The Blue Tigers took a 40-minute ride through the waters of the Indian Ocean to commute from the team hotel to mainland Maldives, where the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship is slated to begin from October 1.

India begins its campaign against Bangladesh on October 4.

Even though most of the players aren’t accustomed to travelling over waters, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu said, “It feels great to be back in Maldives. The weather is good right now and hopefully, we will make the nation proud, and give them something to cheer about.”

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The 29-year-old added that the team was in good form, and it hoped to carry the momentum and reach the final of the tournament.

Midfielder Anirudh Thapa said he was pleased to see families holidaying on the island while adhering to COVID-19 health protocols and it was reassuring to see normalcy returning.

“But we are not on a vacation. We have a task at hand, and it’s a tough one. Football is what we are here for. For us, the vacation can wait,” he added.

In keeping with tournament guidelines, the Indian contingent underwent an RTPCR test before its arrival in the island nation and another one upon arrival at the team hotel.

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The team’s first practice session is at the Football Association of Maldives on an artificial training pitch after which it will travel back to the capital city Male on a speedboat through the Indian Ocean.

“The boat rides will be a common feature for us in the next two weeks,” defender Rahul Bheke said at the morning screening session.

“This is my first SAFF Championship, and I want to make it a memorable one. The quality in our side is unmistakable. We have played seven international matches since March, and looking back, we ask ourselves as to how many teams have played that much during the pandemic. We are here to make our mark, and I will prefer to take it day by day,” he added.

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