HC seeks Centre's stand on plea by Manika Batra against TT Federation of India
New Delhi, Sep 20 (Table Tennis news) The Delhi High Court Monday sought the Centre's stand on a petition by Manika Batra, who was left out of the Indian contingent for the upcoming Asian Table Tennis Championships, assailing Table Tennis Federation of India's (TTFI) mandate of compulsory attendance at the National Coaching Camp in order to be selected.
Justice Rekha Palli granted two days to the central government counsel to take instructions on the petition which alleges that on one occasion, the national coach Soumyadeep Roy “pressurized” Batra to “throw away a match” to enable one of his personal trainees to qualify for the Olympics 2020 and seeks that the Sports Ministry “enquire into the management” of the federation.
The judge said the allegations against the coach were serious and the Centre should be a little proactive.
“There is something to be said. We have a high ranking player. We have to balance... If there are such senior allegations against the coach, Union of India has to be a little bit proactive on this,” said the judge.
“Let them (Centre) come back with instructions. Ultimately she is the highest-ranking player in the country today,” the judge added.
Senior counsel Sachin Dutta, appearing for Batra, said that by virtue of a rule on mandatorily attending the national camp, his client's chance for the 25th ITTF Asian Table Tennis Championships, 2021, which is to be held in Doha from September-October, has been scuttled in spite of her fulfilling all merit-based criteria.
He urged the court to stay the rule to enable her to participate in another international event scheduled for November.
“There is an event in November. This regulation be stayed immediately. It will kill my career,” Dutta said as he highlighted that personal coaching is encouraged in several other sports.
The counsel for the federation denied all allegations and said that the national coach was not even present at the national camp.
In the petition, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Khel Ratna awardee has alleged that the federation was carrying out its selection processes in a non-transparent manner, targeting certain individuals such as herself and acting completely contrary to the interest of sports and sportspersons.
She has asserted that the national coach, in a clear conflict of interest, was running a private table tennis academy simultaneously and on one occasion, “pressurized the Petitioner to throw away a match only with a view to help one of his trainees at his private academy to qualify for the Olympics, 2020”.
“This incident happened on 17.03.2021 in respect of the match to be held on 18.03.2021 at the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament, 2021 organized by ATTU. Not only did the Petitioner refuse to comply with such an unethical, illegal and immoral request, but she also immediately communicated this to the Adviser, TTFI, on 18.03.2021,” the plea alleges.
"After conclusion of Olympics, the Respondent No.1 (federation) issued Rules and Regulations dated 04.08.2021 (received by the Petitioner on 27.08.2021) informing her that attending of National Coaching Camp is compulsory, failing which she would not be selected for any upcoming international event," it says.
The plea states that Table Tennis is an individual sport, which requires specialised training with support staff and thus the rule against personal coaching is arbitrary, irrational, absurd and have no nexus with achieving excellence in an individualised sport.
“Only the personal coach would know the strengths, weakness, skills and areas which a player should focus and strengthen. However, these Rules do not permit any personal coach/support staff,” the plea adds.
The matter would be heard next on September 23.
Also read: Manika Batra left out of India squad for Asian TT Championships
News source: PTI
Fed up with injuries, Swapna mulling retirement
Kolkata, Sep 17 (Sports news) Battling depression due to a nagging back injury, Asian Games gold medal winning athlete Swapna Barman has decided to call it quits, a formal announcement of which will be made in a few days.
The decision comes less than 24 hours after Swapna, a North East Frontier Railway athlete, won a gold medal in high jump at the 60th National Open Athletics Championships in Warangal.
"My body is not taking the toll anymore. Mentally, I'm very depressed and it's not easy," Swapna told PTI from Warangal.
"I’m a bit confused, but I’ve mentally prepared 80-90 per cent to call it quits. I will make the ‘big’ announcement after reaching Kolkata.
"I never wanted to participate, but because of Railway commitments I had to participate here," Swapna, who skipped her pet heptathlon event in Warangal, said.
After becoming the first Indian heptathlete to win an Asian Games gold in Jakarta 2018, Swapna, who has six toes on each foot, struggled with injuries and won a silver at the Asian Championships in Doha a year later — her last International competition.
The lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic meant that Swapna could not take part in any competition in 2020 and while in 2021 she aimed for the Tokyo Games qualifying mark but again injuries and a second wave of the pandemic derailed all her plans.
This year, she took part only in the Federation Cup and at the ongoing Open Nationals.
"It seems I was not destined for it. I tried hard but could not make it and struggled a lot with injuries," she said.
Swapna had delayed the surgery on doctors' advice and relied on rehab but she said she had enough of it.
"Ultimately I have to go for the surgery, even during this meet I was troubled by the back pain. It does not feel well anymore," an emotional Swapna said with a choked voice.
The Jalpaiguri athlete was also mired in controversy last year after her house was raided by forest department officials for alleged illegal possession of timber as there were wide protests in the area. "People are jealous of my achievements and my mother is subjected to a lot of harassment. I can’t take it anymore. I’ve to be with my family and deal with it,” she concluded."
Also read: Ministry directs NRAI to initiate fresh election process
News source: PTI
In his first tournament in two years, Advani manages to defend Asian title
Doha, Sep 16 (Snooker news) India's ace cueist Pankaj Advani on Thursday defended his Asian Snooker Championship title defeating Amir Sarkhosh of Iran here.
The Indian great was competing in his first assignment in almost two years due to COVID-19.
Advani had won the title in 2019 before the 2020 edition got scrapped due to the pandemic.
His tally of Asian titles across both snooker and billiards now stands at 11, apart from the two Asian Games golds of 2006 and 2010.
"I’m glad to defend this title and pick up from where I left off before the onset of the pandemic. The gap only increased the drive and hunger to compete and do well on return," said Advani.
In the best-of-eleven final, Advani was up against former winner and a seasoned campaigner Amir who was in formidable form.
It was the Indian though who dictated most of the final in his 6-3 victory. Advani drew first blood by winning the first frame with a 55 break. After that a 50 break in the second and some fine potting in the third made the ultimate winner enjoy a 3-0 lead before the Iranian pulled one back.
At 3-1, the Indian employed his billiards knowledge to give his opponent limited scoring opportunity and capitalised on every opening he got to go 4-1 up. The next two frames were shared by the finalists with a remarkable display of quality potting from both players.
However, just when the Indian was one frame away from getting his hands on the coveted trophy, Amir found his touch and bridged the gap to 5-3.
A fine break of 43 gave Amir the lead in the ninth frame but the crowd got to witness a perfect climax from the 23-time world champion as he pieced together an exquisite championship-winning clearance break of 63 to end the match and a two-year wait for an international title.
Advani will stay back to compete in the IBSF 6-Red Snooker World Cup starting Friday.
Results: Final: Pankaj Advani (India) defeated Amir Sarkhosh (Iran) 6-3 Frame Scores: 72(55)-42, 72(50)-0, 70-49, 41-66, 70-17, 30-68, 34-74, 50-12, 64(63)-44.
Also read: ECB urges government in an open letter for COVID certificates to ensure "great sporting summer" with full grounds
News source: PTI
Manika Batra left out of India squad for Asian TT Championships
New Delhi, Sep 15 (Table Tennis News) Star paddler Manika Batra was on Wednesday left out of the India squad for the Asian Championships beginning September 28 in Doha after she did not attend the mandatory national camp in Sonepat.
In the absence of the world number 56th player, 97th-ranked Sutirtha Mukherjee will lead the women's team. The other members are Ayhika Mukherjee (ranked 131) and Archana Kamath (132).
Veteran Sharath Kamal (ranked 33) will spearhead the men's challenge in the company of G Sathiyan (38), Harmeet Desai (72), Manav Thakkar (134) and Sanil Shetty (247).
Powerhouse China is not taking part in the event, raising medal hopes in the men's team event. Singles and doubles competitions will also be conducted.
The Table Tennis Federation of India had made it clear that any player not attending the camp will not be considered for selection. The team was picked on Wednesday and was subsequently published on TTFI website.
