Meet an acid test for AIFF
Chile star Tapia hoping for a comeback
AIFF chief calls for AFC help
Delhi, UP gain upperhand
NEROCA win title
Indian challenge ends in singles
Kit-fiasco leaves hottest team, Cup cold
‘Restless’ Kumble undergoes tests
Calcutta Races/ RCTC cancels races today
Mumbai Races/ ‘Star’ fancied

Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
Excitement caused by being starved of top-quality soccer and apprehension fuelled by being under-informed about the true quality of teams mark the beginning of the Sahara Cup — billed as the greatest soccer show on the continent.

Overlooking apprehension, at least for a while, let’s accept that the ‘extravaganza’ is crucial for the present and future of Indian football on no fewer than three accounts.

First, a smooth completion of the event will be a shot in the arm for the All India Football Federation (AIFF), not known to handle things the right way. Second, it may just help bring the crowd back to the soccer field.

Third, and most crucial, it will also show how our players have benefited from last year’s England trip. The matches in Kochi (if India fail to clear the first round) should also help them prepare for the Pre-World Cup commitments.

It’s an acid test for the AIFF, specially after the degeneration of the Nehru Cup — in terms of quality, quantity and regularity — and the demise of the Rajiv Gandhi youth meet.

The AIFF has consistently failed to organise a tournament of some stature, featuring at least the better Asian nations. They must be blamed for showing poor administrative vision and little knowledge of the international calendar for so long.

But now, there seems to be a promise to comeback with a bang, roping in several big teams, though none of them are at full strength. Earlier assurances about the presence of stars like Freddy Rincon and Faustino Asprilla (Colombia), Dwight Yorke (Trinidad and Tobago), Marcelo Salas (Chile) may have boiled down to nothing but an assessment of the quality of teams will not be wise at this stage, because of the unknown factor.

The AIFF and their event managers must be praised for undertaking such a huge project.

However, the enterprise and enthusiasm shown for this event should not abandon the AIFF office once it gets over. The experience gained should be used in organising and regularising exposure trips for teams of each age group.

More importantly, a national calendar should be drawn and followed so that such events don’t overlap with tournaments as important as the National League. The AIFF should also think of setting up a national academy with wings in each state. The Sahara Cup, thus, should not be the end in itself. It should be treated as a means for achieving bigger goals.

From the Indian team’s point of view , however, this is a crucial tournament. We hardly got time to analyse the gains of the England trip because of several reasons, the principal being the AIFF elections. As a result, new Uzbek coach Islam Akhmedov got no time to assess his resources and hardly an opportunity to work with the senior team.

The AIFF, not for the first time, has shown it’s incompetence as it failed to retain Sukhwinder Singh in the technical team. Sukhi was the chief coach in England and the team fared reasonably under him in the Asian Cup qualifiers in Abu Dhabi after that.

It is learnt that employers JCT stopped Sukhi from taking up the India assignment to prepare the club for the National League. But the AIFF should have interfered and sought his services in national interest.

As for the team, we will sorely miss Bhaichung Bhutia who combined well with I.M. Vijayan in England. We have got little time to prepare and all our opponents in Group 2 are unknown.

Even then, the confidence gained from our performance in England (a 0-2 loss against Fulham, 0-0 draw with West Bromwich Albion and an 1-0 win over Bangladesh), coupled with the thunderous crowd support in Kochi, should help the Indians perform well. Inclusions of Ratan Singh, Deepak Mondal, Alvito D’Cunha, S. Venkatesh and R.C. Prakash should also make the team stronger.

Tactically speaking, Indians should take one match at a time. They need not be overtly defensive but be watchful and cautious. There has been little scope to do some homework, even then, we should look to beat Indonesia and Iceland, considering that Uruguay will be tough to supersede. We have to be sharp and speedy in our forays. Also, we have to be fast on the counter and be prepared to make maximum use of the chances we get.

This is India’s chance to show the good results, if any, of the England trip and the benefits from Sahara Cup will be seen in pre-World Cup matches. It’s not often that Indian players get a taste of international soccer so frequently. Now they have got the chance, they must make most of it to script a turnaround.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
The Sahara Cup commencing here tomorrow is not so shorn of stars, after all.

Chile, though landing without superstar Ivan Zamorano, belying repeated assurances from the organisers, are in with a dash of major international flavour.

