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Borrow from cricket, boot a goal
IPL-style auction in United tribute

Saturday: Wayne Rooney extends his contract with Manchester United for £300,000 (Rs 3 crore) a week.

Sunday: Wayne Rooney turns out for Calcutta club that bought him at a players’ auction for Rs 250.

The on-field action may have mimicked the format of the EPL but all the action off the field was guided by cricket’s million-dollar baby: the IPL.

Striker Indrajeet Roy, 19, was the most valuable footballer in an intense two-day, IPL-style auction held among six teams in the run-up to a nine-a-side football tournament on Sunday involving the Manchester United Fans’ Club — Kolkata

While the real Rooney’s just-renewed contract with Manchester United would fetch him Rs 3,000 a minute, Fergie’s Hairdryers had their Rooney play three matches for far less than half the price of a decent pair of boots!

The money didn’t matter. What did was that the diehard Red Devils fans had “priceless” fun playing auctioned superstars, donning their favourite players’ jerseys and kicking a football.

The Sunday tournament involving six teams — Fergie’s Hairdryers, Red Devils Xtreme, Republic of Mancunia, Red Mancunians, Newton Heath United and Stretford United — was held in Kudghat on the southern fringe of the city.

Manchester United Fans’ Club-Kolkata, a registered society with over 4,000 members, had organised The Jimmy Murphy Trophy as a tribute to Premiership football but chose to take the cue from cricket while forming the teams so that strategy played as big a role as money.

“We decided to have an auction similar to the IPL to build the teams because unlike football transactions, all the IPL franchises have an upper limit on spending to ensure balance and fairness,” Soumya Dasgupta, president of the fan club, told Metro.

While European football, particularly the Premiership, is ruled by the extra deep pockets of Russian oligarchs, oil-baron Sheikhs and American tycoons, IPL franchises, irrespective of the wealth of their owners, are restricted by an upper limit of Rs 60 crore.

At the last IPL auction on February 12 and 13, all eight franchises had to build their squad within the permitted amount.

For The Jimmy Murphy Trophy, the six teams had to build a squad of 12 footballers — three of them substitutes — with Rs 500 in virtual currency.

The goalkeepers had a base price of Rs 60 and the defenders, midfielders and forwards Rs 20 each. As in the first edition of the IPL, each of the six teams was also assigned an icon player who wouldn’t be a part of the auction.

But unlike the IPL auctions, which are usually held in the luxurious confines of a star hotel, this one was conducted online. A special Facebook page had the name of each player displayed as a status update and the bids by the managers showing in the comments box.

“I decided to play with a 4-3-1 formation and hence went for good defenders,” said Rick Sinha, manager of Republic of Mancunia. Abhik Sarkar, who managed Stretford United, chose a different approach. “My icon player, Shahzeeb, is a striker. So I decided to go for a solid centre-back and a host of cheap but talented midfielders,” he said.

Abhraneel Sinha, a student in the US, had played auctioneer with local lads Sourav Jyoti Barua and Tamas Sinha assisting him. “Passion was the name of the game as the managers fought for the services of their very own Robin van Persie, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs,” a club member said.

Four IFA-accredited referees were brought in to conduct the matches, played with “typical English fervour”. Roy Keane-style sliding tackles, Paul Scholes-like dribbles and Fabien Barthez-style keeping punctuated the football.

If there was an element of the tournament that was unmistakably Calcutta, it was the choice of biryani as lunch.

The most dramatic moment was when Indrajeet, the most expensive footballer, fell to a tackle and fractured his left arm halfway through the tournament.

While he had to be taken to hospital, Fergie’s Hairdryers did make it to the final without their star striker.

Just when the final against Stretford United started, a bandaged Indrajeet returned to the ground, accompanied by manager Nayantara Dasgupta, to cheer his team.

The final went into a penalty shootout after ending 1-1 in regulation time, where Fergie’s Hairdryers held their nerve to lift the trophy.

“I wish I could have played the final and helped my team but I am very glad to see us victorious today,” Indrajeet said.

Utsab “Baby” Roy, the 18-year-old goalkeeper who saved penalties in both the semifinals and final, was adjudged player of the tournament.

Prize distribution over, the one unanimous message that went out from the Kudghat ground to Old Trafford was for David Moyes’s men to play with the same passion as their Calcutta fans to turn the script around this season.