My best run yet: Sukhwinder
Attitude the key to success: Bhaichung
Another 7 records tumble on final day
Norinco thrash Indal 7-1
BCA elections
Bangalore Races/ Tempt Me Not strikes

Bangalore, May 20: 
India’s soccer pre-World Cup campaign ended the way it began, with a victory at the Kanteerava Stadium, but that India would still not qualify for the next phase was known more than a week ago.

However, as coach Sukhwinder Singh explained, there have been gains. “Firstly, the interest shown by the Media was encouraging and will have an impact. Secondly, the boys played consistently and this consistency came from confidence. The team spirit, too, was tremendous. It’s been a plus.”

Sukhwinder, the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Coach of the Month in April, added: “We did commit small mistakes in defence and need to play better when under pressure, but these are things which can be improved upon. Of course, this was our best chance to move up, but...”

According to the coach, this Bhaichung Bhutia-led team is “balanced” and will do well in the engagements to follow by maintaining the pace at which it played the qualifiers.

India lost just one of the six matches (to the UAE in the UAE), while winning three. The UAE qualified for phase-II with 12 points. India and Yemen finished on 11 each. Had Bhaichung and Co. posted a 6-0 scoreline today, India would have finished ahead of Yemen on goal difference.

Sukhwinder, first appointed national coach two years ago, felt India’s performance in the qualifiers would rate as the “best” in the period he has been boss. “Three wins (including one against the UAE) and one defeat... Looking at the results, this has to be the best run,” he pointed out.

India’s next assignment will be the Merdeka (June 20-30) and Bhaichung won’t be available. “We’ll miss him, but one must also get used to playing without him. The necessary adjustments should be made,” the coach opined.

In a nice gesture, Sukhwinder dedicated his Coach of the Month nomination to the boys. “You know, I got it only because of their effort,” he insisted.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Sukhwinder, a former JCT and BSF player, said he didn’t himself have a coaching guru. “I’ve kept learning from all whom I’ve interacted with but, yes, I think I learnt most from Hungarian Josef Gelei (in the early 90s) when I was India’s assistant coach.”

Smiling, the Phagwara-based Sukhwinder added: “In fact, I’ve also learnt from the mistakes of other coaches. That woh sab galti mujhe nahin karni chahiye... Is game mein kafi kuch sikhna hai. Sikhna kabhi band nahin hota.”

Incidentally Sukhwinder completed the coaches course at the NIS, Patiala, when he was still a player (1973) and got his first job in 1986, two years after quitting. “That was the national U-19 outfit and I was with those boys till 1990...”

The national coach is, by the way, JCT’s coach as well. “It’s an understanding with my employers (JCT) which sees me spend time with the India squad,” Sukhwinder signed off.

AIFF reply to Brunei complaint

Meanwhile, reacting to Brunei’s complaint (at this evening’s Media conference) that nobody either received them at the airport, nor were hotel rooms available, All India Football Federation secretary Alberto Colaco stated: “That’s because they changed travel plans without intimating us...

“Instead of arriving via Singapore and Chennai, they took an Indian Airlines flight direct from Singapore to Bangalore. We only got to know of their (early) arrival once they landed. Thereafter, though, the arrangements were made as quickly as possible.”


Bangalore, May 20: 
Bhaichung Bhutia has a string of firsts to his credit, even though his experience at Bury FC, in England’s second division, hasn’t exactly turned out the way all of India thought it would.

The immensely likeable Indian captain, however, is looking ahead and exploring “options.” Bhaichung, who leaves for home (Sikkim, via Calcutta) tomorrow, spoke to The Telegraph at the Le Meredian last evening.

Following are excerpts

Q On a scale of 10, how would you have rated yourself before going to England as a pro, in 1999?

A (Grins) Between four and five...

Q And, now?

A Probably between six and seven. More than the improvement, I would like to think there’s still a long way for me to go.

Q Specifically, then, what have been the gains?

A I’ve matured with whatever experience has come my way. Then, physically, I’ve got tougher. As a person, too, I’ve become stronger. It’s a lonely life out there and loneliness teaches you a few things.

Q You hardly got a game during your first season with Bury. Was that a demoralising experience or were you prepared for such a deal?

A I knew I would have to struggle as I’d joined the club after the start of the season and, thereby, had also missed the all-important pre-season training. My fitness level wasn’t quite in the same bracket as that of the others... Of course, it didn’t help that the manager at the time of my signing (Neil Warnock) left after a month or so and his successor (Andy Preece, in fact a manager-player) obviously didn’t wish to take risks.

