India defender Pritam Kotal said on Tuesday that his captain, football star Sunil Chhetri, and India cricket captain Virat Kohli are “pioneers” in the field of fitness in the country and there was a lot to learn from them.
Kotal, who is currently in Doha with the national team to play the Qatar World Cup 2022 Qualifiers from June 3, added that maintaining a controlled diet was “extremely annoying at the outset” but later the “realization crept in” that it was a necessity for an athlete.
“Post 2015-16, I took it (fitness) extremely seriously — that’s when the realization crept in. I read about how Virat Kohli approaches his fitness, his training regime, diet, and how he never ever goes against the roadmap laid down by his personal trainer. Having Sunil (Chhetri) around helped as, with his controlled diet plan, his fitness and performances reached a different level. Both Virat and Sunil are the pioneers,” said the 27-year-old Kotal, who plays for ATK Mohun Bagan in the Indian Super League (ISL).
Kotal said that the modern-day Indian footballer was extremely health-conscious and “will never give in to the temptation”.
“The (fitness) trend is here to stay. Nowadays there are no off-seasons for a footballer. Even during a vacation, we have to make sacrifices. Even on a vacation, Indian footballers don’t eat anything and everything. The mentality — you are what you eat — has sunk in. So, no one gives in to the temptation,” said Kotal.
On whether the India team has had ideal preparation for the World Cup Qualifiers in Doha, Kotal said: “longer-duration camps always help. Most of the boys came from their respective homes where they were all kind of locked down (due to the pandemic). A majority of us last played our last competitive match almost two months back. So, a longer camp would have helped. But it is what it is.”
The Chhetri-led India will play Qatar on June 3, Bangladesh on June 7, and Afghanistan on June 15.