DOHA: The Indian football team players underwent COVID-19 tests on arrival and are waiting for results before starting their preparatory camp ahead of the joint Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup.
The 28-member squad and support staff landed here on Wednesday night from New Delhi. "The 28 players and the support staff are in compulsory quarantine till they receive the test results of the conducted RT-PCR tests in Doha. The squad will, thereafter, be allowed to kick-off their preparatory camp as part of their preparation for the matches," the All India Football Federation said in a release.
The team, bolstered by the return of Sunil Chhetri, will have a preparatory camp inside a bio-bubble here before its first match on June 3 against hosts Qatar. The other two matches are against Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15).
The round of matches is being played in Doha in view of the COVID-19 pandemic situation which doesn't allow the original format of home and away matches. The Indian team, fourth in Group E with three points, is already out of contention for a World Cup berth but it is still in the reckoning for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
The AIFF thanked Qatar Football Association (QFA) for allowing the team to arrive much before the matches and have a preparatory camp in Doha. QFA also used its good offices to allow the Indians start training without serving 10-day hard quarantine.
"We are extremely grateful and thankful to the Qatar FA for the manner they went out of the way and helped us begin our camp in Qatar early. The Group E World Cup Qualifiers will be played from inside a secure bio bubble.We understand that there are certain mandatory health parameters which we need to adhere upon arrival in Doha, which we will do with complete diligence," AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said.
The Indian players were to have a national camp in Kolkata from May 2 onwards but the raging COVID-19 pandemic in the country led to its cancellation. The Blue Tigers were also to have a friendly match -- not international -- behind closed doors in Dubai as part of the preparation, but even that had to be cancelled.
"The AIFF President Praful Patel had detailed chats with the President of the Qatar FA who raised our concern with the Prime Minister's Office, after which the 10-day quarantine period was waived off," Das said.
The 28-member squad, along with the support staff, flew out from New Delhi where they were in a compulsory isolation upon their arrival from their respective hometowns from May 15 onwards. The entire contingent had arrived in New Delhi with mandatory negative RT-PCR test results and had undergone another RT-PCR test prior to flying off to Doha.