Longer domestic season will help India's preparation for AFC Asian Cup, says Ashique Kuruniyan

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ATK Mohun Bagan’s Ashique Kuruniyan believes the extended nine-month Indian football calendar from the 2022-23 season will be favorable for all players who aim to feature in the Asian Cup. A few days back Igor Stimac had come up with pointers to improve football structure in India.

The winger, who played an integral role in India’s first-ever back-to-back Asian Cup qualification, said, “The longer season will help a lot because we as players need games. When you hear you have the Durand Cup and the Super Cup apart from the Indian Super League, you get around 30 matches to play in the season which will only be beneficial for players,” to The New Indian Express.

India produced a stellar performance in their 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifier campaign as they saw off Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Hong Kong by topping Group D and qualified for the final round of the Asian Cup. Kuruniyan came in clutch for the Blue Tigers in their 2-1 victory over Afghanistan with an assist for Sahal Abdul Samad’s stoppage-time goal in their second match of the competition.

“It is really satisfying to top the group and qualify for the Asian Cup. Everyone in the national team setup gave it their all. The support from the fans in Kolkata made it more special, they were amazing," stated the Kerala-born winger.

The 25-year-old made his national debut against Chinese Taipei in 2018 in the Intercontinental Cup followed by three appearances in the 2019 Asian Cup where he played as a striker. Kuruniyan believes the scenario in the upcoming Asian Cup will be different from his previous one.

“Last time in the Asian Cup, I had come into the team for a major international tournament directly without featuring in the qualifying stages. I had benefited from the efforts of all the players involved in the qualifying stages. This time, I was here to play my part to see the country through to the Asian Cup in qualifying. This is a brilliant step-up for football in the country," he added.

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