The federation had made attendance in camps compulsory following the Tokyo Olympics.
Manika had informed the federation that she would like to continue training with her personal coach in Pune.
The Khel Ratna awardee has also made match fixing allegations against national coach Soumydeep Roy for asking her to throw a match during the Olympic qualifiers. TTFI has formed an inquiry panel to probe the allegations.
Sathiyan, Desai and Sutirtha joined the national camp late due to different reasons. Sathiyan was playing in Poland, Harmeet was in Germany while Sutirtha had fever.
Men's team: Manav Thakkar, Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai, Sanil Shetty.
Men's doubles: Sharath Kamal and G Sathiyan; Manav Thakkar and Harmeet Desai.
Women's team: Sutirtha Mukherjee, Sreeja Akula, Ayhika Mukherjee, Archana Kamath.
Women's doubles: Archana Kamath and Sreeja Akula; Sutirtha Mukherjee and Ayhika Mukherjee.
Mixed doubles: Manav Thakkar and Archana Kamath; Harmeet Desai and Sreeja Akula.
Also Read : TTFI calls executive committee meeting to discuss Manika's fixing allegations against national coach
News Source : PTI
Afghan female footballers evade Taliban, reach Pakistan
Islamabad, Sep 15 (Football News) Thirty-two women football players from Afghanistan, who were facing threats from the Taliban, have reached Pakistan along with their families after the government issued emergency humanitarian visas to evacuate them, according to a media report on Wednesday.
The footballers belonging to the national junior girls' team had been originally due to travel to Qatar, where Afghan refugees have been housed at a facility for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but were left stranded after a bomb blast at the Kabul airport that killed 13 US service members and at least 170 Afghans on August 26.
These women were facing threats from the Taliban due to their involvement in the sport, Dawn newspaper reported.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August. These women football players had since been in hiding to evade the Taliban, according to the report.
The move to bring the 32 footballers to Pakistan was initiated by British-based NGO Football for Peace in cooperation with the government and the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), which is not recognised by FIFA.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino had visited the Afghan refugees during his trip to Doha last week, but the global football body has been criticised for its inaction in aiding the female footballers who were still in Afghanistan.
The footballers will proceed from Peshawar to Lahore where they will be housed at the PFF headquarters.
Also Read : AFC welcomes FIFA initiative on two-year World Cup cycle
News source : PTI
From vegetarian food to extra security, Pakistan taking extra care of India's budding tennis players
New Delhi, Sep 13 (Tennis news) From arranging vegetarian food to booking practice courts without asking and beefed up security, Pakistan is "going out of their way" to make the eight-member Indian tennis contingent feel "special" in Islamabad, which is playing host to the Asian U-12 ITF regional qualifying event.
A few Indian junior tennis players have competed across the border in individual capacity in different ITF Grade events but it is the first time that a junior national team has travelled to Pakistan for a multi-nation tournament.
The Indian Davis Cup team has not travelled to the neighbouring nation since 1964 and no senior player has competed on the Pakistan soil since the friendship series between the two nations in November 2007 in Lahore.
Obviously, Pakistan is glad to host Indian players even if they are just 12-year-old boys and girls.
Aarav Chawla, Ojas Mehlawat and Rudra Batham feature in the boys team while the girls team has Maaya Revathi, Harithashree Venkatesh and Janhavi Kajla.
Incidentally, former national champion Ashutosh Singh, who was part of the 2007 friendship series, is with the boys team as coach.
Ashutosh says having the India flag on their official jerseys had started to attract attention even before they landed in Pakistan.
"At the Doha airport, a few people noticed the tricolour on our jerseys and they got interested in our group. They belonged to Pakistan and were happy to know that we were headed to Islamabad. If you are an Indian player, they want to talk to you," Ashutosh told PTI from Islamabad.
"Before we reached the immigration desk, the Pakistan Tennis Federation had all the clearances in place. It was clear, they were happy to have us as guests. We also had an escort vehicle till the hotel.
"There were no security concerns. Even the parents of the kids were pretty confident. All the top players of Pakistan like Aqeel Khan are our good friends. They always keep tennis away from politics." Namita Bal, who is the coach the girls team, was overwhelmed by the special treatment they are receiving.
Also read: Daniil Medvedev’s groundbreaking run at the US Open gives hope to the next generation of stars
"They are taking care of our tiniest of things. Janhavi is the lone vegetarian in our group but they are arranging vegetarian food for her everyday. We are supposed to book our courts and arrange for water but they are taking care of everything," chuckled Namita.
"Not only this, we arrived a day earlier (Saturday) than the scheduled time and were supposed to pay for our hotel but we were told that we don't need to pay. We are overwhelmed by the warmth, love and respect we are receiving in Pakistan," added Namita.
"They are making sure we don't feel as if we are enemies. They are calling us 10 times a day to ask if we need anything. They are going out of their way to make us feel comfortable." The India boys and girls are favourites to win their respective events at the ITF Asia 12 & Under Team Competition, which is a South Asia Regional Qualifying event. The top two teams will make it to the next round, which be held in Kazakhstan in November.
The Indian boys team blanked Nepal 3-0 and the girls team beat Pakistan 2-1 to start their campaign on a good note on Monday.
Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) President Salim Saifullah Khan told PTI that they would "love to host the senior Indian teams as well." "India has some really strong players and playing with them will benefit our players. It will be a good experience for our boys and girls to play against these Indian kids.
"Our agencies, the special police force are alert and taking extra care of the Indian squad. All we want us is that they inform us, if they are going anywhere. They must inform us," he said.
"The junior Indian players used to come here for ITF Grade 4-5 events but now they don't come. We want that Indian players come here and Pakistan players compete in India," said Khan, who last came to India in 2005 when her mother underwent an eye surgery in Mumbai.
India's number one U12 player Aarav's father Jitender Chawla, who works in corporate world, said he had no apprehensions in sending his son to Pakistan. "People say a lot of things but when the players are there as national guest I don't feel there should be any problem. If something has to happen can happen anywhere. Aarav was pretty excited to go there.
Aarav trains with Aditya Sachdeva, who heads the training program at Roundglass sport in Chandigarh.
News source: PTI
TTFI calls executive committee meeting to discuss Manika's fixing allegations against national coach
New Delhi, Sep 9 (Table Tennis news): The Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has called its executive committee meeting on Saturday to discuss star player Manika Batra's allegations of match-fixing against national coach Soumyadeep Roy. After Manika's allegation, in response to the TTFI's showcause notice, that the national coach had asked her to throw a match during the Olympic qualifiers in March, the federation had asked Roy for a written response which he has submitted.
"Both Manika and Roy will be heard in the meeting and inquiry panel will be formed," TTFI secretary Arun Banerjee told PTI on Thursday.
National camp in Sonepat ================ On the ongoing national camp in Sonepat, Banerjee said most of the players have reported barring Manika. G Sathiyan, who had wanted to train in Poland instead, is also expected to reach in a day or two.
The federation recently made camp attendance compulsory for players to be eligible for big events, including the Asian Championships in Doha later this month.
Sutirtha Mukherjee, who did not report to Sonepat at the start of the camp, has also reached after recovering from fever, said Banerjee.
"The rules are pretty clear. You have to attend the camp to be eligible for selection," he said. No full-time coach since 2018 Asian Games =========================== The federation, which has not managed to rope in a foreign coach in more than three years due to COVID-19 pandemic and other reasons, is looking to hire one at the earliest.
Former Spanish player Alfredo Carneros has emerged as one of the candidates. India veteran Sharath Kamal had defeated him in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"We lost a lot of time due to COVID. We are on the lookout and are talking to a few coaches. A decision will be made soon," added Banerjee.
Also read: Manika rubbishes TTFI's claim that she did not report Roy's alleged fixing offer in March
News source: PTI
Manika rubbishes TTFI's claim that she did not report Roy's alleged fixing offer in March
New Delhi, Sep 6 (Table tennis news) Star player Manika Batra on Sunday dismissed TTFI's "false" claim that she did not report the matter to the national federation when national coach Soumyadeep Roy allegedly asked her to throw a match during the Olympic qualifier in March.
Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) secretary Arun Banerjee has questioned the timing of Manika's allegations against Roy.
However, the leading India player, in her response to federation's showcause notice over not taking Roy's help during the recently held Tokyo Olympics, stated that the national coach asked her to fix a match in Doha and she had "promptly" reported the matter to TTFI which did not take any action. It was also the reason she could not take Roy's help in Tokyo.
She reiterated the same to PTI on Sunday: "I just wish to say it's clearly stated in my written reply to the notice and letter to TTFI that I had reported about the matter to them long back (in March) .
"I don't know why the false claim is made now of me not reporting it for five months. My reply to the notice clearly claims of my prompt reporting of it." TTFI has asked Roy to present his side of the story in a written reply.
"From my side, I did not promise to oblige him and promptly reported this matter to a TTFI official. I decided not to obey the unethical command of the national coach.
Also read: Manika alleges national coach Roy asked her to fix match in Olympic qualifiers
"I have been falsely charged with ''bringing disrepute to the country by the sight of an empty chair of the coach''.
"But the truth is that the ''empty chair'' was the result of the national coach's pressure tactics for match fixing and TTFI's inaction to act on my prompt reporting of that incident and not the result of my so called indiscipline," Manika had stated in her response to the notice.
She is also unlikely to attend the national camp underway in Sonepat ahead of the Asian Championships later this month. TTFI has made it clear that any player missing the camp will not be considered for national selection.
Star male player G Sathiyan has decided to cut short his training and competition stint in Poland and is set to join the camp on September 10 or 11.
News source: PTI
Manika alleges national coach Roy asked her to fix match in Olympic qualifiers
New Delhi, Sep 3 (Table Tennis news): Table tennis star Manika Batra has alleged that national coach Soumyadeep Roy asked her to throw a match during the Olympic qualifiers in March and that was the main reason she refused his help in the singles competition of the Tokyo Games.
Responding to Table Tennis Federation of India's show cause notice, Manika strongly denied that she brought disrepute to the game by refusing Roy's help.
According to TTFI sources, the world number 56 stated she would not have been able to focus on her match if someone who asked to her indulge in match-fixing months earlier was sitting by her side.
"Besides the need to avoid disturbance due to his last minute intervention, there was an additional and much more serious reason behind my preference to play without the national coach," the Khel Ratna awardee alleged in her response to TTFI secretary Arun Banerjee.
"The national coach had pressurised me during the qualification tournament in Doha in March 2021 to concede my match to his student to enable her to qualify for Olympics - in short- to indulge in match-fixing," she said.
Despite repeated attempts, Roy was not available for a response to the allegations. The player-turned coach has also not been asked to join the ongoing national camp and has been told by TTFI to present his side of the story.
"The allegations are against Roy. Let him respond and then we will decide future course of action," said Banerjee when asked about Manika's response to the showcause notice.
Roy is a former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist in the team event and also an Arjuna awardee.
Both Manika and Sutirtha Mukherjee, who train in Roy's academy, ended up qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
"I have evidence of this incident and I am ready to present it to the competent authorities at the appropriate time. For asking me to concede the match, the national coach personally et me in my hotel room and talked to me for nearly 20 minutes," said Manika.
"He tried to promote his own student using unethical means under the pretext of national interest. He was accompanied by his student who trains in the private academy not only run by, but also named after him.
"From my side, I did not promise to oblige him and promptly reported this matter to a TTFI official. I decided not to obey the unethical command of the national coach. But his intimidation and pressure had its effect on my mental frame and consequently my performance.
"During the Olympics, I wanted to keep away from the demoralising effect of such a coach. Because, as a player representing India, it was my duty to serve my country in the best possible way." Manika made history by reaching the third round while Sutirtha also did well to reach the second round.
TTFI had called Manika's refusal to take Roy's advice as an act of indiscipline and showcaused her.
"I strongly deny the charge therein that I brought disrepute to TTFI, Government of India and the country and undermined the appointment of the national coach by playing my singles matches in the Tokyo Olympics without the presence of the national coach in the field of play.
"In fact and on the contrary, I have served my country and TTFI in the best possible way by playing my matches alone," she wrote.
Manika also questioned TTFI for not taking action against Roy.
"I have been falsely charged with 'bringing disrepute to the country by the sight of an empty chair of the coach'. But the truth is that the 'empty chair' was the result of the national coach's pressure tactics for match fixing and TTFI's inaction to act on my prompt reporting of that incident and not the result of my so called 'indiscipline'.
"Unfortunately, when I raised the issue of the match fixing pressure tactics by the national coach again in my e-mail dated 14'th August 2021, TTFI refuted this issue outright without even a preliminary, impartial and transparent inquiry.
"Finally, to reiterate and summarise, I have done nothing wrong in playing my matches alone," she asserted.
Also read: Having personal coach at events not about ego, it's basic requirement of individual sport: Manika
News source: PTI
Nobody in NRAI wanted me as coach except president Raninder Singh: Jaspal Rana
New Delhi, Aug 11 (Olympic news) Indian shooting could soon reach a point of no return if there is no fairness in selection of coaches and athletes, no fixing of accountability and no discipline, reckons Jaspal Rana.
Dronacharya awardee coach Rana has also revealed that "nobody" wanted him to be a part of the Indian shooting coaching setup except the national federation (NRAI) president Raninder Singh.
Amid the bitter mudslinging in the wake of the Indian shooters' disastrous outing at the Tokyo Olympics, the 1994 Asian Games gold medallist said it's high time the problems facing the sport in the country are fixed.
"We need absolute fairness in selection of both coaches and shooters, fixing of accountability and there cannot be a place for non-performers in the team," Rana told PTI during a chat.
But the 45-year-old former shooter was quick to add that the bunch that failed to deliver in Tokyo comprised mostly youngsters, who will gain in experience and mature by the time the next Olympics come calling.
The young shooters should be backed, he said, as there is no dearth of talent among them.
"We don't need to train them, they already know there game, we need to protect them, which was not there. That's what I think, but then, nobody wanted me in the federation except the president," Rana added.
Indian shooters failed to fire at the Olympics for the second straight time and Rana said it is not fair on the part of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president Singh to blame him for the debacle.
Also read: Mirabai Chanu an inspiration for the future generations to come
Reacting to the failures of top medal prospects such as Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary at the Olympics, Raninder had said there was "just one negative factor in the whole thing (wrangling within the team)." "I am referring to Jaspal Rana," the NRAI chief had said referring to the internal dispute among coaches in the pistol squad prior to leaving for the long training-cum-competition tour of Croatia.
Rana said the problem started after pistol shooter Chinki Yadav secured India a quota place during the Asian Championship in Doha in 2019.
While Rana was vocal about not being in favour of Manu competing in three events at the Olympics -- 10 metre air pistol, mixed team event and 25 metre pistol -- as he felt it was "too much for a young athlete to handle", Manu felt otherwise.
"They are just making me the scapegoat after what happened in Tokyo. They can't just pass the buck to me for Manu Bhaker's failure. What were the coaches doing in Tokyo? I was not there with them at the Olympics," Rana said.
"There was no accountability, so many coaches were there.. you just need one head chef. I don't do personal coaching, Raninder knows everything, people took advantage of the situation.
Regarding Manu's failure at the Games, he said, "I am not blaming that child, she is a kid." The final breaking point between the two came during the New Delhi World Cup in March when the shooter fet "ignored" by Rana and requested the NRAI to change her coach.
On his part, Rana said he was always ready to coach her or any other shooter, provided they listened to his advice.
Despite the bitter fallout and mudslinging over the last few weeks, Rana said he is "always ready to help the shooters out and serve in the best interest of the country."
