Calcutta: The objective of launching the under-19 National Football League (NFL) two years ago was undoubtedly noble. By getting the top-flight NFL teams to compete in the junior championship, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) was trying to build up a pool of players who can be nurtured for the future.
But the AIFF alone can’t make this venture a fruitful one, it needs full-fledged co-operation from the clubs. And that’s the last thing some of the NFL teams are doing, at least on evidence till date.
Firstly, no more than nine of the 12 elite division teams have thrown their hat into the ring this time. More significantly, most of the teams have been built on ‘imports’.
The result is predictable, like the goalless drudgery one witnessed Tuesday afternoon at the East Bengal ground where the NFL champions hosted Tollygunge Agragami. Twenty-two boys — some of whom looked anything but under-19 — ran around aimlessly for the better part of 90 minutes, chasing an elusive target.
East Bengal, who won the first edition of the meet, didn’t have a single ‘home’ player. Tollygunge Agragami were slightly better on this front, having taken half the team on lien from other clubs.
Not surprisingly, a goal never materialised. The fact that the goalkeepers, Somnath Khara and Souvik Mondal, had to collect two feeble shots in the entire match tells its own tale. There was only one occasion, seconds before the final whistle, when a team threatened to score.
East Bengal’s Kishore Mallik, finding himself with just the custodian in front, shot over the crosspiece in haste.
“I had to shortlist 22 boys from a group of 80… and then I got five days to train them,” was how East Bengal coach Tarun Dey justified the insipid performance.
JCT miss chances
The scoreline at the Mohammedan Sporting ground was no different. JCT and Indian Bank were locked goalless in the other group B fixture, but at least there was some action.
JCT dominated proceedings and should have earned full points. Raj Kumar Yadav fumbled with goalkeeper at his mercy. Manpreet Singh’s header was kicked out of harm’s way from the goalline by V. Arokiaraj. Then, Surinder Singh failed to get a touch to an inviting Yadav cross, just yards from the goal.
Salgaocar win 3-0
PTI adds from Margao: In group A action, Salgaocar beat Vasco 3-0 at the Duler ground in Mapusa.
Salgaocar, who led 2-0 at half-time, scored through Rajesh Patil (34th minute) and Lector Caido (36th and 48th).