| Euphoric fans greet the hero of the moment, Assam goalkeeper Gobinda Boro, who saved the last spot-kick by Tamil Nadu to clinch gold for the hosts at Nehru Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday. Picture by Eastern Projections
Guwahati, Feb. 17: Assam found a new hero in goalkeeper Gobinda Boro today, when the hosts beat Tamil Nadu 6-5 via tie-breaker in the high-voltage football final at the Nehru Stadium. It was a fitting finale to the 33rd National Games, symbolic of the way the mega sporting event was finally held: a clear victory despite seemingly insurmountable odds. The curtains come down tomorrow, with the closing ceremony.
The issue was settled by the last spot-kick, saved brilliantly by Boro. The partisan crowd, sitting on edge till then, went into raptures. Mrinal Boro gave Assam the lead in the first half of regulation time while skipper Sanjeeva Rongpi, Mrinal Boro, Dhanachandra Singh, Thoiba Singh and Naoba Singh scored in the tie-breaker.
Tamil Nadu finished second but put up a gallant fight. Jotin Singh scored the equaliser for Tamil Nadu a few minutes after Mrinal Boro’s goal for Assam. The scorers for Tamil Nadu in the tie-breaker were Kali Alauddin, Muthu, Rajesh and Jotin Singh.
To the delight of the home crowd, chief minister Tarun Gogoi did a jig with the Assam boys, adding to the euphoria all round the stadium.
It was as much a victory for Assam as it was for the Beautiful Game as fans and VVIPs today lay siege to the Nehru Stadium since noon to watch both the men’s and women’s football finals. Security personnel and mounted police had to turn away thousands of fans from outside the gate as the 28,000-capacity stadium overflowed.
Assam Governor Lt Gen. (retd) Ajai Singh and a host of ministers and invitees were among the VVIPs. They watched the proceedings from inside the ground amid the whistling, hooting, singing fans.
Football was the clear winner of the day. Even most of those watching table tennis in the adjoining Tarun Ram Phookan complex entered Nehru Stadium to join in the fun and frolic. The women’s football final was earlier held between Manipur and Orissa, and was won by the latter.
Dhruba Hazarika, director (operations), National Games, was overwhelmed by the electrifying response. He observed, “It is no longer the organisers’ Games. It is the Games of the people. Our collective efforts have paid off.”
An official of the Judo Federation of India, who did not wish to be quoted, said the organisers were left speechless by the public support for the National Games. “We did not see such a response even in the recently concluded Doha Asiad,” he said.
Security has been beefed up in view of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the city tomorrow for the closing ceremony, which will start at 3 pm. Though the organisers are tightlipped about the details of the function, for which invites have been exhausted, it is understood that Usha Uthup and Aryans will perform. “There will also be a surprise item,” an official added.
Central security forces and police have made tight security arrangements. Frisking of passengers of city buses and checking of vehicles have been intensified.
The Prime Minister will preside over the closing ceremony of the 33rd National Games, to be held at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium at Sarusajai.
Today was also a good day for hosts Assam, which added six more pieces of the yellow metal to their overnight tally of 31 gold medals to end the penultimate day with a tally of 36. The gold medals came from women pugilists Pratibha Kachari in light heavyweight (70-75 kg) and Pranamika Borah in light welterweight (57-60 kg). Besides, Taranjit Singh clinched the super heavyweight (over 91 kg) gold for the hosts.
Bulbul Basumatary fetched a gold for the host state in women’s 48.1-53 kg kumite singles. The day started with a gold in women’s 40 km road team time trial cycling by the team of Binakumari Devi Oinam, Himajyoti Gogoi, Mitali Buragohain and Sunita Devi Yanglem.
Assam also bagged a gold medal in the debut sport of lawn bowls, by Bublee Chowdhury and Kabangita Hazarika in the women’s pair event.
In tennis, Divij Sharan of Delhi bagged a double crown, winning the men’s singles defeating Manoj Sewa of West Bengal 6-1, 6-1 and teaming up with Ashutosh Singh to defeat the Karnataka pair of Kamal Kannan and V.S. Prashanth 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 for the doubles title.
On the women’s courts, Parul Goswami of Delhi beat Sonal Phadke of Maharashtra for the singles gold while Poojashree Venkatesh and Archana Venkatraman of Karnataka beat Sonal Phadke and Krushmi Chheda in the women’s doubles.