Maharashtra ready for Vijayan’s Kerala
Corruption in AIFF driving sponsors away
Bengal beat Goa 2-0 to finish third
Sourav has toughest job: Steve
ACB clarifies
East Bengal 206 all out
Baidya must change: Prakash
Indians aim higher
Manipur meet Assam in opener

Thrissur, April 22 
Maharashtra are confident, so are Kerala, and there is a great deal of excitement among the locals that the 56th national football championship for the Santosh Trophy will be finally, after 1993, again Kerala’s. The form book and general pointers do show Kerala as the better team, but the slips do show and a crunch situation could even push Maharashtra through.

Maharashtra coach Harish Rao starts off with the “we will win” phrase. That means he has mentally prepared himself and his team for the battle, and that he is willing to throw everything he has at the home side. He has a lot of respect for the hosts (“they are definitely a good team”), but also points out that, unlike Bengal and Maharashtra, “where the performance of the entire team counts in a win” it is different for Kerala. “They (Kerala) depend on just a handful of key stars for all that they do. They do a lot, and their stars are big, sure, but on a day that their stars fail to perform, Kerala fail to perform.”

That is what Rao thinks the USP of his team is. “We perform as a team and we have good forwards who are young and speedy enough (like Mohammed Najib, Abbas Ali Rizvi and Manjit Singh), and we expect to go through well,” he said. He is worried, though, that his key wingback Sanjay Dayaz injured himself versus Bengal and will not be able to play. “That is a big loss for us,” he says. Syed Hussein will be the replacement.

Kerala coach M.M. Jacob agrees Maharashtra will be no pushovers. “But we will play our natural game, attacking football all the way.” He refuses to accept that the team is becoming increasingly dependant on I.M. Vijayan, and feels that even as a whole, the team is years better than their rivals tomorrow. There is no injury worry in the team, and the home support will be a vital advantage.

The forward line of Sylvester Ignatious, K. Naushad and Ashif Saheer has shown up in good light in the last two matches, and Vijayan’s overwhelming presence has been a boon for the team under any circumstance. That will be Kerala’s selling point. Jacob remembers how, in the 1993 Santosh Trophy, “we lost 0-1 in the quarter final league to Maharashtra, but we both reached the final, where we beat them 2-0 for the title.” Today, only Vijayan survives from that champion team.

“There were some defensive lapses in my team early on in the tournament,” agrees Jacob. “But then we pulled Jo Paul Ancheri down to deep defence from the midfield and now we have a balanced defence that can withstand any onslaught.” He, obviously, was talking about Jamil, and Najib and the like, who he believes “need to be observed very carefully.”

Rao said he will not bother about man-marking, even Vijayan. “Ours will be a wait-and-watch game, while the wingers apply themselves. There will be the break, there will be the chink. They are no Bengal, where the entire team needs to be studied, they can be read and taken care of.” It is to be seen if this confidence does rub off on the players on the morrow.

Another plus for Rao has been the stellar performance so far of midfielder and game-maker Aqueel Ansari. “He controls the midfield, to an extent the entire team,” he said. “Yes, to an extent we do depend a lot on him.” In the same breath, though, he talks about Nausad Moosa in the deep, and about Manipuris Tomba Singh and Bungo Singh, both of whom have scored, coming in as substitutes. Hence a decent bench strength to fall back on.

There, though, Kerala might be lacking a bit. All depends on the form of each tomorrow, though.    

Thrissur, April 22 
The state of soccer in this country is not only worrying budget-slashed Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. It has also put fear into every team of any worth around the country.

The last date for inter-state transfers is April 30, and of all those who have been booked, prices have been bad. Moreover, clubs and teams all around have been slashing budgets and restricting recruitment.

Mahindra and Mahindra coach/manager Harish Rao (here as coach of the Maharashtra team, under technical director Jamshed Nassiri), believes Mahindras are probably the only team which has stuck to last year’s budget.

Rao, who will revert to manager when Shabbir Ali joins as coach this month-end, made it clear that the atmosphere is not good for soccer. “I have had to tell my own son to concentrate on his engineering studies and not on soccer, even though he did play soccer in school,” he says.

Mahindras have stopped their policy of recruitment as a player. Players are given yearly contracts, renewable through performance studies.

Kerala Police, revealed Kerala Santosh Trophy coaches M.M. Jacob and P.K. Rajeev, have also stopped player recruitment. “They are not interested any more. They say they do not need footballers.”

Kerala Police were the strongest soccer team in Kerala and one of the better ones in the country for long. F.C. Kochin are in a major fund crunch, not being able to pay their players for the last couple of months, it was learnt. And, apart from State Bank of Travancore, they are the only other team in the National League in the region.

