With legs crossed I take a sip of nun chai, while my eyes steer on the EPL table. I am nervous to look at once the invincible Arsenal’s performance. Be bold, or don’t be a fan. Arsenal is tottering at 6th position with D L W L W in the last 5 games. However, reading about the Gunners emphatic 5-1 drubbing of Everton on 4th February made the evening tranquil despite the hectic office day today. Another sip and I mull over whether Arsene Wenger will have to say good bye – Sooner or later? To me, of course, yes.
As I surf through the sports web, good news struck the eyes. It is the news that J&K U-19 team wins the semi-final against mighty Chandigarh 1-0 in the Junior National Football championship at Unakhad, Himachal Pradesh on 4th February, 2018.
Gosh, we are into the final! If seniors could not do it, at least, juniors did. Moreover, it is history made! For the first time, U-19 team has reached the final of a national level tournament. It has been 42 years since the state U-19 team reached the semi-final, only to lose it then. It was in the year 1976 when the J&K state hosted the BC Roy tournament; J&K U-19 team reached the semi-final, which they ultimately lost against Hyderabad (1-0). The match was played in the jam-packed Bakshi stadium and the state team was led by famous footballer Mohammad ShafiNari and also included famous players like late Mohammad Haneef, Bashier Ahmad Beigh, Mukhtar and Massarat etc.
For the finals, I was as anxious as the whole football fraternity. The final match was to be played at H.P Unakhad play field on 6th February against the mighty Jharkhand state team, which during the group stages had humiliated Pondicherry with 21-0 win. I wished I could visit the venue along with the long list of veterans who had rushed to Himachal to provide the much needed support to the young heroes. To boost the morale of the team, legendary Abdul MajeedKakroo, Pro-license coach Hilal Parray, District Football Association – Srinagar president Fayaz A. Sofi joined the team before the maiden final match.
The Junior National Football Tournament for the B.C. Roy Trophy was instituted by the All-India Football Federation in 1962. The Indian Football Association presented this trophy in the memory of former West Bengal Chief Minister Dr. B.C. Roy. The then president of the IFA, M. Dutta Ray also the runners-up trophy, Mohan Dutta Ray Trophy. The tournament is restricted to the players under 19 years.
2017-18 Dr. B.C. Roy Trophy (Tier-II) was hosted by the hill state of Himachal Pradesh between 28th January – 6th February, 2018. A total of 15 state/UT teams participated in the tournament. The teams were divided in four groups (Group A,B,C of 4 teams each and Group D of 3 teams). J&K team was placed in group D along with Manipur and Daman & Diu. 16th team-Lakshadweep did not participate.
During the group stage, J&K was lucky to get a walkover in the first match against Lakshadweep. In its 2nd match played on 31st January, J&K team hammered Daman & Diu with a thumping 3-0 win. For J&K, forward Adeel scored 2 goals in the first-half, followed by another goal by right-out Subail. In the 3rd against Manipur, Shakir scored a scintillating 25-yard free-kick in the first 10-minutes which left the opponent astonished. In the second half, Manipur retaliated by scoring a goal due to a defender error. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. At the end of the group stage both Manipur and J&K held 4 points each, but J&K qualified for the semi-final on the basis of goal difference (3-1).
In the semi-final match on 4th February played against the strong Chandigarh, J&K team emerged the winners the final score of 1-0. The solitary goal was scored in the second-half by the charismatic mid-fielder Shakir, who is emerging as one of the best mid-fielders of the state. It was another majestic free-kick from the centreline reminding the viewers of the great Roberto Carlos. With this win, J&K U-19 team created history by qualifying for the finals.
The final match was more than a thriller. It was kind of a simulation of 18th FIFA World Cup (2006) finals played between Italy & France which also was decided on the penalty shootouts (although the match is famous for ZinadineZidan’s head butt on Marco Metarazzi more than anything else). Despite the J&K team playing it heart out, the match ended with a 4-3 win by Jharkhand in the penalty shootouts.
