Chandigarh :When the I League defending champions Minerva Punjab FC open their campaign in this year’s I League against Churchill Brothers at Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula,, the Punjab team will only have 11 players from the last year’s title winning squad. With foreign players Chencho Gyeltshen, who was the third highest goal-scorer last season, Kassim Aidera, Bazie Armand and Eric Dano coupled with Indian players like Gagandeep Bali and Sukhdev Singh joining other clubs, it’s like a new start for the Punjab outfit.
“Yes, there will be pressure on us. But then that’s what has been the plan for Minerva Punjab FC in the two seasons. Some big names have left but they became stars after coming to Minerva Punjab FC. And that’s what the focus will be for this year’s I league too. Every player has the hunger to represent the club and this hunger motivates them. As the technical director, I want to see these players play at Asian level and for the country in future. They know that if they beat us, it will be huge for them and such wins count special for the opposition. And that’s why we also need to play our best game. We won the Punjab Super league for the first time and it also helped us to try out the combinations,” said Paul Munster, technical director of Minerva Punjab FC after the jersey launch of the club in Chandigarh.
The Daun village-based club finished ninth in their maiden I League season in 2016-17 before winning the title in January this year. Minerva Punjab FC claimed the title with 11 wins in 18 matches in the 10-team league. Bhutanese forward Chencho Gyeltshen was the leading scorer for the team with seven goals apart from William Opoku scoring six goals in the league. This year’s I League will see the participation of 11 teams and Minerva Punjab FC will attempt to become the first team to win successive titles since East Bengal achieved the feat in 2004. Apart from recruiting Indian U-17 World Cup team players Md Shahjahan and Nongdamba Naorem, the team has also got the presence of Japanese player Yu Kuboki, who signed with the club after a transfer from Australian club Sydney Olympic FC. The team will play 10 matches at Tau Devi Lal Stadium. While last year’s head coach Khogen Singh also left the club, Sachin Badhadhe has now donned the role of head coach.
“We have got the depth for playing consistently in the 11-team format. There are no stars in the team but we rely on combinations and exploiting the weakness of opponents. The squad of 27 players also sees the presence of players like Japanese Yu Kuboki apart from foreign recruits Nsabimana Aimable apart from last year’s sixth-highest scorer William Opoku. The Indian youngsters too are eager to perform well and with goal-keeper Arshdeep Singh being fully fit, we will rely heavily on him. The U-17 World Cup team-members also bring some young talent in the team and we will take it one match at a time in the league. The first two matches against Churchill Brothers and Real Kashmir FC will crucial for us as it would set the momentum for us,” Badhadhe said.
The Punjab outfit has also roped in former JCT coach and player Sukhwinder Singh as the technical director. Singh was the coach of the JCT team which won the inaugural edition of I league in 1996-1997. “Minerva Punjab FC has been the best thing which has happened with Punjab Football after JCT won in 1996-1997 season. Punjab has got the talent and the way Minerva Punjab FC tapped the talent and won the title last year speaks volumes about the club. When JCT won the title, we too saw a lot of players like Bhaichung Bhutia, IM Vijayan and others opting to play for other clubs in the next season. But we had a talent of 40-45 players who played for India. We won the federation the next year and we need to produce such talents in Punjab. It will be difficult to defend the title but the Minerva Punjab FC has the strength to do it,” said Singh.
Yadav, Dhawan help India beat Kiwis by 8 wickets
Napier:After Kuldeep Yadav bagged a four-wicket haul, opener Shikhar Dhawan struck a blistering unbeaten knock of 75 runs as India thrashed New Zealand by eight wickets in the first ODI of the five-match series at the McLean Park in Napier.
Chasing a lowly target of revised target of 156 runs to win after sun outrage delayed the play, openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan made a positive start to India chase as th duo shared a crucial 41-run stand for the first wicket before the former was dismissed for 24 runs.
Dhawan then joined forces with Indian skipper Virat Kohli and the Indian opener not only struck his 26th ODI fifty off 69 balls but also shared a good 91-run partnership to bring India on verge of victory.
After Kohli (45) fell just five runs short of his half-century, Dhawan and Rayudu helped India cross the mark in 34.5 overs.
Earlier, New Zealand had won the toss and opted to bat first.
