Gurgaon:The Indian football team, which has assembled for a camp at Gurgaon, is focussing on regaining full fitness in the full season.
Coach Bob Houghton wants them to shrug off all niggling injuries, and build body-strength, so that they can compete with the stronger, fitter teams of Asia.
Medically, there is just one injured player among the 27 training at the AIFF camp in Gurgaon.
But Dr Vece Paes, who examined the players, hasn't taken into account the number of players who're carrying niggling injuries or are as good as half-fit after a month-long break.
The long and punishing domestic season has taken a huge toll on their bodies.
Sanjeev Maria suffered a knee injury, and the doctor has asked him and some others not to aggravate lingering knocks.
"It will take time for me to regain my fitness, since we've returned after a long break. In fact it'll take me longer than the others to return to competitive football, since I'll have to build my muscles and strength to complete my recovery," said Sanjeev Maria, Defender, Mohun Bagan.
Captain Baichung Bhutia himself has a long-standing knee injury, and missed more matches than he would have liked last season. But his focus, like that of the other forwards, is on how to take on the big, strong centre-backs this season.
"We are working on our weight-training exercises every morning. And then obviously in the evening we are doing fitness-cum-tactical things. So yes, we are working on building our strength and muscles," said Bhutia.
India lost numerous games last season because of the lack of fitness and low endurance-levels of the players which led to numerous goals being conceded in the last ten minutes.
But the Coach feels all that is changing already.
"Present team is the best one I've had since I've been here. Because a lot of players who are here now were not fit when I came. So it's the first time I've had this group together," said Bob Houghton, Chief Coach, Indian Football Team.
Bob Houghton wants to avoid any stress-related injuries, and help his players regain full fitness in the off-season.