Sunil Chhetri appeals to Indians in UAE to turn out in large numbers for their clash against UAE


Indian footballers are calling on their compatriots in the UAE to come out to support their attempt to make the Asian Cup knockout stages following a shock first win.

The Indian side, who were not expected to make much of an impact at the tournament, pulled off an impressive 4-1 victory over Thailand on Sunday. It was India’s first win in an Asian Cup final game since 1964.

There are more than three million Indians in the UAE, making them by far the largest national group in the Emirates. But despite the large population, there were plenty of empty seats at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Sunil Chhetri, who scored two of the four goals against Thailand, thanked fans for their support so far and called for them to turn out in large numbers for their clash with the hosts on Thursday.

The 34-year-old described 2018 as “really good for Indian football,” and said the team is now planning to build on the success.

“Let me tell you this, it would not have been possible without your support and encouragement,” he said, in a direct address to fans. “It means so much for me and the whole team, the way you have supported us all the way.

“Now, in 2019, the Asian Cup, it cannot get bigger than this for us. We will give everything we have and we need your support. I just hope that you come in numbers … Let’s do this together.”

The match with the UAE, who recorded a disappointing 1-1 draw with Bahrain in their first game, will be followed by India’s last group stage match on Monday.

Cricket remains by far the most popular sport in India, but football’s profile has been increasing over recent years.

Following the win over Thailand, India’s manager Stephen Constantine said: “We still have two games left and we still need another two points to qualify from the group stages.

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