As the 56th Santosh Trophy nears its conclusion, with the organisers (the Thrissur District Football Association) facing a huge deficit, a non-recognised, seven-a-side tournament in the adjoining Malapuram district is projecting a Rs 8 lakh profit. How? Players take part from different districts and adjoining states, coming even from the premier leagues there.

The payment is Rs 1,000 for each 60-minute floodlit (temporary) match (sometimes on paddy fields that can cause injury) and there is a “great deal of betting on,” according to a source. The Kerala Football Association does not like it at all, but can do precious little about it anyway.

Such happenings and more have killed the very sporting spirit of the area.

The malady has extended to Goa as well. Salgaocar have slashed their budget by over 30 per cent, Churchill Brothers by nearly 40 per cent. So have Dempo.

Jamshed, named coach of Bengal Mumbai Football Club, has only to wait. The club is in such a fund crunch, a big comedown from its glorious start, that they can’t even make a team. “I will wait for some time more before deciding,” said Jamshed. Probably he will finally take up the Salgaocar offer.

“That’s alright, but that’s one more club in the bin,” said a sad Jamshed. He believes part of the problem is in paying too much money to players who do not deserve it. “The budget is all wrong. We played better soccer than the ones of today, I can’t see how some players can demand and get what they were getting.”

It is not just the Calcutta cold that has given these clubs/organisations the sneeze. The general apathy towards the ham-handedness of and rampant and open corruption in the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has been driving the sponsors and well wishers away. Nobody who is halfway decent wants to associate himself with the ulcer called the AIFF.

Even the Asian Football Confederation on several occasions has been unable to set the table right.

The AIFF elections are late this year. Officials, coaches, players, alike feel if there is no change for the better in the management and attitude of the federation, soccer will die, like the Santosh Trophy is destined to in a year or two.    

Thrissur, April 22 
Goan indifference and goal-blindness allowed Bengal to emerge 2-0 winners, finishing third in the 56th edition of the national football championship for the Santosh Trophy at the Municipal Stadium here this evening. While the first goal was a gift from Goa’s Dharamjit Singh in the first half, the second was a quick shot from James Singh in the second.

Initial probes apart — an R.P. Singh shot off a Seikh Sanjib pass going out from close — Bengal failed to impress in the first half. There was too much midfield interaction and square passes outnumbered the diagonals and the forward passes. There were Goa initiatives, but not only was their speed not too evident today, they found themselves too stretched at the rival goalmouth to be effective.

In the 16th minute R.P. Singh forwarded charge to an overlapping Falguni Dutta near the Goa goalmouth. It was a quick job, but open to scrutiny by the defence and goalkeeper Raghuvir Kanolkar. Kanolkar, though, charged out too early, while Falguni took the shot. Medio Dharamjit Singh had by then decided to take the case over and pass it back to the ’keeper. But Kanolkar had come out without a call and Dharamjit’s pass went straight in.

Goa went flat out thereafter to try and correct this anomaly, but their pace was not suitable for their forwards, Alvito D’Cunha and Levy Cielho (in the first team from the start today). Even D’Cunha seemed off colour.

Levy mess up a brilliant chance in the 29th when he was one-on-one with Bengal ’keeper Prasanta Dora. Dora had charged out and Levy had to lob it over. He lobbed too high, reaching the roof of the netting instead. Levy repeated his mess five minutes later when, off a D’Cunha flag-kick he failed to head in from close.

Two minutes later, Levy’s volley was tipped over by Prasanta and the Goan pressure stayed intense at the Bengal goalmouth. A minute to lemon break, an S. Venkatesh forward pass into the box saw Levy stumble around himself in an attempt to put in a ball that had no takers except the goal. That was Goa’s worst miss.

Bengal consolidated the lead in the 90th second after changeover. R.P. Singh forwarded charge to James on the right and James charged in and veered inside the box to send home a grounder.


BENGAL: Prasanta Dora, Falguni Dutta, Chanchal Bhattacharya, Ratan Singh (Partha Dey, 79), Basudeb Mondal, R.P. Singh (Chandan Das, 66), Rennedy Singh, James Singh, Raman Vijayan, Seikh Sanjib (Dipendu Biswas, 84).

GOA: Raghuvir Kanolkar, Roque Pereira, Robert Fernandez, Franky Barreto, Anthony Pereira, Dharamjit Singh (Jules A. Dias, 49), Mario Soares, S. Venkatesh, Roque Barreto, Alvito D’Cunha (Denis Cabral, 67), Levy Coelho (Lazarus Fernandes, 78).

Referee: Pradeep Kumar (Tamil Nadu).

Nagpur next hosts

Nagpur will host the 57th Santosh Trophy early next year.    

Calcutta, April 22 
It was an unusual sight at the International terminal last night. At the epicentre, by the way, wasn’t either Sachin Tendulkar or Sourav Ganguly.

For starters, there was a ‘tussle’ among immigration officers to stamp Steve Waugh’s passport.

