I’m sure the Indians in the UAE will help to recreate that for us.”
Constantine echoed Chhetri’s message, urging supporters to “turn out in full force in the UAE and support us as they always do,” as the Blue Tigers look to continue their fine form from the qualifying stages for the 2019 finals.
“Personally, for me, it is a very proud moment. This is the first time India has qualified in the conventional way, so having topped the group to qualify was something special and the first time this has ever happened. The hard work started in 2015 and will continue. For me, it is a never-ending process and we must continue to improve and get better,” Constantine said.
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