Gopi regains form, too late
Md. Sporting needs administrators with vision
Sonarpur to meet Bournvita in semis

Kuala Lumpur, May 16 
National champion Pulella Gopichand made amends for his loss against world No. 1 Wong Choon Han in the Thomas Cup tie two days back, winning the lone match in India�s 1-4 loss to South Korea in the last group tie today.

At the Putra stadium, with only prestige at stake � Korea have already qualified for the semi-finals while India are out of contention � Gopichand played champagne badminton to beat Korean No. 1 Shon Seung-mo 15-7, 15-7 in 42 minutes.

It did look at times that Shon was not really into the match. That was a possibility, since the match did not have any effect on Korea�s standing in the meet. The pace was often quick, with the Indian catching Shon time and again on the forehand flank with nicely-timed half-smashes.

Gopichand was more dominant at the net from where he got lovely openings for his smashes to come into play. �I moved well today and was able to catch Shon on the wrong foot many times,� said Gopichand. �He does get caught in deception at the net, and that is what I tried to do most of the times, � said the Indian after his match.

Gopichand, who has qualified for the Sydney Olympics, also felt had he regained his form a few days earlier he could have played better against Denmark and Malaysia.

India, expectedly, lost both the doubles and Nikhil Kanetkar�s second singles, giving Korea the tie. Indian performance overall, though, pleased Prakash Padukone, Badminton Association of India chief.

In the third singles Siddharth Jain lost to Park Sae-tang 12-15, 11-15. Kanetkar had lost to Lee Hyun-Il 12-15, 5-15.

�I think the boys played well in the singles, especially Gopi and Siddharth,� he said. �Gopi took some time to settle down, but against Malaysia and Korea he was outstanding. I am also pleased with Siddharth who has the making of an outstanding singles player.

�Of course the doubles still needs to be worked on,� he added. �If that can be done India can be serious Thomas Cup team in 2002 or so.�

The former world and All-England champion also feels Gopichand can do better if he plays for a couple of months in Indonesia or Denmark with their national squads.

Nikhil, hailing from Pune, had a good five-point lead in the first game against Lee Hyun-Il, the Korean hero of this Thomas Cup, but he let the advantage slip and lost at 12-15. In the second game he scored only five points where he was simply outclassed in speed and net play.

�Gopi is not able to get the quality and speedy opposition that he needs to improve, in India, and in Open championships it is just one or two matches before he is off to another tournament,� said Prakash. �If he can play continuously with top class opposition for a couple of months or so, say in Indonesia, Denmark or China, he can easily move into the top ten or even top five in the world.�

India fielded the scratch doubles combination of Sachin Ratti and Chetan Anand in the second doubles, and they lost to Ahn Jae-chang and Kim Dong-moon 2-15, 8-15.

The top Indian combination of Marcose Bristow and Vijaydeep Singh suffered agony and humiliation against the world No. 3 pair of Yoo Young-Sung and Lee Dong-Soo, losing 0-15, 8-15.

Prakash insisted that India need a foreign coach for the doubles only.

China maintained their lead in group B and will take on Korea in the semis, while Indonesia will play Denmark in the other semis.    

There was a time when the name Mohammedan Sporting symbolised passion for football. The club and its footballers stood as an icon of courage in a nation struggling for independence in the face of the powerful British. Their ground was one of the best in Calcutta and the stands used to be packed even for insignificant matches.

Now, the name Mohammedan Sporting doesn�t have the same meaning and hardly reminds one of the most exuberant brand of soccer ever played in the country.

The rough turf is not a patch on the once-silken surface they had, and reflects the tattered and ruined state the club is currently in.

The only trait not to have abandoned the historic institution is their committed band of sentimental supporters. But with things not looking encouraging on the administrative and performance front, even that may be a thing of the past soon. What a sad end that will be!

People think assistance from the United Breweries Group will help them turn the tide. But from my understanding of their problem, I am not too sure and will keep my fingers crossed.