Lending the meet touch of class are 1998 World Cuppers Marcelo Ramirez (the reserve goalkeeper in France) and defender Moises Villarroel.

There is also a touch of Serie A in striker Hector Tapia, who plays for Perugia, now placed seventh in the Italian premier league. Also, there is Cristian Uribe, a midfielder from leading Portuguese team Benfica.

Villarroel, who played the group league matches against Italy, Austria and Cameroon in France, said he was a bit nervous before stepping on the biggest stage but the team’s objective was to qualify from the group as the second-placed team. They did so with three draws before going down 1-4 to Brazil in the pre-quarter finals.

Ramirez, the first-choice goalkeeper here, said he didn’t find it too difficult to adjust to the conditions here though the mosquitoes as the SAI, Eastern Centre, ground troubled him a bit!

Admitting that the national team is not doing too well in the World Cup qualifiers (Chile are languishing at the seventh spot in the South America zone with four teams making the cut and one more going to the play-off), Ramirez said they have a lot of catching-up to do.

The hottest property in this Chilean team, Tapia — who signed a two-year deal with the Serie A team last year — is having a bad patch, sort of, lately. Having played alongside Ibrahim Ba and Hidetoshi Nakata last season, the 23-year-old is one of Perugia’s four foreign recruits this season.

Somehow, he is out-of-form this season and yet to score in the Italian league. Added to that, he could not take the field in Sydney despite being in the squad after suffering a leg injury.

He, however, had struck thrice in Chile’s under-17 World Cup campaign in Japan in 1993 where they finished third.

The Sahara Cup, however, may just mark the Gabriel Batistuta fan’s return to form as he is completely fit now and keen to add respectability to his seven-match tally of two goals.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
Iraq’s desire to pull out of the Sahara Cup is being dealt with a sort of war-footing by the AIFF. Federation president Priya Ranjan Das Munshi said today that the Iraq episode has been conveyed to the AFC and the continent’s governing body has been requested to take action.

The tournament has run into trouble even before the kick-off.

There is also a cloud over the participation of Cameroon and Indonesia. Iraq’s absence has reduced group 1 action to a three-team affair and chances of the same in group 2 and 3 can’t be ruled out.

The problems with Cameroon and Indonesia can still be sorted out and the final decision will be announced tomorrow, he said.

While Cameroon has demanded more appearance money at the eleventh hour, Indonesia landed in Kochi yesterday with a team comprising foreign professionals playing for clubs there.

The Indonesia fiasco will be discussed over a tele-conference between AIFF, AFC and the Indonesian body tonight, Das Munshi informed.

About Cameroon, the AIFF chief said Fifa has been informed and even claimed that the world body is dealing with the issue.

AIFF’s player of the century, former India captain Sailen Manna will be the chief guest tomorrow.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
Delhi and Uttar Pradesh gained the upperhand on Day I of the Vijay Merchant Trophy semi-finals, against Hyderabad and Punjab, respectively.

UP bowled out Punjab for 190 and were four without loss while Delhi bundled out Hyderabad for 139 and reached 58 without loss.


At CC & FC: Hyderabad 139 (Sumit Kapoor 6/34).

At Eden: Punjab 190. UP 4/0.

Burnpur win

Burnpur, Excelsiors and Wari won their CAB knockout meet matches today.


Ananda Bazar Patrika SC 193 (Swagatam Roy 49; Naresh Chauhan 4/46). Burnpur 194 for 4 (chauhan 77 n.o., Subrata Ghosal 55). Burnpur won by 6 wkts.

Excelsiors 286/7 (Sukomal Ganguly 127, Arindam Ganguly 39, Samiran Pal 39; Mazhar Ali 3/54, Jaidip Karmakar 2/46). Aikya Sammilani 258/6 (Karmakar 103, Saptarshi Roy 49). Excelsiors won by 28 runs.

Wari AC 318/6 (Saikat Mukherjee 91, Milanjan Mazumdar 91, Aurijit Basu 42). Young Bengal 191/8 (Biswajit Sharma 49; Samar Chakraborty 3/24). Wari won by 127 runs.

League matches

Rajasthan Club 259 (Afzal Siddique 57, Nilashis Ghosh 52, Rajat Chaturvedi 36, Amit Sharma 34; Arnab Mazumdar 3/64). YMCA, College 40/3 (Sharma 2/18). Match to continue.