The first half of the final match saw J&K team toothless and Jharkhand dominated all parts of the game. Thanks to a gross goalkeeper error, at the half-time, J&K team was trailing by 2 goals. But heroes are those who survive the difficult times. At the whistle of 2nd half, some tactical changes proved beneficial and J&K team gained momentum with the help of mid-field. It bounced back by pumping in a streak of 3 goals – 2 goals by Shakir 2 and another by Adeel Tariq and the cup was almost in the bag. However, nervousness in the last moments of the game helped Jharkhand put in the equaliser and the regular time ended with scores tied at 3-3.
The extra time did not yield any decider either, notwithstanding strenuous football of 30-minutes. Both the teams put up a good show of defensive football to push the game into the nail-biting finish through penalty shootout.
Tie-breakers –test to the nerves, resulted Jharkhand to emerge as winners by a margin of 1 goal (4-3). Despite conversion of penalties kicks into goals by Shakir, Hayat, Adeel and also a precious save by the goalkeepRitik, miss-hits by Afreen and Ateeb let the J&K team down. Pertinently, Jharkhand team emerged as the highest goal scorer of the tournament as it scored 21 goals in a single match against Pondicherry.
According to Sajid Dar – Technical Director, State Football Academy, credit for the performance of the U-19 football team goes to the J&K Football Association which has successfully lured private participants for establishing professional football clubs. Furthermore, State Football Academies launched by the J&K State Sports Council has also complemented the efforts of J&K Football Association by establishing the State Football Academies at district level, which besides handpicking the raw talent spread across the state have also imparted standard training programmes to the budding players. Moreover, newly formed professional teams like Lone Star FC, Real Kashmir FC, State Football Academy FC teams has induced competition at peer level, which has led to improvement in the football skills and endurance. This has been supplemented by the participation of these teams in the I-league tournaments, which has provided the much needed exposure to the state players.
Hilal A. Parray, A Pro-license football coach attributed the performance of the U-19 team to the efforts put in by all the stakeholders including J&K Football Association, J&K Sports Council, Coaches, Managers etc. over the last 4-5 years to improve the quality of football at grass-root as well other categories. He also appreciated the private clubs including Lone Star FC and Real Kashmir FC for channelizing resources into the game, which has resulted in uplifting the standard of football in the state. Furthermore, exposure at national-level platforms including I-league has given much needed impetus to the players to lift their individual games and also inculcated professional attitude towards football. According to Hilal, till recently most of the players lacked the confidence to face tough opponents, but I-League exposure has changed the players’ psychology altogether. He firms believes that if all the stakeholders work together, very soon state would be a strong contender of Santosh Trophy and other coveted national-level tournaments.
Ex-footballer and coach of the U-19 Nazir A. Sheikh and Manager Bilal Ahmad Punjabi credited the whole team for the success. They opined that despite injuries and proper nutrition concerns, the players did not hold back and assumed responsibilities selflessly. Besides, friendly approach of the management with the players also boosted the morale of the team and the result is obvious.
To sum up this historical performance, apart from making a mark on the national level, J&K U-19 team has qualified for Tier-I category of the ensuing tournament. Besides, this tournament has lead to the emergence of new sensations including Shakir (Midfielder) who emerged as the highest scorer for J&K with a total of 5 goals including a penalty, Adeel (Striker) who scored a total of 4 goals and Subail. The captain of the team –Rishi apart from being the backbone of the defence line has also lead the team well. Above all, it has instilled the confidence among all stakeholders that we can win the next edition of the tournament!
Technically, it is an indicator of the fact that structural change in the game at grass-root level is beginning to bear the fruits. It also signifies the contribution of private partnership in the form of professional football clubs like Real Kashmir FC, Lone Star FC etc. in uplifting the standard of the state football.
At last, I quote, “We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start Giving”!
Author can be reached at [email protected]
Ganguly backs Dhawan to shine at ICC World Cup
Mumbai:There is not a bowler in the world that can stop Shikhar Dhawan when the opener is in determined mood and the left-hander will be crucial to India
s hopes at this years Cricket World Cup, former captain Sourav Ganguly has said.
