Win over UAE in 2001 changed perception of Indian football, claims Sukhwinder Singh
Sukhwinder Singh was the coach of the Indian football team back in 2001|
Former Indian coach Sukhwinder Singh stated India’s historic won over UAE in the 2002 World Cup Qualifiers under his supervision changed the perception of Indian Football in front of the world. Sukhwinder is one of the most decorated Indian coaches, at both a domestic and an international level.
India was never in contention to qualify for the final rounds of the AFC 2002 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers after they were clubbed with heavyweights UAE and Yemen in Group 8, alongside Brunei. But the opening game of the campaign against UAE in Bengaluru, on April 8, 2001, was an exceptional day for Indian football as the Blue Tigers scripted a historic 1-0 win thanks to a 71st-minute strike from Jules Alberto.
Even though the win re-kindled India’s chances in the qualifiers, they fell short in the end, by just a point and exited the qualifiers in the group stages itself. Sukhwinder Singh, the then-coach of the national side, has confessed that the win over their Asian rivals changed the perception of Indian football in front of the world.
“It was a golden day for Indian football. It changed the perception of Indian football in front of the world,” Sukhwinder Singh said. “When Jules Alberto scored, I still remember how the stadium went berserk. UAE pushed harder, they were attacking in numbers but Deepak Mondal, Mahesh Gawli and other defenders soaked in the pressure till the final whistle,” recalled Sukhwinder Singh, as reported by olympicchannel.com.
Years before that red-letter day, Sukhwinder Singh also guided JCT to the I-League (National Football League back then) title, with the team overflowing with star-studded international players like Bhaichung Bhutia, Jo Paul Ancheri and IM Vijayan. The veteran reminisced the happy memories and stated that the high-profile team was respected by every team as it had players who can ‘tear apart’ any opponent on a given day.
“It was another sweet memory but we had to toil hard to earn that. Every team used to respect our star-studded team - Bhaichung Bhutia, IM Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri, Carlton Chapman, Stephen Abarowei, etc. were equally capable of tearing apart any opponent on their days,” added the former India manager.