News source: PTI
Paddler S Mukherjee makes a impressive comeback from 3-1; Manika Batra wins in a clean sweep in Round 1 of women’s singles TT
(Table Tennis news) Olympic 2021 Live Update: Indian table tennis player Sutirtha Mukherjee had a nail biting fight for the win against Sweden’s Linda Bergström wherein the former was losing 3 games to 1 and made a mindblowing comeback. The two-time national champion put forward an excellent performance against her higher ranked opponent.
Sutirtha secured her ticket to Tokyo by defeating India's No. 1 Manika Batra at the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Doha. Batra looks to be in form.
After a dismal performance in the Mixed doubles against Lin and Cheng of Chinese Taipei, Batra cruised to victory with the score of 4-0. Manika, the top Indian Table Tennis player is ranked at 63 in the world, beat British paddler TIn TIn Ho.
Also read: Weightlifter Mirabai Chanu becomes first Indian to receive medal at the Tokyo Olympics
Our aim is to be in 2023 Asian Cup in China: Jhingan
Kolkata, Jul 21 (Sports news ) Star Indian defender Sandesh Jhingan, who was named the AIFF Men's Footballer of the Year on Wednesday, said there's a lot of hunger in the national team to qualify for the Asian Cup in China in 2023.
India had a disappointing finish to their 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, finishing third in the group with seven points and failed to advance into the next round.
But, they managed to make the third round of the Asian Cup Qualifiers slated to be held from February to September next year.
"Our aim is to be in the Asian Cup in China. We want to make it better this time, there's a lot of passion, determination, desire and enthusiasm going into this Asian Cup qualifiers," Jhingan, who turned 28 on Wednesday, said during a virtual media conference organised by the AIFF.
India played out a 1-1 draw against Afghanistan to end their 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup joint qualifying campaign on June 15.
Their biggest result was an historic goal-less draw against Asian champions Qatar in Doha, while they managed a solitary win against Bangladesh by 2-0 margin.
"I'm the first one who raised my hands up and said we did not play to our potential. But we tried our best but the situation was not as it should have been. I'm not using it as an excuse. To sum it up, we should have done better.
"Now it's about doing well in the Asian Qualifiers and then stepping up each time. We want to do really well and play the Asian Cup. We want to do much better than last time and try to qualify from the group and play the knockout stage, that's the plan now," he said.
Jhingan said the COVID-triggered lockdown was the main reason for the lack of preparation.
"There were a lot of obstacles we faced with the COVID-19 thing, we could not train together for a major part of last year. That was the big issue.
"I just hope everything goes easy, no more lockdowns and if everything was nice and safe for everyone, I think we will make the country proud," he said.
Keeping in mind the Asian Cup Qualifiers, India chief coach Igor Stimac's contract has been extended till September 2022, even as his win percentage was just 13.33.
From 15 matches, the Croatian World Cupper managed just two wins, six draws and seven defeats which was a lot poorer than his predecessor Stephen Constantine’s.
Also read: Official logo of the AFC Women's Asian Cup India launched
"He (Stimac) has played at the highest level -- the World Cup, the Premier League. So just being around him is a learning process. He helped me a lot and I'm really happy to have as the national team coach." Asked about Stimac's contract extension, Jhingan said: "It's not my department, it's AIFF's decision. I just have to worry that he picks me for every game, every camp." From battling a career-threatening ACL injury to winning the AIFF Men's Footballer of the Year on his birthday, it's been a roller-coaster journey for Jhingan.
"I was disappointed when I got to know about the ACL. I just went back and kept working. There's always who has achieved more or suffered more than you, whatever happened was nothing. It's nothing compared to the real challenges of life," he said on his comeback.
"This injury or any other injury, everything happens for good, it's about keeping faith in your work and being positive."
News source: PTI
Official in International Olympic Committee refugee team for Olympics tests positive for COVID-19
Doha, Jul 14 (Olympics news) An official of the International Olympic Committee's refugee team has tested positive for COVID-19 here, leading to a delay in their travel plans for the Tokyo Games even though all others have returned negative results for now.
"...the IOC Refugee Olympic Team came together for a 'Welcome Experience' in Doha, Qatar. Twenty-six of the 29 athletes and 11 officials participated," the IOC statement read.
"On taking COVID-19 PCR tests before leaving for Tokyo, the test of an official returned positive. A follow-up test confirmed the result, while the tests of all other members of the team (athletes and officials) returned negative," it added.
Three athletes could not take part in the 'Welcome Experience' in Doha and two of them -- Ahmad Alikaj (judo) and Abdullah Sediqi (taekwondo) -- are due to arrive in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Also read: Interesting facts and trivia about Olympic Games from the past
"They are accompanied by coach Alireza Nassrazadany. All three are coming directly from their respective training camps," the IOC stated.
The official, who has been isolated by the Qatari Public Authorities, is considered asymptomatic and doing well.
"The official was single-vaccinated and followed all COVID-19 countermeasures prior to departure and during the Welcome Experience," the IOC stated.
"As a consequence, it was decided that the team would currently not travel to Tokyo and will continue their training in Doha while being tested daily," it added.
The refugee team in the Olympics was first introduced in the 2016 Rio Games as a tribute to the courage and perseverance of all refugees. News source: PTI
Tokyo Olympics: Badminton players Sindhu, Praneeth get easy draws; tough task for Chirag-Satwik
Kuala Lumpur, Jul 8 (Badminton sports) Reigning world champion P V Sindhu and B Sai Praneeth were handed easy group stage outings in the badminton draws unveiled on Thursday for the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23.
While Rio Games silver-winner Sindhu has been seeded sixth and drawn in Group J of women's singles, Praneeth was seeded 13th in Group D of men's singles competition.
World no 10 men's doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy will be competing in Group A.
Sindhu will face Hong Kong's world number 34 Cheung Ngan Yi and Israel's Ksenia Polikarpova, ranked 58th, in the league stages and is likely to face Denmark's 14th seed Mia Blichfeldt in the pre-quarterfinals.
Praneeth, on the other hand, will have to go past world no 29 Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands and Isreal's Misha Zilberman, ranked 47th.
The 28-year-old from Hyderabad will face the winner of Group C if he tops the group.
Chirag and Satwiksairaj, however, were handed a tough draw which was announced by BWF on Thursday.
The Indian duo will have to compete against top-seeded Indonesian pair of Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, Chinese Taipei's world no 3 Lee yang and Wang Chi Lin and England duo of Ben Lane and Sean Vendy, ranked 18th.
In doubles, the top two teams in the group go through to the quarter-finals.
Chirag and Satwik will meet the Group D runners-up, which has second seeds Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, if they top Group A, while a second place finish will see them take on the winners of Group B, where home favourites Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe have been drawn.
In the singles competition, the top player from each group will qualify for the knock-out stages.
In women's singles, Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying will have to fend off group challengers Thuy Linh Nguyen (Vietnam), Qi Xuefei (France) and Sabrina Jaquet (Switzerland), with the group winner set to have a bye in the first round of the knockout draw.
Tai is in the same quarter as fifth seed Ratchanok Intanon and 14th seed Gregoria Mariska Tunjung.
Egypt's Doha Hany, the only player who is competing in three categories, is drawn with top seed Chen Yu Fei and Turkey's Neslihan Yigit in women's singles Group A.
Among top men's singles players, Olympic bronze medallist Viktor Axelsen, former All England champion Shi Yu Qi and Asian Games gold-medallist Jonatan Christie will be in the same quarter of the knockout draw should they top their groups according to seeding.
Reigning Olympic champion Chen Long, whose group mates are Spain's Pablo Abian and Estonia's Raul Must, is to face All England champion Lee Zii Jia in the first knockout round.
Also read: Olympic-bound shuttler B Sai Praneeth nominated for Khel Ratna with K Srikanth
News spource: PTI
AITA nominates Ankita, Prajnesh for Arjuna; Balram, Piperno for Dhyanchand
In Sports news, New Delhi, Jun 29 Asian Games bronze medallists Ankita Raina and Prajnesh Gunneswaran have been nominated for the prestigious Arjuna award by the national tennis federation, which has also sent names of Balram Singh and Enrico Piperno for the Dhyanchand honour.