Q There have been reports you aren’t exactly happy at Bury, though you still have a year of your contract to go?

A (After a pause) It’s quite simple really: At this point of time, I should be playing as many matches as possible, if not all. Isn’t that the wish of every pro?

Q So, are you moving elsewhere?

A Options are there... I’ve got offers from clubs in Singapore and Malaysia but, honestly, I haven’t made up my mind. Who knows, I may even return to club soccer in India... Bottomline is I should be comfortable, I should be regularly playing.

Q The second season (which has just ended) saw you being played as a medio instead of being there right in the front. Were you comfortable with this switch?

A It was because Bury’s ‘direct’ style, featuring a lot of aerial balls, wasn’t to my advantage (because of his physique). Falling back made things different. I quite enjoyed it.

Q What’s it been like returning to India and captaining the national side?

A (Smiles) Absolutely great. At Bury, one gets a max crowd of 3,000 or so. But, here, when we launched the pre-World Cup campaign last month, there were 40,000-odd fans. It makes a difference.

Q How do you look back on this campaign?

A We played very well, showing a rare degree of consistency. It’s not that we were up there in one match and right down in the next. But the sad thing is we still couldn’t qualify... I’m sure it would have been a different story had I not been shown two yellow cards in that return-match with the UAE (in the UAE).

Q You’ve been very critical of the refereeing. Isn’t there a Code of Conduct which prohibits such comments?

A (Grins again) I’m not aware, really... If I’m in the wrong, then I’ll accept it and won’t shout about the refereeing. But, how can I keep quiet when injustice has been done? I’m disappointed our national federation (All India Football Federation) didn’t even lodge a protest with Fifa, even after the team management agreed I’d been wronged. Inaction of this kind discourages us players. A protest would, at least, have conveyed to the referees that they can’t get away. In any case, the Gulf countries have...

Q Still, have there been gains (from the pre-World Cup campaign) for soccer in India?

A For one, the interest generated should serve the game well. Indeed, I found a bit of Media hype, which is a good thing. After the Millennium Cup disaster (in January), the game’s image needed a boost in India. Our campaign provided that. Where the players are concerned, the commitment and fighting spirit throughout was extraordinary.

Q Will you be available for the Merdeka, India’s next engagement?

A I require a break, need to be with my family (in Sikkim), whom I haven’t seen for close to a year... Also, at this point in time, I don’t think I’m mentally there... The factual position is I need to discuss this with the coach and federation secretary.

[Late tonight, Bhaichung confirmed he would not be taking part in the Merdeka.]

Q Generally, are you too envious of the exposure given to cricket?

A Not in the least, no. The Media gives more exposure to cricket because more people wish to see and read about it. You can’t force somebody to either see soccer or read about it when the person is oriented towards cricket. The key, possibly, is management and marketing. To capture an audience, the sport must first be marketed well.

Q Who did you idolise when you were a kid?

A (Laughs) No one hero... It was Maradona in the 1986 World Cup, but Klinsmann in the 1990 edition... Nowadays, I’m a fan of Luis Figo. Next year’s World Cup could find me rooting for someone else... The complete footballer of all time, however, remains Pele. Yet, I don’t think we’ve seen a better artiste than Maradona.

Q But who did you admire in the period between Klinsmann and Figo?

A Oh, I omitted him: Ronaldo, of course.

Q Have you had heroes outside soccer?

A Not any one individual, but I’m a big fan of Formula One. I try not to miss the races (on TV)... The F-1 circuit has so much glamour, appeal... It’s run so well.

Q You must be happy your old club, East Bengal, finally won the National League this year...

A Very happy... I have fond memories of the affection always showered on me by the fans there. I also have happy memories of the late Paltu’da, who made me feel so comfortable. If I may add, it was largely because of him that I played for East Bengal.

Q The final question: Did you, while growing up in Sikkim, ever imagine you would reach the stage you have?

A (Again, after a pause) You know, I never put myself under pressure by telling myself and those around me that I’ve got to achieve this or that. I did work very hard but, equally, enjoyed whatever I did. This attitude has taken me to wherever I’ve reached.


Calcutta, May 20: 
The curtains came down today on the 51st state athletics championships at the Salt Lake Stadium and the SAI Eastern Centre, but not before another seven records tumbled on the final day. It took the total number of marks rewritten during the four-day meet to an impressive 17 with another being equalled.

Mohun Bagan won the men’s team title, finishing just three points ahead of East Bengal after some tense moments. Eastern Railway snatched back the women’s crown from North 24 Parganas.

