India cannot afford to take the Tajikistan team lightly when they lock horns with them on Sunday at the Intercontinental Cup. They might be ranked behind the Blue Tigers but the team from Central Asia shouldn't be underestimated.
They have players who can single-handedly turn the game in their own hands and two of them are Siyovush Asrorov and Amirbek Juraboev.
Sportskeeda caught up with both of them for an exclusive interview. Here are some of the excerpts.
How are you enjoying your time in India so far, Siyovush?
I am having fun here (laughs).
You played for Istiklol in Tajikistan for five years and then made the move to Malaysian club PKNP FC recently. Now, how is the level of football different in Malaysia than that of Tajikistan?
If you compare the two leagues, the Malaysian League's level is higher.
You played against Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup Interzonal finals in 2017. You won the two-legged tie then. Can you share your experience from that match?
Two years have gone by for that interesting match against Bengaluru. I don't remember much now but the Indian team had strong foreign players.
Tajikistan's recent performances haven't been so great. After reaching the finals of the Bangabandhu Cup, you failed to win a single match in the last five games. Siyovush, you are one of the seniormost players in the young team. What advice do you give to your junior players who make the transition to the national team?
We are renovating the team. There are young players, they don't have the experience of playing in big international matches. After the last match in the Bangabandhu Cup, we had a big period of not playing any national team match. Now, it is a bit difficult for us to start a new team but we are trying to motivate the young players.
You are playing for the Tajikistan national team for the last five years and have seen six managers in charge of the team. How difficult it is for you and the players to adapt to different coaches, their tactics, and their managerial style?
It is not easy to adapt to the new coaches, especially if you change them every year. Each coach has its own discipline, tactics, and their way of thinking about football. Like you said, it is not easy.
Amirbek, you graduated from the youth team of CSKA Moscow and even spent one season with Belarusian club Shakhtyor Soligorsk. What was the experience like playing in Europe?
There is a big amount of people who want to go there and graduate from that academy. So, you need to be tough, you need to be hard working and a lot of coaches there have a big experience of training, even in Belarus. The mentality of people is different in Europe. Comparing with Tajikistan, the level is, of course, on a whole new level.
You also played for Istiklol in the AFC Champions League second leg preliminary round against Uzbek league side AGMK. Istiklol took the lead twice but eventually lost the match. Can you tell us what went wrong in that match?
We conceded all the goals from the free-kicks. In the ten minutes, we conceded three goals. It was lack of concentration in the match which hurt us. Sometimes, these kinds of things happen in football, you know.
Looking at the present Tajikistan squad, there are eleven players from the same club, Istiklol, and you are also a part of it. The club has won the Tajik League for the past five consecutive seasons and even reached the finals of the AFC Cup on two occasions. Can you tell us how big role Istiklol has played in the development of Tajikistan football recently?
Istiklol is a really big club in Tajikistan. They have big ambitions. They like to win the AFC Cup but unfortunately, in several years we have some problems in achieving that goal. But, Istiklol is playing a big role in Tajik football because they are putting in big targets. And, we are moving step by step there. Hopefully, one day we will achieve our goal of clinching the AFC Cup trophy. And, for the national team as well, most of the players they try to play for Istiklol in the Tajik league.
If you get an opportunity to play in the ISL or I-League, would you take it?
Yes, why not. The people in India are very nice people. The hospitality is very high. They are very kind people. But, it depends on the other conditions as well like what kind of proposals we get.