Ankita and Prajnesh both won singles bronze medals at the 2018 Asian Games held in Jakarta and Palembang.
Ankita is now country's best-ranked singles (182) and doubles (95) player and is set to make his Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games next month.
"This year we have nominated Ankita and Prajnesh for Arjuna while the names of very respected Balram sir and Enrico Piperno have been sent for life time achievement honour, Dhyanchand," an All Indian Tennis Association (AITA) official told PTI.
The 28-year-old Ankita has been India's key player in the Billie Jean King Cup team for the last three years.
She was nominated for the 'Arjuna' last year also but Asian Games gold medallist Divij Sharan succeeded in bagging the award.
Prajnesh is one of the most mature players in the current Indian generation. Had he not lost five crucial years to knee stress fractures, his career would have been an altogether different story.
The 31-year-old left-hander from Chennai, ranked 148 on the ATP charts, has played five Davis Cup ties for the country.
In the Lifetime achievement category, Balram Singh, who has a 50 year-long association with the Indian tennis, will vie for the honour along with Piperno, who coached the Davis Cup team between 1991-2001 for 27 consecutive ties.
The 73-year-old Balram, one of those extremely shy and non-controversial figures in Indian tennis, coached the Davis Cup teams in 1989 (South Korea) and 1990 (Japan).
He himself reached the junior Wimbledon and junior US Open quarterfinals in 1966.
That he has always preferred to stay away from the limelight and work in the background is evident from the fact that he has applied for an award for the first time.
He also established Balram Singh Trust to support talented junior players. Balram is a member of the senior selection committee and also headed it in the past.
His children -- Ashutosh Singh and Shalini Thakur -- have also played tennis at a good level. While Ashutosh won the Fenesta Nationals and was also a reserve player in the Davis Cup side, Shalini has played the Fed Cup.
The 59-year-old Piperno also has an impressive CV as he himself is an 1982 Asian Games silver medallist was coach of India's first Grand Slam winner Mahesh Bhupathi from 1997 to 2003 and also travelled for with legendary Leander Paes.
He was also coach of Indian Fed Cup team between 2000 and 2012 and the national women team at the Asian Games in in Busan (2002), Doha (2006) and Guangzhou (2010).
Last year former Davis Cup coach Nandan bal had won the Dhyanchand award. News Source: PTI
Olympic-bound Table Tennis players get a 19-day camp boost
New Delhi, Jun 15 Olympic-bound Indian table tennis players, including Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra, received a much needed boost as they will have a 19-day camp at Sonepat beginning on Thursday.
Sharath Kamal, Manika and Sutirtha Mukherjee will finally get a chance to train together, while G Sathiyan will continue to train in Chennai under his coach S Raman.
"The camp at DPS (Sonepat) will start on June 17 and end on July 5. The SAI-approved camp is the result of some last-ditch efforts from the TTFI and the players," Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) said in a release.
The Indian players were confined to their homes since qualifying for the Olympics at the Asian Qualification events in March in Doha with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the country.
While Sharath and Sathiyan were in Chennai, Manika was in Pune and Sutirtha was doing practice in a limited way in Kolkata.
"For one, it will change our mood. All of us have been training individually because of the pandemic. Now we can focus on the job at hand. We will also be able to push our limits with different sparring partners," Sharath said.
Sharath said he and Manika will need to put in long hours of practice ahead of the Tokyo Games.
"We did a three-day session in Chennai, but that was too short for our satisfaction. Then the pandemic prevented us from any further sessions. The fortnight-long camp should help us," he said.
Sathiyan, on the other hand, said that he preferred training in Chennai because he would get to practice on the Sanei table he was procuring.
"I am expecting it (the table) before the end of this month. At the Games, this brand will be in use. My coach and I have chalked out our programme," he said.
Somyadeep Roy, most likely to be named as the team coach for Tokyo Olympics, and Arun Basak will have nine other paddlers to train with the three players.
SAI has also approved a sparring partner in Aakash Pal for Sutirtha, besides a personal coach (Sanmay Paranjape) and physio (Dhanjay Dubey) for Manika.
There will be other support staff, making the Sonepat camp a 20-member strong squad.
Lists of campers: Men: A Sharath Kamal, Manav Thakkar, Sanil Shetty, Ronit Bhanja, Manush Shah and Payas Jain.
Women: Manika Batra, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Reeth Rishya, Diya Chitale, Prapti Sen and Kaushani Nath.
Coches: Soumyadeep Roy and Arup Basak.
Support staff: Amarjit Singh. News source PTI
Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri one goal off entering all-time top-10 as India meet Afghanistan
Doha, Jun 14 Goal-machine Sunil Chhetri will look to add to his tally and enter the all-time top 10 scorers' list as a buoyant India meet Afghanistan in the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers here on Tuesday.
While the Indian team needs just a draw from their final game against Afghanistan to secure a place in the third round of AFC Asian Cup qualifiers after Oman defeated Afghanistan 2-1 on Friday, a hat-trick for Chhetri will see him equal the iconic Pele in terms of numbers of goals scored in the international arena.
Chhetri is also just one goal off entering the all-time top-10 list of goal-scorers, something he can easily achieve against Afghanistan, if not a hat-trick.
A Chhetri-inspired India ended their winless run in international football when the captain struck a brace against Bangladesh in their previous outing.
The talk since then mostly centered around the Indian talisman surpassing the legendary Lionel Messi as international football's second highest scorer among active players.
A veteran in top-flight at 36, Chhetri played down the comparisons with the Argentine global superstar, but he will certainly look to put his best foot forward come the next match and add to his tally of 74 goals.
If the Blue Tigers can avoid defeat in the upcoming match, they will finish third in their group, an improvement over the fifth-place result during the last campaign.
India are already out of contention to progress further in the World Cup qualifying campaign, and is now looking to secure a berth in 2023 Asian Cup, scheduled to be held in China.
India will enter the game as clear favourites despite Afghanistan's ability to fight it out.
Igor Stimac's men will be high on confidence after thoroughly dominating Bangladesh, against whom they enjoyed nearly 75% possession while completing more than 600 passes.
If they are to repeat that kind of impressive stats, India will need the duo of Chhetri and Manvir Singh to fire upfront, with Brandon Fernandes marshalling the midfield and keeping the supply chain flowing.
With Stimac reposing immense faith in him, Brandon has established himself as one of the country's top players playmakers. He has provided three assists out of the five goals India has scored in the qualifying campaign so far and he would be more than eager to continue in the same vein.
Form and past record both favour India and anything less than a victory for the Blue Tigers will be seen as an upset.
As far as Afghanistan are concerned, they will take heart from their spirited performance in their previous outing against India, who were held to a stalemate at home by their lower-ranked opponents in 2019.
But the recent defeat against Oman means Afghanistan are not among the top fourth-placed teams in the World Cup qualifiers and a failure to win against India would send them to the playoffs just to get into the third round of Asian Cup qualifiers.
Match starts at 7:30PM IST. New source PTI
When I am sad, I watch Messi's videos and it makes me happy: Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri
Doha, Jun 12 Lionel Messi's mesmerizing runs on a football pitch can make a sad Sunil Chhetri happy, the talismanic India captain said on Saturday, and made it clear that comparing him with the Argentine virtuoso is akin to living in a "stupid cocoon".
The 36-year-old Chhetri has more than once brushed aside any comparison with Messi whom he has overtaken to be the second highest international goal-scorer among active players.
"When I am sad, I watch Messi's videos and it makes me happy, so when I meet him, I will tell him I am a fan (of him), give him a nice handshake, and that is about it," Chhetri said in an AIFF interview to mark his 16 years of international career.
"I would say 'Hi, I am Sunil Chhetri and I am a big fan'. I will not trouble him. If I meet him, I will be happy, if I don't, I am still good," he said when asked what he would do if he meets Messi.
Chhetri overtook Messi (72 goals) with his second goal -- and 74th overall -- in India's 2-0 win over Bangladesh in a World Cup qualifying round match on June 7 here.