The records to fall were in the men’s long jump, women’s high jump and shot put, boys’ under-18 400m and long jump, boys’ under-16 400m and girls’ under-18 high jump.

The long jump pit drew a big crowd in anticipation of a good fight for supremacy between Eastern Railway teammates Sanjay Rai and Amit Saha. Egged on by that now-familiar rhythmic hand-clapping, both went repeatedly over the seven-metre mark. Rai’s 7.58 on his second jump did the trick, though Saha kept improving with every jump.

Though he had to settle for second-place, Saha’s 7.52 too was better than the existing mark of 7.24 set way back in 1961 by Sisutosh Mukherjee of East Bengal and equalled by Pronab Banerjee of Mohun Bagan four years later. Interestingly, Mukherjee was at the stadium to see his record being rewritten.

“I was a little embarrassed to be carrying around the record for so long. I’m happy and relieved it has been broken,” said Mukherjee.

In women’s high jump, Lucy Deshmukh of Eastern Railway equalled the record she set last year but it was not enough as Siliguri’s Madhumita Pal Chowdhury soared to 1.66 m to upstage her.


Men’s 400 m: Sheik Shamsher (Hooghly DSA) 49.6 secs. Long jump: Sanjay Rai (Eastern Railway) 7.58 m. New meet record (Old 7.24 m by Sisutosh Mukherjee of East Bengal in 1961 and Pronab Banerjee of Mohun Bagan in 1965. Amit Saha of E. Rly too bettered mark with 7.52 m). Marathon: Asit Sarkar (Mohun Bagan) 2::39:35 secs. 50 km walk: Kunal Pramanik (East Bengal) 5::22.43 secs. 400 m hurdles: Golok Mondal (East Bengal) 55.4 secs.

Boys’ under-20 400 m: Bapi Mondal (Howrah DSA) 50.00 secs. 400 m hurdles: Achinta Mahato (Pioneer) 59.3 secs.

Boys’ under-18 400 m: Subrata Das (North 24 Parganas) 49.2 secs. New meet record (Old 49.8 secs by Das in heats Sunday. Earlier 50.7 secs by Debashis Naskar of Pioneer in 1999). Long jump: Soumen Mondal (Pioneer) 7.08 m. New meet record (Old 6.82 m by Rocket Mondal of Aryan in 1999.

Boys’ under-16 400 m: Rabi Roy (Jalpaiguri) 51.5 secs. New meet record (Old 51.9 secs by Nirmal Mondal of Jalpaiguri in 1999).

Women’s 4x100 m relay: North 24 Parganas, 56.9 secs. Heptathlon: Sarbani Biswas (Hooghly) 2625 points. High jump: Madhumita Pal Chowdhury (Siliguri) 1.66 m. New meet record (Old 1.63 m by Lucy Deshmukh of E. Rly in 1999. On Sunday Lucy equalled her record). 10,000 m: Pampa Chanda (City AC) 38:35.3 secs. Shot put: Chaitali Paul (Eastern Railway) 14.28 m. New meet record (Old 14.17 m by Chaitali in 1996). 400 m hurdles: Sumana Pradhan (Pioneer SA) 1:03.00 secs.

Girls’ under-20 4x100 relay: North 24 Parganas, 56.7 secs. Heptahlon: Baisakhi Chowdhury (North 24 Pgns) 2751 points. High jump: Iti Bal (Pioneer SA) 1.45 m. 10,000 m: Basanti Biswas (North 24 Pgns) 38:49.2 secs. 400 m hurdles: Jharna Kalsa (Midnapore) 1:13.7 secs. Shot put: Satabdi Roy (North 24 Parganas) 9.74 m.

Girls’ under-18 shot put: Chhabi Ghosh (Malda) 10.56 m. High jump: Susmita Sinha Roy (Midnapore) 1.58 m. New meet record (Old 1.50 m by Tapashi Nandy of Nadia in 1995).

Girls’ under-16 shot put: Sreya Chakraborty (Pioneer SA) 9.03 m. High jump: Mallika Mondal (BPJKOSS) 1.55 m.


Team Championships, Men: Mohun Bagan 85 points. Women: Eastern Railway 87 points.

Best Athletes (awarded by Track & Field Coaches’ Association, WB), Men: Sanjay Rai. Women: Mukti Saha. Boys’ under-20: Ashesh Mondal. Girls’ under-20: Tucy Deshmukh. Boys’ under-18: Subrata Das. Girls’ under-18: Ranjeeta Roy. Boys’ under-16: Rahmatullah Molla. Girls’ under-16: Mallika Mondal. Boys’ under-14: Purna Chandra Bramha. Girls’ under-14: Sabina Khatun. Coach of the meet: Pradip Banerjee.


