The Afghanistan team is heartbroken after the coronavirus-forced lockdown deprived it of an opportunity to soak in Kolkata's football atmosphere during its scheduled return-leg FIFA World Cup Qualifier, says the country's former captain Zohib Islam Amiri.
Amiri made his debut with the Afghanistan senior national team in 2005 and since then he has been a part of many encounters against India, including the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying match last November, which ended 1-1.
"All of us were thrilled when Kolkata was announced as the venue for the match between India and Afghanistan. As soon as the announcement was made, all the boys in the team started asking me what playing in Kolkata is like," Amiri said.
"I kept on telling them that it is one of the best cities to play football -- the ground is excellent and the stadium is going to be full of spectators, which will make it a memorable occasion," Amiri told the All India Football Federation.
️ @ZohibIslamAmiri: All my teammates were excited, and were asking me about Kolkata. It is disappointing that it got postponed, but we are looking forward to continuing the - rivalry once football resumes #BackTheBlue #IndianFootball ⚽ pic.twitter.com/vLhFScxn2t — Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) May 6, 2020
"We had everything ready in place and were looking forward to coming to India and play. But, unfortunately, the match got postponed. We were heartbroken."
Amiri, who played for Gokulam Kerala FC in the I-League 2019-20, said they are looking to play in India once the game is rescheduled.
"I am looking forward to meeting and facing my Indian friends again," Amiri said.
He has played for a number of clubs in India since his arrival in 2011. He fondly referred to India as his "second home" and talked about adapting to the Indian culture.
"I can gladly call India as my second home. I have spent a large part of my life in India and have completely loved it. Having arrived in a new country as a youngster, I have loved every second of my journey here -- the culture, the people and the food.
"I started in Mumbai, then moved to Goa and then to other places. I have a lot of good memories in every city and every club that I have played," he said.
With lockdown enforced in many countries across the world, Amiri talked about his routine at home and how he is keeping himself fit while remaining indoors.
"As professionals, we have to stay healthy and in shape. It doesn't matter whether you have a ground or not -- we have to train and keep ourselves busy.
"We can do different types of exercises such as squats, push-ups, hamstring and core exercise indoors, in order to remain in shape."