"Along with everyone else in the world, I am also a huge fan of Messi. There is no comparison whatsoever. I am just happy that I get an opportunity to score for my country and I feel proud.
"(But) I don't get into the stupid cocoon of comparing myself with all those great players. There are thousands of players who are better than me, and all of them are also fans of Lionel Messi. That’s the gap." It was on this day 16 years ago that Chhetri donned the India jersey for the first time, in a match against Pakistan in Quetta under then head coach Sukhwinder Singh.
Since then, he has gone on to play 117 matches for India, scoring 74 goals -- the second-most for an active international player. He is just three goals shy of the great Pele's tally.
"It has been a wonderful and amazing journey. To play for the number of years for the national team, to represent the country the number of times I have, it's been outstanding. It is beyond a dream." When Chhetri came to the scene in the national team, there were stalwarts like Bhaichung Bhutia, Renedy Singh and Mahesh Gawli. Now, at 36, he is the senior-most player and he sometimes feels lonely among the "kids".
"... (it feels like) just yesterday, that these two kids came in - Sandesh (Jhingan) and Gurpreet (Singh). And now those two are the main players here, that’s how time flies.
"There are so many kids who are now calling them 'Sandesh bhai', 'Gurpreet bhai'. The gap is huge now. I don't have anyone even close to my age or era.
"But it's good to be around kids. They teach me a lot of stuff with their excitement and fearlessness. I try to grasp whatever I can from this lot." Chhetri still takes advice from former captain Bhutia who has a huge influence on him.
"Just two days back, I was having a chat with Bhaichung da. I was telling him how I miss the old camp, purely because now I don't hang out with anyone. I'm in my room only.
"I learnt a lot from him. He was relentless in the way he approached a game. His mentality was bulletproof. He was at it, every game. The first challenge, the first tackle was always Bhaichung da.
"The one to fight for lost causes was always Bhaichung da. And when as a senior you saw that our captain, the most senior guy was working so hard, it rubbed on us. There's nobody better than Bhaichung da." Chhetri said his competitive spirit came mostly from his mother, a former Nepal international footballer, who would play with him many indoor and outdoor games during his childhood.
"I remember I always wanted to beat my mum, but till the time I was 13, I could not beat her. And she never wanted to lose either. I think the fact that I don't like losing, a big part of that comes from my mum.
"One day, I was complaining that I had nobody to play with, and my mum came to play with me in the heat of Delhi summer. There would be loo blowing outside. For the whole 10-15 days of summer vacation, I used to play foot tennis with my mum, and that was amazing." New source PTI
India need to sustain momentum against Afghanistan: Indian footballer Manvir Singh
Doha, Jun 10 Forward Manvir Singh says the Indian football team needs to sustain the momentum in the upcoming 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup joint qualifier against Afghanistan, having beaten Bangladesh in the previous outing.
India rode on a Sunil Chhetri brace to down Bangladesh 2-0 here on Monday for their first away win in a World Cup qualifier in 20 years.
"We need to sustain the momentum gathered in the match against Bangladesh and even in the 0-1 loss against Qatar. But everyone is aware that all of that is past," Manvir said.
"The match on 15th is a fresh canvas. We need to paint it the right manner. The coach has been constantly working with us. We need to pay him back," he said.
Manvir says he is always trying to learn from national team captain Sunil Chhetri and his ISL club ATK Mohun Bagan teammate Roy Krishna.
Manvir, who made it to the national team after a successful domestic season, feels nothing is constant as a striker.
"My job becomes easier when I play alongside top strikers. I just watch Sunil-bhai and try to imitate his calm in front of the goal. At the end of the day, that ice-cool head makes all the difference. That's education for me. In a match a striker won't get a million chances," Manvir told AIFF.
"There will be days when you will get just one chance, or maybe a half chance. If you are able to make it count, you have done your job. I also need to mention that I look up to Roy Krishna's calm in front of the goal. They are my heroes." He also spoke about his progress as a striker since the beginning of his journey in competitive football.
"A striker is all about the confidence and that only comes though the game time he gets. The more you get to play, the more mature you become.
"It's all about your intuition, the movements inside the box, sniffing it, and eventually the finishing. I reiterate, you can only get all of that when you get to play. Otherwise, your talent and determination will always be on the bench." The 2022 FIFA World Cup first-leg match against Qatar in 2019 changed the international career of Manvir.
Before that match, the 25-year-old was never a regular starter for India, but the performance against Qatar made him a permanent feature in Igor Stimac's team.
Asked how he describe himself as a player -- a winger or a striker -- and he said, "At the outset, I was an out and out striker. But a player needs to be flexible." "Modern-day football is not just about sticking to one position and role. I have been playing on the wings -- both on the right wing and left wing in recent times.
"I feel that has helped me understand the dynamics of a team's attacking philosophy. It is a plus point for any player." Manvir said his father played against Chhetri and advised to always learn from the Indian talisman.
"My dad Kuldip Singh who played for PSEB as a striker and scored quite a few goals in the Federation Cup, Durand Cup and the IFA Shield besides a host of other tournaments always mentions to me to learn from Sunil-bhai the art of longevity.
"In fact, he had played against him, and always tells me 'when you are seeing him from close, learn as much as you can. Sunil's speciality is that he has been there for so long. And that is extremely hard work'." New source PTI
Hunger intact, motivation the difficult part but not going anywhere: Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri
New Delhi, Jun 9 The never-ending queries on retirement notwithstanding, inspirational Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri on Wednesday said he is not hanging up his boots anytime soon as his hunger to perform is still intact even though finding motivation can be difficult sometimes.
The 36-year-old, who scored two superb goals against Bangladesh to lead India to a 2-0 win in the World Cup qualifier match in Doha on Monday, also refrained from setting any long-term targets.
"I'm not thinking about hanging my boots. I'm not arrogant here. I am enjoying my football. I have never been fitter than now. I am 36 but the zeal and hunger of playing for the country is still there," Chhetri said in an online interaction from Doha.
"A lot of people ask I am 36 and how long I will continue. I am not bothered. People will have opinions and I am fine with that. The day I don't enjoy my football, I will go, I will not be there." He said with age, he is more aware of his game than before and knows exactly what works for him "The only difficult part is the motivation. The older you get and more you achieve, the motivation goes down." India coach Igor Stimac, on Tuesday, lavished praise on Chhetri saying that he trains and plays like a 25-year-old.
Chhetri went past Argentine maestro Lionel Messi as the second most prolific scorer among active footballers with his 74th strike for the country in his 117th match.
But he dismissed any comparison with Messi or any player in that category.
"I am not annoyed with this comparison but my take on it is this: there is no comparison whatsoever with Messi or any player in that category. There are thousands of players better than me. People who understand football, they know it," he said.
"I am proud of scoring 74 goals for my country. Till the last match I play I will give my best." New source PTI
Sunil Chhetri's energy and poaching skills resembles a 25-year-old: Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac
Doha, Jun 8 Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac says his 36-year-old goal-machine Sunil Chhetri plays and scores like a 25-year-old, evidence of which was his stunning twin strike in a joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifier here.
With his twin strikes, the captain led from the front to power India to a 2-0 win over Bangladesh on Monday night, the latest effort helping him surpass Argentina's global superstar Lionel Messi to become the second-highest active international goal-scorer with 74 strikes.
"Many people keep on asking as to when Sunil is going to retire. He works so hard on the pitch, and in every training session, he is by far the best," Stimac said after the match.
"He is in such good shape and is working with such professionalism. He is working as if he is 25, playing as if he is 25, and scoring goals like he is 25," Stimac, a key member of the Croatin "Many people were asking last year or so, 'when is Sunil going to retire?' (If Chhetri retires) what are we going to do then? By far, in every training, he is our best player," Stimac said.
Chhetri scored two goals in a span of 13 minutes to help India seal their first win in a World Cup qualifier away from home since 2001.