Then, Customs officials decided to have a piece of the Australian captain: Steve was ‘released’ only after accepting a thoughtfully designed bouquet.

Of course, it all began with the airline check-in staff — four requests for autographs came quicker than his boarding pass!

Steve, however, obliged. About the only time he didn’t was while checking out of the Taj.

“Not now, guys,” Steve told a clutch of youngsters who headed his way instead of, perhaps, Incognito.

One autograph, after all, could have sparked a near stampede.

Steve is used to being the cynosure but, at the end of his three-day trip for Udayan (and Nivedita House), hoped “the cause” would, in years to come, get more of the spotlight.

And while Steve didn’t say so himself, he could definitely do with a less taxing itinerary on his next trip — hopefully, next year.

In fact, so tight was Steve’s schedule he hadn’t even checked on his transit halt in Singapore (three-and-half hours, as it turned out), en route to Sydney.

Having already spoken exclusively to The Telegraph the other day, little remained to be asked in the few minutes “breathing time” Steve managed.

The ‘lead’, though, came from Steve himself.

“Has Sourav been in town?” he asked, before quickly withdrawing the question: “Sorry, I forgot he’s with Lancashire...”

Sourav and Lancashire, therefore, became a ‘peg’.

Had Sourav made the right decision — five-six months of County after eight-nine months of non-stop international cricket?

“Age is a big factor... For Sourav (27), the exposure is at the right time... I don’t think it would have been worth it had he gone to Old Trafford, or somewhere else, a couple of years down the line,” Steve replied.

What was his own County experience like?

“I turned out for Somerset, in 1987 and 1988... Don’t recall playing very many games as Counties then had two overseas pros (Martin Crowe being the other one at Somerset)... Like I’ve said, you need to time it right.”

Asked to assess Sourav as captain, Steve responded with a smile: “I think he has the toughest job in the world... As India captain, every move of Sourav’s is scrutinised by a billion people. Other captains don’t face the same scrutiny...”

Steve added: “In the last couple of years, specially, Sourav has grown enormously as a batsman... He’s certainly among the best we have. But, it can be a challenge for somebody so focussed (on batting) to merge personal expectations with that of the team.

“However, it’s not that it can’t be done. Captains have, in the past, done so... I wish Sourav well.”

As Sourav struggles to ward off the chill in England, Steve’s words alone should provide considerable warmth.

Incidentally, Steve had words of praise for his security personnel, too (Calcutta Police, in particular, and also WBP) — for doing their bit even though his was a purely personal visit.    

Calcutta, April 22 
The Australian Cricket Board (ACB) denied today that it was considering boycotting international one-day games in the sub-continent. The denial came in the wake of agency reports that quoted the ACB chief executive Malcolm Speed suggesting just that.

According to a media release, ACB General Manager, Public Affairs, Brendan McClements said today, “We are committed to playing a number of one-day internationals in our forward schedule, including games against India next year, and will be meeting these obligations. Any other suggestion is simply not true.”    

Calcutta, April 22 
Utpal Chatterjee took five for 76 to put Mohun Bagan in control in the J.C. Mukherjee Trophy final against East Bengal at Eden today. East Bengal were all out for 206 and Mohun Bagan were 26 without loss at stumps.

BRIEF SCORES: East Bengal 206 in 66.3 ovs (A. Lahiri 41, R. Gavaskar 35, A. Lal 32, U. Chatterjee 5/76). Mohun Bagan 26/0 (N. Haldipur 21 batting).

Calcutta Boys’ win

Sandip Bhattacharya’s 162 helped Calcutta Boys’ beat Labanhrad Vidyapith by 152 runs in a Parle-G CAB under-19 school meet match today.


Calcutta Boys’ 326/9 (S. Bhattacharya 162, A. Jain 34; D. Burman 3/67) bt Labanhrad 174.

B.D. Memorial 209/8 (J. Lahiri 45, D. Pradhan 42; R. Nayar 5/26) bt Tolly Ashoknagar Vidyapith 104 (D. Pradhan 3/17, R. Ghosh 3/23).

Taki House 249/9 (A. Ghosh 87, D. Chatterjee 33; R. Roy 2/39) bt Lycee 161 (S. Banerjee 4/34).

Jodhpur Park 248/7 (S. Sarkar 56, A. Paul 37) lost to South End 249/7 (G. Majumdar 168).

N.C. Kolay meet

Milan Samity defeated Rajasthan by eight wickets in an N.C. Kolay Memorial junior meet match at Kalighat ground today.


At Kalighat: Rajasthan 114/9 lost to Milan Samity 115/2 (A. Sarkar 68 n.o). P. Sen 125/5 beat S. Mukherjee 49. Chandra Nath 131/4 beat T. Bagh 38.

