Md. Sp., George, Tolly make Super 5
Racing fraternity for status quo
Paes could miss flag-bearer honour
Manipur make merry
Arezzo has come well prepared
Actress impressive

Calcutta, Aug. 22: 
In the end, the scramble for Super Five slots on the final day of Super Division first-phase action turned out to be quite an anti-climax.

As many as six teams had hopes of joining East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the championship round when the last set of matches kicked off at four different venues this afternoon. As it turned out, there were no upsets and the three ‘heavyweights’ — Mohammedan Sporting, George Telegraph and Tollygunge Agragami — sailed through with convincing wins.

The same quintet which had comprised the Super Five last season will thus battle it out for top honours this time as well.

Mohammedan Sporting outplayed SAIL but instead of running up a tennis-like scoreline, managed a solitary-goal win at Kishore Bharati Stadium. Kasif Jamal’s left foot fetched Mohammedan Sporting the matchwinner, 13 minutes into the second session.

The three points took Mohammedan Sporting’s tally to 15 and they finished behind East Bengal (25) and Mohun Bagan (23).

George Telegraph whipped BNR 5-0 to take the fourth spot with 14 points. Lalbhulaiya struck a brace, making him joint top-scorer with Jose Ramirez Barreto (6 goals each). Prasanta Chakraborty, Gourab Datta and S. Chatterjee netted once each to complete BNR’s humiliation.

There was tension in the air in a tight first half at the East Bengal ground as both George and BNR eyed full points. The first goal, in fact, was hotly contested by BNR and it needed mounted police to calm things down. The second half was one-way traffic as George found the target four times.

Tollygunge Agragami, going through a lean patch, dismissed Salkia Friends 3-0. Seriki Abdulateef netted all three — this being the season’s first Super Division hattrick.

The aggregate of 13 points gave Tollygunge the fifth place. Eastern Railway were edged out despite their 2-0 win over FCI today as they finished with 12 points. Archisman Biswas and Prasanta Ghosh scored for the railway team.

Md. Sp. miss many

Mohammedan Sporting, despite being without Abdul Khaleque, created openings galore against SAIL. Poor marksmanship, though, restricted the black-and-white brigade’s victory margin to a lone goal.

After a barren first half during which SAIL matched Mohammedan Sporting in the midfield, Kasif broke the deadlock in the 58th minute. The speedy Amjad Ansari, who has the tendency to hold on to the ball too long, for a change released a measured pass for the opportunistic Kasif to dart in and place home with his left foot.

Ansari, Kasif and Nazimul Haque continued to be a threat to the SAIL defence which cracked after taking the pressure well in the first 45 minutes. Ansari and Kasif, though, were guilty of squandering half-a-dozen gilt-edged chances. One Ansari miss had to be seen to be believed. With the custodian out of position and no defender on the goalline, he stabbed the ball wide four yards from an untenanted goal.

SAIL, who ended with six points, had their best chance in the first half when a Kuntal Mukherjee back-volley cleared the crosspiece by no more than a foot.

Seriki hattrick

The Tollygunge-Salkia match was a drab affair, the only highlight being a hattrick by Seriki. The Nigerian, despite squandering several chances, managed to score three and must remain thankful to his rivals who showed little urge to fight after conceding the first goal in the 15th minute.

Needing a win without conceding a goal, Tollygunge nearly let in one in the 65th minute. Left-back Napolean Singh effected a goalline save to thwart Anwar Ali Baig who had taken a crack at the goal following a defensive lapse.

Tollygunge’s ploy was simple — to send in crosses for Seriki and Samson Singh and with the Salkia players showing neither the skill nor the will to spoil things in midfield, they kept flying in from both flanks. Only, not many of them were accurate and there was no attempt on part of Tollygunge to try something different.

Seriki headed in one of those in the 15th minute to open scoring and converted another seconds before half time. Reaz-ul Mustafa and Sasthi Duley set him up on those occasions. The third came in the 70th minute when Samson’s minus found Seriki on the top of the box from where he dorve it in unchallenged.

The 3-0 verdict may enter the record books as a handsome win but the quality of play suggested otherwise. Since they faced little resistance, the real worth of Tollygunge’s forward-line could not be judged, neither could be their merit in mid-field.

The Mohun Bagan versus East Bengal Super Five clash will come off September 2.

The rest of Super Five and relegation-round fixtures will be drawn up by the IFA tomorrow.    

Calcutta, Aug. 22: 
City Mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s wish to have the racecourse shifted from the Hastings area to make way for a football stadium today met with fierce criticism from the turf cross-section.

Punters’ comments varied from “ridiculous”, to “political gimmickry”, to “mindless”. The professionals, though, were more cautious. A similar proposal was shot down by the ruling Left Front government in the state Assembly a decade ago.

“The racecourse is a status symbol in Calcutta. I wish the Mayor had never said that,” said Vijay Singh, the champion racehorse trainer at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC).

Vineet Verma, CEO and secretary RCTC, was shocked by the remark when contacted in Pune where he is camping to ensure entries for the forthcoming horse auction. “RCTC is a 153-year-old institution. It’s an integral part of Calcutta It will be sad if it happens to a Calcutta heritage ,” said Verma.

Gen. Shankar Roy Chowdhury, the present RCTC chief steward, was out of station, his predecessor B. M Varma, hardly known for mincing words, was straightforward. “The land belongs to the Army, not the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. Let the Army decide about it,” said Varma.

Robert Gowli, a senior city jockey was more logical. “The attendance in RCTC is already dwindling. Who will come to the races if the racecourse is shifted out of the city. Such a move may finish horse-racing in Calcutta, said Gowli. “Moreover, we have a stadium in Salt Lake which is hardly used well. Why another stadium?”

Most of the horseowners refrained from making any comment for obvious reasons. H. Ramchandani, however, said. “It is regrettable if the city landmark is converted into a football stadium. Racecourse is a part of Calcutta’s heritage,” said Ramchandani.    

Calcutta, Aug. 22: 
Atlanta Games bronze-medallist Leander Paes is IOA’s choice for flag-bearer at the September 15 Sydney Olympics opening ceremony. This was announced by Suresh Kalmadi at a press conference in Delhi today.

What the IOA president didn’t say was the likelihood of the tennis star not being able to make it to Sydney by September 15, in which case a ‘substitute’ has to be kept ready.

According to Dr Vece Paes, Leander and Mahesh Bhupathi have stuck to their decision to play doubles in the President’s Cup in Tashkent which is from September 11 to 17. An early loss could help Paes and Bhupathi rush from Tashkent to Sydney just in time for the opening ceremony. But if they advance to the semis or final, Paes will miss the chance to carry the tri-colour September 15.

“After receiving an itimation from the IOA, I’ve informed them of the situation, explaining the exact problem,” Dr Paes told The Telegraph this evening. “They (the IOA) have said they’ll wait till the 15th before picking somebody else to do the honours.”

Paes and Bhupathi, who are playing their first tournament together since November this week in Long Island, want some more match practice before the Olympics as they’ll be playing with different partners at the US Open.