Imphal: The sentiments at either end of the spectrum were, expectedly, opposite. However, Goan coach Norbert Gonsalves claimed Saturday’s decision to abandon the semi-final when they leading, “destroyed the morale of our boys” and added “look what has happened today.”
Gonsalves was talking after Manipur beat Goa 4-3 via the tie-breaker (after even extra time failed to produce goals) to enter Tuesday’s final of the 58th national football championship for the LG Santosh Trophy versus Kerala.
“Look, we initially did not want to play,” said the coach. “But then there was so much pressure from the state, from top bosses of the AIFF and all that we had to give in.”
But did he not negotiate, in return, the reduction to one match of the ban on Alvito D’Cunha'
“Yes, that was a deal placed before us, but you have to understand that the morale of all the boys could not be resuscitated.”
Whatever that is, isn’t a very good argument as to why the team, deemed the favourites, could not put down a hurriedly assorted (one day of practice) Manipur side, that too after the hosts had lost a player as early as in the 19th minute.
“Yes, but when federation officials and organisers hold meetings at our hotel till 1 am in the morning, we can do little,” he argued again. “Our players could hardly sleep.”
Manipur coach Ch Shantikumar Singh wiped his tears of joy, hugged his players, received his accolades and waddled into the media conference.
“What can I say'” he started. “This is the best time for Manipur soccer, the most proud moment. I am sure that beating a strong team like Goa gives my players great confidence.”
He said his boys performed better than in the abandoned semi-final Saturday. They were inspired by the occasion, he explained.
He made no bones about Uttam Singh’s marching. “His first booking looked a trifle harsh, but there was certainly no doubt regarding the second one,” he said.
Noren Singh, Manipur goalkeeper and the star of the day, said he hopes this will yet again open for him the gates of top clubs.
He had played for Mohun Bagan in 1989, but thereafter it has been an uphill task.
The feat of this 26-year-old, who plays in the local club NERCA, has been extraordinary. It stood out amid a groundful of mediocrity. He said he hoped he will be good enough for the final too.”