Chhetri leads Barcelona superstar Messi by two goals and sits a place above Ali Mabkhout of the UAE, who is third on the list with 73 strikes to his name.
Messi scored his 72nd international goal in a World Cup qualifier against Chile last Thursday, while Mabkhout added to his tally against Malaysia, also last week.
Centre back Sandesh Jhingan felt that Chhetri's name will be remembered even after 100 years.
"Some 100 or 200 years down the line, people will still talk about Sunil Chhetri. As long as there is Indian football, people will remember his name. It's for everyone to see what he does on the field.
"Hence, I would rather like to mention that off the field he is the perfect example for all to follow." Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu expressed," I will keep on mentioning that there's one guy floating in between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi -- and that's my teammate, my captain Sunil Chhetri." "It shows his commitment and how consistent he has been scoring goals -- one after the other. It's simply remarkable," he added.
The win has helped India climb to third place in the group with six points after seven games. Already out of World Cup contention, the result against Bangladesh is a boost to their chances of earning a direct spot in the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers.
"We presented football as it should be. That's the way we always want to play. Of course, it's not always possible but when we are favourites against a lower-ranked team, it's something that we will like to present," Stimac said.
"The players did everything they could to get the win. So all the credit to them for executing the game plan perfectly," added the 53-year-old.
Chhetri broke the deadlock in the 79th minute when he headed in Ashique Kuruniyan's cross from the left, and then sealed the victory with a swerving shot from top of the box in added time.
Stimac added, "The best defence against lower-ranked teams is attacking -- keeping them away from the ball. Just to explain, if we didn't keep doing what we were doing right throughout the game, we wouldn't have scored the second and allowed Bangladesh to come at us." New source PTI
We'll talk about my goals in 10 years' time: Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri after surpassing Lionel Messi
Doha, Jun 8 Sunil Chhetri has never liked counting his goals and he prefers to keep it that way even after surpassing the great Lionel Messi as the second highest scorer in international football.
The 36-year-old Chhetri achieved his 74th strike with his brace against Bangladesh in the joint preliminary qualifying round match for 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup here on Monday night. Messi has 73 so far.
The skipper said he will get down to counting his goals probably 10 years down the line.
"I do not count the number of goals. 10 years later, we will sit together, have a chat and then count," the veteran said.
The seasoned striker, who helped India register their first win in six years in World Cup qualifiers, now stands only behind Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (103) in the active international goal-scorers' list.
Instead of his goals, Chhetri focussed on the many lessons his team will take home from Monday's game.
"We were guilty of missing a lot of chances. We could have done better. It has been a topsy-turvy qualifying campaign. Looking back, we understand that we could have done a lot better.
"We will talk about it but I am happy that we got three points," Chhetri said.
On Monday, Chhetri broke the deadlock in the 79th minute when he headed in Ashique Kuruniyan's cross from the left, and then sealed the victory by curling in a shot from long range in added time.
When queries veered towards his goals again, Chhetri brushed them aside as a thing of past for him now.
"You know what. All of this is past. We play Afghanistan, and we have to be at our best. It will be a new day, a new canvas. And it is up to us to paint it the manner we want to," he asserted.
The India captain is just a goal away from entering world football's all-time top-10.
He is behind Hungary's Sandor Kocsis, Japan's Kunishige Kamamoto, and Kuwait's Bashar Abdullah, who all have 75 goals.
"Congratulations to @chetrisunil11 for overtaking Messi to become 2nd highest active international Goal-scorer! I enjoyed his brilliant 2 goals against Bangladesh which secured a win for India and put him on to 74 international goals," tweeted sports minister Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday. New source PTI
If you give a chance to Sunil Chhetri, he will take that: Bangladesh coach Jamie Day
Doha, Jun 8 Talismanic Sunil Chhetri won't miss if you give him the opportunity to score, says Bangladesh coach Jamie Day after the Indian captain led his side to a 2-0 win in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
The 36-year-old Chhetri scored a second-half brace against Bangladesh to hand India their first win in the joint preliminary qualifying round match on Monday night.
Chhetri surpassed Argentina's global superstar Lionel Messi to become the second-highest active international goal-scorer with 74 strikes, adding another feather to his illustrious career.
"For a long period, we did well, we had a couple of half-chances. But if you give Chhetri a chance, he scores like he showed tonight. He had two chances in the last 20 minutes, and he took them," Day was quoted as saying by goal.com.
The Englishman rued that his players were guilty of giving away the ball far too cheaply to the Indians as Bangladesh suffered their fifth defeat in their seventh Group E game of the joint qualifiers.
"For 80 minutes, we competed very well. The shape was nice and difficult to break down. You see the difference in quality between the players when they were in possession. One of the disappointments was that we gave the ball away too much and gave possession back to India," he assessed.
"Our players were fantastic. They work their socks off, give their best every day. We just couldn't keep the ball and that shows in games where you give possession away too much. And if you do that against better teams and better players, then at some stage they'll punish you," he explained.
"You can't defend for 90 minutes against international teams, but again I can't fault their effort. They worked hard. We just need to be better on the ball but that's a long-term plan, not a short-term plan." New source PTI
Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri overtakes Lionel Messi, one goal away from entering all-time top-10
Doha, Jun 8 Indian football talisman Sunil Chhetri has surpassed Argentina's global superstar Lionel Messi to become the second-highest active international goal-scorer with 74 strikes, adding another feather to his illustrious career.
The 36-year-old Chhetri achieved the staggering feat with his brace against against Bangladesh in the joint preliminary qualifying round match for 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup here on Monday night.
The seasoned striker, who helped India register their first win in six years in World Cup qualifiers, now stands only behind Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (103) in the active international goal-scorer list.
Chhetri leads Barcelona star Messi by two goals and sits a place above Ali Mabkhout of the UAE, who is third on the list with 73 strikes to his name.
Messi scored his 72nd international goal in a World Cup qualifier against Chile last Thursday, while Mabkhout added to his tally against Malaysia, also last week.
At the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Monday, Chhetri broke the deadlock in the 79th minute when he headed in Ashique Kuruniyan's cross from the left, and then sealed the victory by curling in a shot from long range in added time.
The India captain is also just goal away from entering world football's all-time top-10. He is behind Hungary's Sandor Kocsis, Japan's Kunishige Kamamoto, and Kuwait’s Bashar Abdullah, who all have 75 goals.
Delighted with the team's victory and Chhetri's record, All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel lauded the captain for leading from the front.
"Our @IndianFootball skipper Sunil Chhetri adds another feather to his illustrious cap as he overtook Lionel Messi to become the second-highest active international goalscorer with 74 goals.
"A big congratulations to Captain Fantastic & wishing him many more accolades in the future," Patel tweeted.
The AIFF boss also praised the team on the convincing win that was built on Chhetri's brilliance.
"Congratulations #BlueTigers on an awesome win over Bangladesh today & fabulous performance by skipper @chetrisunil11 who lead from the front & paved the path to victory.
"Your hard work & determination was visible on the field. Wishing you all the very best in the upcoming game!" Chhetri's twin strikes meant India registered their first win in what was turning out to be a forgettable World Cup qualifying campaign in many years. It was also India's first victory in World Cup qualifiers away from home in 20 years.
With the win, India rose to the third spot in Group E with six points from seven games.
India will next lock horns against Afghanistan in the qualifiers on June 15.
The side is already out of contention to qualify for World Cup 2022, but the Blue Tigers can still can make it to the Asian Cup in China. News source: PTI
'Qatar is past', Indian football team shift focus to Bangladesh match
Doha, Jun 5 The fighting loss to Qatar done and dusted with, Indian footballers are now looking forward to their next match against Bangladesh in the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.
Playing with 10 men for a major part of the match, India went down 0-1 to Asian champions and FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar in their previous outing in the joint preliminary qualification round on Thursday.
Out of reckoning for next round of World Cup qualifiers but still hoping to make the continental showpiece in China in two years' time, mid-fielder said Brandon Fernandes said the upcoming fixture is extremely crucial for the Blue Tigers, who are going through one of their longest winless streaks of all time.