Belgachia United 238 (Prashant Singh 58; Kunal Bajpayee 4/46, Khagen Patra 4/57). George Telegraph 22/1. Match to continue.

Ambar Roy meet

Rajarhat Gopalpur Municipality crushed Subhas Nagar CA by six wickets in the Ambar Roy sub-junior meet.


East Calcutta District Sports Council 164 (24.2 overs) (D. Ghosh 38; A. Sarkar 3/36). Barasat Assn 165/7 (24.4 overs) (S. Banerjee 41, A. Bose 36; A. Yadav 3/26). Barasat won by 3 wkts.

Subhas Nagar CA 101 (24.2 overs) (R. Mazumdar 28; B. Saha 4/9). Rajarhat Gopalpur Municipality 106/4 (19 overs) (P. Shaw 39). Rajarhat won by 6 wkts.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
NEROCA of Manipur today annexed the CC Meet Trophy, toppling holders SSB of Manipur 1-0 in the final of the 44th all-India Sir Churachand Singh Memorial invitation soccer meet in Imphal.

The matchwinner came off the boots of leftwinger Shyamsuindar Sharma in the 24th minute, according to information received here.


Jorhat, Jan. 9: 
Indian challenge came to an end in the singles field of the ITF men’s Futures 2001 meet as Syed Fazaluddin, Prahlad Srinath and Nitin Kirtane exited today.

Fazal struggled a bit, before falling 6-7, 4-6 to Dutchman Fred Hemmes at the Jorhat Tennis Club. Earlier, Srinath had failed to post any fight as he fell 1-6, 0-6 to Frenchman Vincent Allegre.

In another match Croat Ivan Cerovic registered a straight-sets victory over Kirtane. Cerovic won 6-1, 6-4.

However, the top-seeded Indian duo of Saurav Panja and Srintah restored some proide in the doubles as they beat Davor Baretic of Austria and Rahul Rajkhewa of Assam 6-3, 6-3 in the first round.

In another all-India doublesRohan Bopanna and Vijay Kannan beat Kirtane and Manoj Mahadevan. They won 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).

Earlier, the Slovak combine of Viktor Bruthans and Juraj Hasko had beaten the Indian qualifier Mustafa Ghouse and Hemmes (Netherlands) pair 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Mohinta wins

Local lad Nirvick Mohinta knocked Allahabad’s Devesh Shukla, the boys’ under-16 second seed, out of the AITA ranking Open junor meet of the Indian Tennis Academy today, says a Staff Reporter in Calcutta. Nirvick won 6-3, 6-3. Allahabad ‘hit back’ when Nikhil Kumar shocked under-14 sixth seed Samriddh Burman of Bengal 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
The Sahara Cup (not Millennium Cup anymore) football tournament will kick off tomorrow with a major twist to the schedule, following some trademark All India Football Federation indecisiveness.

A star-studded Chile, initially supposed to meet Bahrain in the first of the opening-day double-header, will now have to wait a day longer to get a feel of the new-look Salt Lake Stadium turf as their kits got stuck in Johannesburg in transit.

The AIFF, despite being well aware of the whole situation, thought it was enough only to push the Chileans to the evening match tomorrow. The Japan-Uzbekistan clash was brought forward. The officials insisted that the Chileans’ kits will land here by tomorrow morning. Late in the evening, though, there was a re-think, and the much-awaited show of Chilean soccer was deferred by a day. It is now being said that the Chileans will not get their stuff before tomorrow evening.

The side featuring World Cuppers Marcelo Ramirez (the reserve goalkeeper in France) and defender Moises Villarroel had to make do with fresh gear bought in the city for afternoon practice.

The South American Olympic bronze-medallists, with nine men from the Sydney squad apart from the World Cuppers, are coached by none other than Nelson Acosta, who was in charge in those crunch assignments as well.

The late-night development is unlikely to go down well with the veteran coach, who has already expressed displeasure over the lodging facilities, saying that the rooms are damp and beds too small. He, however, maintained that his team is taking this meet “very seriously”. “We’re here to win and would have come with all our stars had they been released by the respective clubs,” he said.

The presence of the World Cuppers and of current Perugia (Serie A club) striker Hector Tapia apart from the other Olympians make Chile hot favourites.