Dhawan smashed 97 not out off 63 balls in Delhi Capitals
seven-wicket victory against Kolkata Knight Riders in Fridays Indian Premier League (IPL) contest at Eden Gardens, much to the delight of Ganguly, an advisor to the Capitals.
Captain Virat Kohli and his deputy Rohit Sharma are India`s batting mainstays in one-day cricket but Ganguly puts Dhawan, who has 16 centuries from 128 ODIs with a 93-plus strike rate, in the same league.
“The three best players in one-day cricket — Dhawan, Rohit, Virat,” Ganguly told the IPL website. “When he (Dhawan) gets set and gets in he`s unstoppable.
“All I expect from him is determination. When he is determined, no bowler in the world can stop him.”
Dhawan`s second fifty of this IPL season, which catapulted Delhi into the top four, augurs well for India ahead of the May 30 to July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.
Along with opening partner Rohit, the onus will be on Dhawan to give India strong starts in the tournament and the southpaw has performed well on English soil.
man of the series in their triumphant 2013 Champions Trophy campaign, Dhawan was also the tournament`s leading scorer four years later when India lost in the final to Pakistan.
“If he gets set, he takes the game away. This is how he plays for India,” Ganguly, who led India to the final of the 2003 World Cup, later told reporters. “He`s a class act.”
Two-time champions India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5.
Olympique Lyon’s Champions League spot under threat after Nantes defeat
London: Olympique Lyonnais` Champions League qualifying hopes were hit as they were beaten 2-1 at Nantes in Ligue 1.
Third-placed Lyon, who hold the final Champions League qualifying spot, were undone by Anthony Limbombe
s late free-kick after Martin Terrier had cancelled out Kalifa Coulibalys opener for Nantes.
Lyon are on 56 points with six games left, six ahead of fourth-placed St Etienne, who play their game in hand at home against Girondins de Bordeaux on Sunday.
It was Lyon`s third straight defeat in all competitions after they were knocked out of the French Cup semi-finals by Stade Rennes and lost at home to lowly Dijon in the league last weekend.
The result leaves an even bigger question mark over coach Bruno Genesio`s future, with the club set to make a decision on whether to extend his contract at the end of the season.
With Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay and Marcelo on the bench, Lyon got off to a bad start.
Coulibaly opened the scoring in the 11th minute after collecting a though ball from Majeed Waris.
Lyon were shaken by the hosts but weathered the storm and equalised one minute before the interval when Terrier curled a fine shot into the back of the net to finish off a counter-attack.
Limbombe earned Nantes victory seven minutes from fulltime with an inch-perfect free-kick, lifting the Canaries up to 15th in the table on 34 points.
Defender Gomez sign two-year contract extension in East Bengal
Mumbai: East Bengal fans will heave a huge sigh of relief after their star defender Borja Gomes decided to sign a contract extension with the club and not follow Jobby Justin to go out. The Kolkata-based club is in the process of becoming a part of the ISL next season with I-League’s future looking bleak.
East Bengal came agonizingly close to lift the I-League title yet again this season before Chennai City FC eventually won it as the Kolkata club finished second.And with I-League looking to either get dissolved or set to get demoted to the second division, it was important for East Bengal to finish high on the table.
However, that wasn’t enough for the club to retain their star striker Jobby Justin, who signed a pre-contract with two-time ISL champions ATK just after the I-League ended and the Super Cup was in its quarter-final stage. But, the club was quick to react after that setback and on Friday handed a two-year contract extension to Spanish defender Borja Gomez.
“East Bengal FC are pleased to announce the renewal of contract with Borja Gomez Perez for the next two seasons,” the club said in a statement.
“According to him, this is the best team and ‘fans are the best in India’,” the statement added.
The Madrid-born La-Liga star, who is nick-named as the ‘Senapati’, was one of the key members for the club last season and has been a motivator for the team both on and off the field. Gomez has previously played for Granada CF, Real Oviedo, Hercules CF, Real Murcia and more before East Bengal had signed him from UD Sanse in January last year.
East Bengal has already announced their bid for ISL in a board meeting and are currently waiting for the terms to get financially acceptable.