With the AFC Asian Cup scheduled to begin in June next year, the Indian national football team players want to utilise the upcoming season to make their case for the final squad.
Winger Ashique Kuruniyan believes the extended nine-month Indian football calendar from 2022-23 onwards will be useful for players aiming to feature in the Asian Cup. He said:
"The longer season will help us a lot because we need more games. When you hear you have the Durand Cup and the Super Cup apart from the Indian Super League, you get around thirty matches to play in the season, which will only be beneficial for the players."
The domestic club season starts in August with three major competitions lined up, the Durand Cup, the ISL and the Super Cup. Meanwhile, there will be two opportunities, September 2022 and March 2023 in the FIFA international windows, for the national team to play friendlies ahead of the Asian Cup.
India have qualified for back-to-back Asian Cups for the first time in their history as they topped Group D in the third round of qualifiers, held at Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium between June 8 and June 14.
Kuruniyan provided an assist for Sahal Abdul Samad's injury-time goal in the 2-1 win over Afghanistan in the second match of the campaign. The Kerala-born winger also eulogized Kolkata's football-crazy spectators, saying:
"It's really satisfying to top the group and qualify for the Asian Cup. Everyone in the national team gave it their all. The support from the fans in Kolkata made it even more special. They were amazing!"
Kuruniyan, who made his national team debut in 2018 in the Intercontinental Cup against Chinese Taipei, started all three group stage games in the 2019 Asian Cup as a striker. The 25-year-old, however, hopes that the 2023 edition will be sweeter as he has played a vital role in the qualifying campaign and is now more mature.
The Bengaluru FC star, who has been linked with a move to ATK Mohun Bagan, explained before signing off:
"Last time in the Asian Cup, I came directly into the team for a major international tournament without featuring in the qualifying stages. This time though, I was here to see my country through to the Asian Cup. This is a brilliant step-up for football in the country."