TFA (white) and Sesa Goa vie for the ball at Keenan Stadium on Sunday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
On the penultimate day of the Under-19 I-League final round, Tata Football Academy (TFA) gave steel city’s soccer lovers a reason to rejoice.
The team has booked the top slot in the points table of tournament that will conclude on Tuesday. Besides topping the table, the TFA has virtually clinched the title because even if it plays out a draw against Hindustan FC on Tuesday, the team will emerge champions.
Keeping the performance of Hindustan FC in the tournament till date, the local outfit will not have to worry much about Tuesday’s match.
Of the four matches TFA played, it won three and drew one to garner 10 points. Kingfisher East Bengal is following TFA with seven points — two wins, one loss and a draw.
After playing poorly for the last years and even failing to clinch the local Jamshedpur Sporting Association league title in 2013, the team’s performance has been quite a pleasant surprise for all.
Asked what made the TFA perform exceptionally well in the I-League, mentor and former international player P. Vijay Kumar said the right combination of seniors and juniors was the key component that pushed the team to the top.
“Our seniors — skipper K. Udanta Singh, Vinit Rai, Muneer Ansari, Manas Sarkar, Sanjiv Kumar and Biswajit Sardar — were high on confidence and this percolated among the juniors. The confidence boost came as different clubs have already selected most of the seniors. Therefore, they played with a free mind and wanted to give their best in their last outing for TFA,” said Kumar.
Striker Udanta has signed for Bengaluru FC while Vinit will play for Dempo. Forward Manas will sport the Kingfisher East Bengal jerseys. However, goalie Muneer, defender Sanjiv and winger Biswajit are yet to sign any contract, but talks are on.
Besides having the right mix of players, proper planning and execution also played pivotal roles in the change of fortunes, the mentor added.
TFA started the final round I-League journey with a draw against Kingfisher East Bengal. The team drubbed Navi Mumbai Football Academy 4-1 before defeating Shillong Lajong 2-1. TFA won their third match against Sesa Goa 2-1.