Indian Super League (ISL) side, ATK Mohun Bagan's newest signing, Ashique Kuruniyan believes that extended nine-month Indian football calendar from the 2022-23 season will help the Blue Tigers in their preparation for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
Kuruniyan has established himself as a key player for Igor Stimac and played an integral role in India’s first-ever back-to-back Asian Cup qualification. The 25-year-old who is capable of playing both as a left-winger and a left-back has reiterated the need for more games in order to be prepared physically and mentally when the main tournament rolls in.
“The longer season will help a lot because we as players need games. When you hear you have the Durand Cup and the Super Cup apart from the Indian Super League, you get around 30 matches to play in the season which will only be beneficial for players," he said in an interview.
The Blue Tigers went into the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers as the favourites and lived up to their billing by beating Cambodia, Afghanistan and Hong Kong to seal their qualification. Kuruniyan for his part stepped up when it mattered the most, in their 2-1 victory over Afghanistan with an assist for Sahal Abdul Samad’s stoppage-time goal in their second match of the competition.
“It is really satisfying to top the group and qualify for the Asian Cup. Everyone in the national team setup gave it their all. The support from the fans in Kolkata made it more special, they were amazing," the 25-year-old added.
The winger recently completed a move to ATK Mohun Bagan from Bengaluru FC and he will look to scale greater heights with the Mariners in the upcoming ISL season.