At Rajasthan: Bournvita 153/5 (S. Bhowmick 55) lost to Russa 156/5.    

Calcutta, April 22 
Arup Baidya is Prakash Padukone’s choice as the state’s most talented shuttler. However, he will have to leave Bengal for greater exposure, feels the former All-England champion.

“He has been stagnating for the past two years. Whenever we ask him his reasons for not playing in a particular tournament, he has excuses ready. This attitude will set his career back,” said the Badminton Association of India executive president who was in the city today to receive the P.C. Chandra Puroshkar.

About Aparna Popat’s chances of making it to the Olympics, Padukone said she is in greater trouble than it looked like when the ban was announced. He said Popat’s chances for making it to Sydney appears slim. “The qualifiers end April 30 and the final list should be out by the first week of May. It doesn’t look good for her.’’

Earlier this month, Popat was suspended for three months by the International Badminton Federation. She had inadvertently taken banned substances in medicine.

Padukone does not think P. Gopichand, currently India’s highest-ranked male player, will make the top-10 in a hurry. “Won’t be easy for him, although he has reached the level where he can think of making the top-10.”

Even the players from Assam are very talented, but they too will have to migrate to places like Delhi or Bangalore to fulfil ambitions. “More exposure is what they require.’’ Assam will soon have a badminton academy for players from north-east. In fact, sponsorship talks with oil companies ONGC and Oil India Limited have reached an advanced stage.

Padukone hopes the state units will take initiatives in coming up with more academies. Now that there has been a patch-up between the rival associations in Bengal, he expects more tournaments will be conducted in the state. “They wanted to host an international tournament, but I advised them to take it slowly. They have to hold state meets first, followed by national level tournaments.”

Padukone was presented a cheque for Rs 1 lakh along with a scroll by the P.C. Chandra Group. State Governor Viren Shah was the chief guest. Pankaj Roy and Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury were the guests of honour.    

Calcutta, April 22 
India’s top ranked player Chetan Baboor will lead the men’s team in the Asian table tennis championships in Doha from May 2 to 8. S. Raman, Arup Basak, Soumyadeep Roy and Shibaji Dutta are the other members of the team.

In the women’s section, Mouma Das will head the challenge along with Poulomi Ghatak, N.R. Indu and M.S. Mythili. Anindita Chakraborty will be the fifth player subject to government clearance.

India are fifth in Asia among men and coach Kamlesh Mehta expects his boys to at least maintain the position. “This time we practised in right earnest and hopefully we will climb a place or two.” Mehta is conducting the training camp currently underway at the SAI complex here.

However, the North Korean coach in charge of Table Tennis Federation of India’s ambitious project, the Table Tennis Centre of Excellence in SAI, feels the Indians lack fitness. Kim Chang Ho is here for one year, but TTFI secretary M. C. Chowhan is certain that he can convince the North Korean to continue as the head coach for three years.

He feels as far as talent is concerned, the players are good but “not very good”.

He has submitted a ‘prospective plan’ for 2000-2002 in which he expects the Indian men to finish 10th in the 2001 World Championships. At present, India are 25th.

India will host a number of international meets in the next couple of years. In October this year, the Asia Cup will be held in Mumbai and in April 2001, Delhi will host the Commonwealth meet. A top-12 Asian tournament is also on the anvil and Calcutta is the likely venue.

India also have their bid ready for the world team championships to be played in 2003 or 2004.    

Calcutta, April 22 
Manipur will face Assam in the opening match of the 5th Eveready East Zone hockey championship at CC&FC tomorrow.

Bengal, Manipur and Assam have been clubbed in group A while group B includes holders Bihar, Mizoram and Tripura. Two teams from each group will make it to the semis.

The winners will get Rs 40,000 and the runners-up Rs 25,000. The third-placed team will be richer by Rs 10,000. All matches will be played at CC&FC and the final will be either on April 29 or on May 2.

BHA League

Customs thrashed Howrah Union 5-0 in a group A match of the BHA first division league. Rajinder Singh, Santosh Yadav, B.K. Jana, S.K. Shaw and K. Ahmed scored. Gurdhyan Singh, J. Surin and Nicotine Nag scored in FCI’s 3-0 win versus West Bengal Police.

In group B, Khalsa Blues drubbed Belgachia United 4-0 and the match between Real Sports and Police ended goalless. Rajinder Singh, Pavan Pawar, Gurpreet Singh and Jagdip Singh were the scorers.

Mohota, Roy in lead

Swati Mohota (5 points) was leading after five rounds in the 26th state women’s chess championship being played at Khudiram Anushilan Kendra. In the 28th state junior meet, Saptarshi Roy stayed ahead with five points.

Baishakhi Das and Swati Sengupta are joint second in the women’s meet while Nilotpal Ghosh follows Roy in the junior meet, half a point behind.    


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