The Olympians in their line-up are reserve goalkeeper Javier Gregorio, defenders Cristian Alvarez, Rafael Olarra, David Henriquez, midfielders Andres Oroz, Mauricio Rojas, Francisco Arrue, Rodrigo Nunez, Sebastian Gonzalez and Tapia.

Bahrain’s German coach Wolfgang Sidka refused to comment on whether opening against the toughest team in the group is an advantage, but emphasised that the meet will be a great outing for his young team which goes into World Cup qualifiers next month.

“Mostly, we get to play against neighbouring teams like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, so this is our chance to play against teams of contrasting styles,” said Sidka, who coached Bundesliga team Werder Bremen in 1997-98. The former medio also played for that club apart from other renowned sides like 1860 Munich and Hertha Berlin but never played for the German national team.

Sidka took charge in last October and the team is without four top players, not released by the clubs they represent in Saudi Arabia. The Bahrain team features four players from their champion club Muharraq and three from the second-placed Busteein including captain and midfielder Khalid Abdulla Al Dosery. They have a Brazilian goalkeeping coach in Rafael Salvador.


CHILE (from): Marcelo Ramirez, Javier Gregorio, Cristian Alvarez, Moises Villarroel, Rafael Olarra, David Henriquez, Alex Von Schwedler, Andrez Oroz, Mauricio Rojas, Francisco Arrue, Cristian Uribe, Rodrigo Melendez, Marco Villaseca, Rodrigo Nunez, Fernando Martel, Sebastian Gonzalez, Hector Tapia, Marco Olea.

BAHRAIN (from): Hussain Samad, Hunud Khalifa Airuwate, Rahman Karim, Basel Sultan Karim, Aziz Saleh Dosery, Abdulla Rahman Marzooki, Arief Razzak Ali, Ghazi Majed Kuwarie, Faisal Abdul Aziz Mohammed, Ali Aamer Musafier, Rashid Rahman saif, Md Jaffar Ali, Khalid Abdulla Al Dosery, Mahmood Reyadh Mattar, Yusuf Khan Zuwaid, Yusuf Amer Al Sadi, Naber Abdul Jaleel, Isa Abdul Jaleel Saad, Salman Isa Ghuloom.

Up against the unknown

Japan and Uzbekistan go into tomorrow’s encounter with little knowledge about each other. While Japan are fielding a combined universities team, Uzbekistan are going through a phase of rebuilding. It could be a grudge match for the Uzbeks though, as their full-strength team was battered 8-1 by eventual champions Japan in the recent Asian Championship. “The little I’ve seen of the Uzbeks before, their tactics appear to be similar to ours,” said Japan’s assistant coach Miya Daki. “But we’ll be on the offensive even if this is our first match of the season.”

That seems to be the undercurrent in the Uzbek camp as well as coach Inileev Rauf said he’s team will too press on the accelerator after watching the Japanese in the initial stages. There are a couple of injury-induced worries in the Uzbek team but none have been ruled out for the match as yet.


JAPAN (from): Toshiyasu Takahara, Tetsu Sugiyama, Kazuhiko Sakamoto, Tadaaki Hirakawa, Hiroshi Fujikura, Daiki Iwamasa, Kobayashi, Mitsuru Chiyotanda, Takuya Mikami, Satochi Horinouchi, Takanori Suzuki, Keiji Yoshimura, Yoshimasa Fujita, Naotake Hanyu, Jun Sakai, Nobumitsu Yamane, Keisuke Ota, Masaki Fukai, Tsuyoshi Saito, Hideki Sekine.

UZBEKISTAN (from): Andrey Baklanov, Sergey Golovanov, Evgeniy Zakutilin, Asror Alikulov, Leonid Koshelev, Timur Kapadze, Ilya Romas, Alexey Sobolev, Sandjar Askaraliev, Davron Adilov, Alexander Bakalidis, Otabek Piramatov, Konstantin Kuznetsov, Ignatiy Nesterov, Bahadir Annamatov, Yuri Nikitkov, Aleksey Zhdanov, Shukhratbek Mirkholdirshayev, Shukhrat Kurbanov, Viktor Chepik, Oybek Usmankhodjaev, Oleg Kaharov, Davronbek Karimkulov, Andrey Vlasichev, Ilyas Zeytullaev.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
Top-bracket leg-spinner Anil Kumble, who reached Johannesburg yesterday, was put through a series of tests at the much-in-demand Centre for Sports Medicine there this afternoon.