I�m not against the idea of football clubs collaborating with liquor or tobacco companies as that is well accepted elsewhere as well as in India. Many such ventures have been successful but that doesn�t mean it will be so in the case of Mohammedan Sporting.

This is a club where the dedication and commitment of players and their extraordinary ability to play it hard against tough opponents used to be the tradition in the British era. They did not quite enjoy methodical administrative support but still performed well from an undying urge to do well, to overcome the odds.

The brand of passionate football they dished out and spread among the fans was something out of the ordinary. It paid dividends as they won five successive Calcutta League titles in the 30s � an achievement perhaps no less significant than Mohun Bagan�s IFA Shield triumph in 1911.

Not only did Mohammedan Sporting prove that Indians could beat the Englishmen in their own game, it also provided a huge boost to the freedom fighters. Players like Usman Jaan, Jumma Khan, Bacchi Khan, Noor Mohammed sr, Noor Mohammed jr, Aqueel Ahmed, Masoom, Rahmat, Hafeez Rashid, Saeed Rahman, Abbas were the stalwarts of this side which, according to the learned Jyotish Guha, could have reached the final of the 1948 London Olympics.

The hallmark of Mohammedan Sporting�s game was their technical and physical superority over European rivals. Their power and courage was enough to dominate the British for a significant stretch of time.

Though Mohammedan Sporting�s success rate dipped after that, they continued to be a major force in Indian football till the early 70s. Sure they were pushed to the third spot as far as Calcutta soccer was concerned, but they stayed a major force in the national scenario.

Then came the decline, triggered perhaps by the closure of Gulab Tea Company, their sponsors. Mohammedan Sporting were also hit by the new government policy which debarred them from �importing� players from across the border. Gradually, they fell from their position of pride.

They did produce the odd good performance, but by the beginning of the 90s Mohammedan Sporting had become a spent force.

The fact that they have not been able to qualify for the National League proper, even after four years, bears testimony to this and as things stand now, chances of resurrection appear slim.

It�s unfortunate, but going by the administrators� inability to generate funds, it seems inevitable. This becomes evident from the fact that all the quality players they managed to recruit in recent years, didn�t last long. That�s why they haven�t been able to perform consistently and promises of a revival at various stages have evaporated quickly.

Those who run the club should target at creating their own set of players rather than depend on the Mohun Bagan and East Bengal discards. They should also think of reviving their junior team which helped them so much in the 70s.

The roping in of Mohammad Habib as coach for last season�s second division National League was perhaps their only positive move in recent years. They need to come up with more such ideas.

The administrators should realise the huge support base the club enjoys all over the country, conduct researches and market themselves systematically. They simply have to understand no other club in India enjoys nationwide support. Not only will that help football come out of the shadow of cricket, it will also do the club a world of good. The club needs administrators with vision � people who have the skills to negotiate with corporate houses and take swift decisions. Only then can there be hopes of a resurrection. The odd sprinkling of money from organisations which offer help inconsistently will not be of any help.

If things don�t change, Mohammedan Sporting could well go the Hyderabad Police way. The nemesis of Calcutta giants in the 40s, the name Hyderabad Police is now lost to Indian soccer.    

Calcutta, May 16 
Sonarpur SUSA will meet Bournvita CA while S.P. Roy MCCC take on Subhas Institute in the semi-finals of the Ambar Roy sub-junior meet.

In the quarter finals today, Bournvita CA rode Suraj Kumar Gond�s 54 and three-wicket hauls by Vinod Singh and Rohit Sarkar to a 41-run victory over Durgapur CCC.

Sonarpur SUSA defeated Chandranath Chatterjee MCCC by six wickets while S.P. Roy MCCC won by virtue of better run average against Suhrid Mitra CC.

Dhiraj Bhadra�s unbeaten 49 took Subhas Institute to a eight-wicket win over SCC&PC (BNR).

The semi-finals will be held on Thursday.    


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