Kuldeep Yadav tore apart the hosts’ batting order, finishing with brilliant figures of four for 39. Mohammed Shami also took three wickets while Yuzvendra Chahal and Kedar Jadhav chipped in with two and a wicket, respectively as India bundled out New Zealand for 157 runs.
India, who have taken a 1-0 lead in the series, will now play their second ODI against New Zealand on January 26 at Bay Oval.
On-field taunt could land Sarfraz Ahmed in the dock
London: Sarfraz Ahmed could be in serious trouble after he was caught on the broadcast stump mics making what seemed to be a racist comment against Andile Phehlukwayo.
Halfway through the 37th over of South Africa’s tense chase in the second ODI in Durban, Phehlukwayo inside-edged a Shaheen Afridi delivery to deep fine leg for a single. He was on 50 at the time and as he ran off to the non-striker’s end, Sarfraz was caught clearly on the stump mics saying, in Urdu: “Abey kaale, teri ammi aaj kahaan baitheen hain? Kya parwa ke aaye hai aaj?”.
Translated literally that is: “Hey black guy, where’s your mother sitting today? What [prayer] have you got her to say for you today?”
On commentary, Mike Haysman asked Ramiz Raja, “What’s he saying there Ramiz?”
“Difficult really to translate that,” Ramiz replied. “It’s a big long sentence.”
Phehlukwayo had enjoyed considerable fortune through the innings, not least when successfully reviewing an on-field lbw dismissal and a dropped catch in the over before this incident. Pakistan’s players had come hard at him early on, though in the post-match presentation he said, “it was good chat”.
Any disciplinary action can be instigated by the match officials. Potentially, if action is to be taken, it will be up to the match officials to decide whether they view Sarfraz’s comments under the ICC code of conduct for player behaviour or the ICC’s anti-racism code. Article 2.13 of the regular code covers the use of insulting or obscene and offensive language used by players against another in the regular code of conduct. But it says: “This offence is not intended to cover any use of language that is likely to offend another person on the basis of their race, religion, gender, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin.
“Such conduct is prohibited under the ICC’s Anti-Racism Code and must be dealt with according to the procedures set out therein.”
In the Anti-Racism code, in place since October 2012, an offence is described as “any conduct (whether through the use of language, gestures or otherwise) which is likely to offend, insult, humiliate, intimidate, threaten, disparage or vilify any reasonable person in the position of a Player, Player Support Personnel, Umpire, Match Referee, Umpire Support Personnel or any other person (including a spectator) on the basis of their race, religion, culture, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin.”
Phehlukwayo had a memorable day in any case, his unbeaten 69 part of an unbroken 127-run stand that steered South Africa home after they had wobbled to 80 for 5. And earlier in the day his 4 for 22, including the crucial wicket of Sarfraz, helped bowl Pakistan out for 203.
I told East Bengal they will not win the league: Aucho
Mumbai:Churchill Brothers midfielder Khalid Aucho had spent two months with East Bengal in a short stint last season. However, he feels that his former side does not have a squad that has the capability to win the I-League.
“I told East Bengal they will not win the league because you (they) change the team every time. To win a league, you must build a team with 11 to 15 players in the same team for at least two years,” he expressed in a chat with Goal.
The Ugandan, who earned himself a fair bit of recognition among the Red and Golds’ faithful, was roped in as a late signing by East Bengal ahead of the 2018 Super Cup and only played four matches in the competition with the team failing at the final hurdle against Bengaluru FC.
He had fared well in defensive midfield, which was a troublesome position for the Kolkata giants last season. But he did not sign for the Red and Golds this season and explained why.
“They (East Bengal) were offering me the same salary. So I said ‘No, I am not the same person if you want to give me that money.’ I told them that I will play somewhere else because I believe in my ability,” Aucho revealed as East Bengal turned towards Kassim Aidara.
The 25-year-old has since joined Churchill Brothers in the current season wherein he has clocked 990 minutes in the I-League from his 11 starts and scored twice.
“(This season) we (Churchill Brothers) want to win the league, Chennai City wants to win the league, Real Kashmir wants to win the league. If they (East Bengal) win, congrats to them, but I don’t think they can win this league. They must first start keeping the players. If they have that team, they have to continue with it for next season,” Aucho stated.
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