Kumble, out of action from end-October owing to an injury to his bowling (right) shoulder, will be examined by the Centre’s Dr Mark Fergusson later this week.

The noted orthopaedic surgeon, currently on vacation, treated Jawagal Srinath in 1997. The now-disgraced Ajay Jadeja, too, was referred to him just over a year ago.

In fact, the up-coming meeting between Dr Fergusson and Kumble will be the second between the two in seven-eight weeks. The first was in Chennai, when Dr Fergusson was on a trip to South India for a series of seminars.

Today’s tests, of course, were overseen by the Indian team’s physio-cum-physical trainer Andrew Leipus who, incidentally, worked at the Centre for two years before taking up his present assignment in October 1999.

Though an Australian citizen, Leipus’ adopted home is Jo’Burg.

“The tests on Anil took two hours... They revealed some muscle imbalance and, so, that’s one specific area we’ll have to work on,” Leipus told The Telegraph, when contacted on his cell phone.

Besides that, however, Leipus wasn’t very forthcoming. “I should reserve comment till the specialist (Dr Fergusson) has seen Anil... We have to be patient and await his diagnosis,” he said.

Speaking generally, Leipus informed that besides the injury itself, a clutch of factors (rest already taken, the shape of Kumble’s anatomy and the demands of his type of bowling) will determine when exactly the leg-spinner can resume playing.

In fact, till Dr Fergusson has “assessed” Kumble, the possibility of surgery remains open. That will rule out Kumble for the high-voltage Australia series as well.

A string of one-dayers apart, Kumble has missed the last three Tests (Dhaka, New Delhi and Nagpur).

Leipus’ own diagnosis is that the injury is “very unusual”. As he put it: “Srinath had a rotator-cuff tear. With Anil, though, it’s different — there’s no tear. Instead, there appears to be an impingement.”

According to Leipus, Kumble is “restless... wants to quickly take the field again.” That’s understandable.

Had this forced break not come about, Kumble could indeed have joined the 300-Club in both Tests and ODIs. His tally of wickets stands at 276 in 61 Tests and 274 in 208 ODIs.

Though Kumble had been having some pain, on-and-off, in the bowling shoulder, it only became unbearable during the tri-series in Sharjah, in late October.

It’s possible the 30-year-old’s five-month stint with Leicestershire, in the summer, aggravated what was a niggle.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
The Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC) has decided to cancel tomorrow’s races, according a late evening RCTC notification. The notice further states that the stewards were compelled to take the decision following an uncalled for, and illegal disruption of work by a section of trainers’ employees.

Consequent to the above cancellation the Inter-venue betting on Mumbai races will be conducted in the city.

Syces, the stable employees of trainers, though fed and rolled the horses, they refused to take them out for their morning exercises and also for tomorrow’s race-meeting. Horses were not taken out by syces for the track work today, as well. Syces stand followed after the arrest of a stable hand in connection with Saturday’s stabbing of Alvarada.


Mumbai, Jan. 9: 
The Cooji Katrak-trained five-year-old gelding, San Marino Star, is strongly fancied to win the Gamble For Love Trophy in Mumbai on Wednesday. N. G. McCullagh partners the Steinbeck-Cornetto son.


1.30 pm: Spring Snow 1. Val Rouge 2. Charging Bullet 3.
2 pm: San Marino Star 1. Shaktik 2. Grey Test 3.
2.30 pm: Beau Wonder 1. Rhythm Divine 2. Secret Obsession 3.
3 pm: Minneapolis 1. Money Madness 2. Special Crown 3.
3.30 pm: Azurica 1. Insatiable 2. Clever Talk 3.
4 pm: Native Hunter 1. Beautiful Stranger 2. Win A Million 3.
4.30 pm: Soviet Run 1. Sicalade 2. Dancing Dreams 3.
5 pm: True Thriller 1. Winning Warrior 2. Seventh Fleet 3.
1.30 pm: Aylesfield 1. Fiery Angel 2. Amazing Dream 3.
Day’s Best: Beau Wonder
Double: San Marino Star & Soviet Run.    

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