Calcutta, May 20: 
Norinco whipped Indal 7-1 in The Telegraph Merchants’ Cup five-a-side soccer meet at CC&FC ground today.


IISCO bt Web Development 2-0; TCT Software bt Carrit Moran 1-0; Spice Cell bt The Hindustan Times 2-1; Tata Steel A bt Jet Airways 3-0; ABN Amro bt Duncans 2-1; Smithkline Beecham bt Transworld 1-0; India Foils bt Usha Martin 4-0; J Thomas bt Madhya Bharat 3-0; The Park bt Goodricke 2-0; Seagrams bt Deutsche Bank 6-2; Selvel A bt Blue Star 2-1; The Telegraph bt Tata Tea 5-2; Norinco bt Indal 7-1.


Jamshedpur, May 20: 
Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav was today formally declared president of the newly formed Bihar Cricket Association. He won unopposed. Ajay Narain Sharma became secretary.    

Bangalore, May 20: 
The Ponnappa- trained Tempt Me Not bagged the 1,400m Jayachamaraja Wadiyar Cup, the main event at the Bangalore races held on Sunday. S. Rajesh partnered the Bold Russian-Tempt Me five-year-old to victory.


(With inter-state dividends)
1. Mount Everest Plate, Div-II 1,400m: (1-9-2) Marcus Aurelius (Appu) 1; St. Lucinda 2; Kyosoba 3. Won by: Nk; 6; (1-30.4). Tote: Win Rs 20; Place: 11; 29; 28; Quinella: 87; Tanala: 828. Fav: Marcus Aurelius (1).
2. Malenahalli Plate, Div-II 1,400m: (7-1-4) Masti (Rajesh) 1; Water Baby 2; Scenic Song 3. Won by: 1-1/4; 4-1/2; (1-31). Tote: Win Rs 31; Place: 20; 53; 68; Quinella: 420; Tanala: 351. Fav: Water Baby (1).
3. Heir Apparent Salver 1,200m: (6-9-10) Arroganto (Rajesh) 1; Rush 2; April Ace 3. Won by: 5; 4; (1-16.4). Tote: Win Rs 11; Place: 10; 14; 37; Quinella: 24; Tanala: 169. Fav: Arroganto (6).
4. Malenahalli Plate, Div-I 1,400m: (5-3-9) Barassie (Appu) 1; Win Ameen 2; Sheer Blossoms 3. Won by: 2-1/4; 4; (1-31.1). Tote: Win Rs 17; Place: 10; 22; 26; Quinella: 46; Tanala: 253. Fav: Barassie (5).
5. Jayachamaraja Wadiyar Cup 1,400m: (2-6-1) Tempt Me Not (Rajesh) 1; Axe 2; Symphony Of Fire 3. Won by: 2-1/2; 4-1/4; (1-27.3). Tote: Win Rs 47; Place: 25; 36; Quinella: 294; Tanala: 1,287.Fav: Access All Areas (3).
6. R. Khodayar Memorial Plate, Div-I 1,200m: (6-3-8) Grisogono (Warren) 1; Musselburgh 2; Classic Belle 3. Won by: 3-1/4; 3-1/4; (1-16.4). Tote: Win Rs 46; Place: 17; 38; 66; Quinella: 233; Tanala: 5,487. Fav: Chity Bang (2).
7. Aureole Time Plate 1,100m: (5-8-9) Private Emotions (Shukla) 1; Semoran 2; Royal Caribbean 3. Won by: 9; 3-3/4; (1-9.3). Tote: Win Rs 67; Place: 18; 31; 34; Quinella: 976; Tanala: 8,509. Fav: Go Honey Go (1).
8. R. Khodayar Memorial Plate, Div-II 1,200m: (3-2-4) Machrie Bay (Appu) 1; Winelight 2; Whitehall 3. Won by: 4-1/4; 1/2; (1-16.4). Tote: Win Rs 62; Place: 17; 18; 62; Quinella: 101; Tanala: 6,231. Fav: Spirito (1).
9. Mount Everest Plate, Div-I 1,400m: (2-3-7) Whatmore (Appu) 1; Anchor 2; Figaro 3. Won by: 2-1/4; 9-1/2; (1-32.9). Tote: Win Rs 16; Place: 13; 17; 55; Quinella: 33; Tanala: 571. Fav: Whatmore (2).
Jackpot: Rs 14,945; (C) Rs 2,437.
Treble: (i) Rs 189; (ii) Rs 334; (iii) Rs 608.

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