All India Football Federation (AIFF) officials have said that India was trying to avoid playing Belarus on March 26 in Manama, Bahrain, amid a global sports boycott of Russia and Belarus.
World soccer body FIFA has suspended Russia but has yet to announce any such measures for Belarus.
“It’s so-so. We’re going to Bahrain to face them (Bahrain). Bahrain hosts these games. So from now on the game is on,” Stimac said during a virtual news conference, when asked about the status of the match. against Belarus.
“We are in daily contact with FIFA about everything, what is happening in Ukraine and about possible sanctions (on Belarus), but as far as we are concerned, the game is on.”
India, without talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri, who is out due to injury, will play hosts Bahrain on March 23 before facing Belarus three days later.
These two international friendly matches are part of India’s preparation for the Asian Cup qualifying finals in Calcutta in June. India will play Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Cambodia at Salt Lake Stadium from June 8-14 in Group D matches.
“We are favorites in the group, we are the hosts of the group and there is nothing we have to complain about. But we have to earn it on the pitch,” Stimac said when asked about the Asian Cup qualifiers.
“The other three teams will also fight for qualification, we can’t take anyone easy. We should not look at the team rankings. We have to earn it on the field and that’s how we’re going to prepare”.
The winners of the six groups and the top five runners-up from all groups will reach the Asian Cup in China in 2023. The matches of the six groups will take place in different countries.
Stimac said he hopes to test various combinations during the two international friendly matches in Manama to prepare for different scenarios during the Asian Cup qualifiers in June.
“We are going to prepare various combinations. As a contender for first place in the group, we have to think about playing attacking football, playing with more players up front, risking more.”