"We are moving as a team and we need to back each other. We are aware that we have specific roles in the team. The next match is extremely crucial as we need to sustain the momentum gained in the first match. The first match is history," Fernandes was quoted as saying by All India Football Federation.
India are above Bangladesh in rankings but defender Subhashish Bose acknowledged their opponents' quality, having chosen to ignore the FIFA peking order.
"We are aware of the quality of the Bangladesh team. They are a side that plays a lot of counter-attacking football, and that is very dangerous. India versus Bangladesh have always been exciting and close matches. We have huge respect for Bangladesh," Bose said.
India's match against Bangladesh is scheduled for June 7.
In their previous match, Bangladesh came back from behind to hold Afghanistan 1-1 and earn a point.
"I am very pleased with the performance against Afghanistan. The players worked extremely hard. It reflects the attitude which this team possesses -- to come back from behind and get back into the game," Bangladesh coach Jamie Day said.
Captain Jamal Bhuyan, who had played for Mohammedan Sporting in the Hero I-League, feels it's "going to be an intense match" when the two teams take the field.
"It will be intense -- with a lot of battles. It's a beautiful match to be a part of. Last time in Kolkata, we were disappointed not to get the 3 points as India scored very late in the game. We have that hunger in us, and we know we can do some damage," he said.
"The confidence in our team is good at the moment. We had our chance of winning against Afghanistan. We take that confidence with us into the India game," Jamal added.
Day pointed out the difference in the ranking between the two teams.
"India are a very good team. They are a much higher-ranked team than us who should be beating the likes of Bangladesh. The difference in ranking and quality is huge.
"In Kolkata, we did play very well. I look back and feel that India had an off-day on that night at the majestic YBK," he said.
"You look at India's last match against Qatar -- with 10 men they fought like warriors and lost 0-1.
"It only depicts the quality in their side. We are looking forward to the game. We are aware that we need to play to our maximum, and hope India have another off-day." Meanwhile, Jamal said that there are talks of him playing in the ISL but added that "nothing is concrete as yet".
"At the moment, there is nothing concrete. But I think if I join the ISL it would be a good move, and also there would be a huge following into the ISL from Bangladesh fans because they are crazy about football." New source PTI
Indian footballer Rowlin Borges extends contract with Mumbai City, to stay till 2024
Mumbai, Jun 5 Midfielder Rowlin Borges has extended his contract with reigning Indian Super League champions Mumbai City FC by three years and will stay with the club until May 2024.
The agreement signed between the two parties also has a clause that Borges can opt to further extend his contract by one more year.
The 28-year-old was a vital cog in the Mumbai City squad that clinched the unique double in the 2020/21 season, winning the ISL League Winners' Shield and the ISL Trophy.
The Goan midfield lynchpin made 20 appearances for the Islanders in the 2020/21 season, scoring twice and providing one assist.
With 1124 completed passes Borges also finished the season in the top three passers of the league list.
Borges is currently in Doha with national team for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifiers.
"This team, this club, it is my family. I am delighted to commit my future here, with Mumbai City. The last two years of my career have been an incredible learning curve for me and especially the last season - it was nothing short of a dream for all of us," Borges said in a statement.
"Coach Sergio Lobera's style is very unique, and it's the style I enjoy the most. I have evolved both as a player and as a person under him, and it's a great moment for me to be able to continue here at Mumbai City for the best years of my career. Last season's trophies was just the beginning for us." Mumbai City head coach Sergio Lobera added: "As I have said before, to win trophies you need to have good Indian players and I think Rowllin is the best in his position.
"He has consistently shown his quality and he proved it again last season in particularly tough circumstances. He is a figure of inspiration for his teammates and everyone in the group. It's really good to have him around." New source PTI
Everyone is gutted, we deserved something out of the game: Indian hockey player Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
Doha, Jun 4 India must learn to capitalise on their chances when up against big teams, said a gutted Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, whose goalkeeping heroics could not prevent a 0-1 defeat to Qatar in their FIFA World Cup Qualifier here.
Just 33 minutes into their joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifier, Asian champions Qatar were a goal and a man up in their own den, but India fought valiantly till the end to avoid losing by a bigger margin on Thursday night.
"I think we were very unfortunate with the result. Everybody in the pitch gave their everything and that's what we need. Very very unfortunate not to get something out of this game," he said in a video shared by All India Football Federation (AIFF) on its Twitter handle.
"I think everyone is gutted because the way we played, we deserved something out of it. But things happen in football and we now move on to the next game." India were down to 10 men very early after Rahul Bheke was given the marching orders for handling the ball outside the box.
"Going a man down in the first half is always hard against a very good opposition like Qatar. I think we had our chances, we just should learn how to take them because against good opposition such chances come very rare," Sandhu said.
India may have suffered a bigger defeat had it not been for Sandhu, who pulled off as many as nine saves in the group E match.
India had managed to play out a goal-less draw in their first leg match here in September 2019, largely due to Sandhu's impressive show under the bar that time as well.
Asked about his saves, Sandhu said: "I honestly didn't (count the number of saves), but I think it was more than last time." India will play Bangladesh in their next match on June 7. New source PTI
10-man Indian football team lose 0-1 to Qatar in World Cup qualifying round match
Doha, Jun 3 A 10-man India defended creditably well as they suffered a 0-1 defeat to Asian champions Qatar in their World Cup qualifying round match here on Thursday.
Abdel Aziz scored in the 33rd minute in a match completely dominated by the Qataris. The two sides had played out a goal-less draw in their first leg match here in September 2019.
Group toppers Qatar, who are yet to lose a match, had waves of attacks with their eight to nine players in the Indian half for most of the time. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had to pull off a series of saves to keep the margin of loss small.
India, however, played with 10 men from the 17th minute onwards after defender Rahul Bheke was red carded after a second booking. He had earlier received a yellow card in the ninth minute.
India did have two good moves in the match from counter attacks with Manvir Singh in the thick of things on both occasions.
India captain Sunil Chhetri, who returned to the team after recovering from COVID-19 infection, was replaced by Udanta Singh at the resumption of second half.
A winless India remained in fourth spot in Group E with three points from six matches.
Igor Stimac's men are two points behind Afghanistan (third with five points) who played out a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh earlier in the day.
India play Bangladesh on June 7 in their next match. New source PTI
Daunting task ahead for the Indian football team in World Cup qualifying round match against mighty Qatar
Doha, Jun 2 Their preparation was far from ideal but India would take inspiration from the draw against Asian champions Qatar in 2019 when they face the same opponents in the second-leg match of the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers, here on Thursday.
India had held mighty Qatar 0-0 in September 2019 here, a result considered as one of the best for the side in recent times.
But India are playing their home match here as the Qatari capital was chosen as the centralised venue for all the remaining Group E matches after the qualifiers were halted last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
India's performance, however, has gone south since then while Qatar, the group toppers, have come into Thursday match on a high.
They beat Luxembourg (1-0) and Azerbaijan (2-1) and played out a 1-1 draw against Ireland in the international friendly matches in March.
India are coming into this match after a demoralising 0-6 drubbing against the UAE in an international friendly in March.
On top of that, India's preparation has been hit hard as they had to cancel a national camp scheduled in early May in Kolkata. The team reached here on May 19 only to find that the players would not get the facilities they would have wanted.
Stimac himself had expressed the frustration, saying that it was "not an ideal preparation" for the World Cup qualifiers.
On the positive side, Stimac will have the chance to field a full strength Indian team after a long time with all the core players available for selection and without injury concern.
That 2019 match against Qatar did not have talisman Sunil Chhteri due to a viral fever and his return will surely boost the confidence of the young Indian side.
Chhetri also missed the two international friendlies in March, including the one against UAE, as he was recovering from COVID-19 infection.
But there will be gulf is class between the two sides. Qatar are ranked 58th in the FIFA chart against India's 105th.
"Qatar are one of the top teams in Asia. They have had some decent results against top European and South American teams in the recent past," Chhetri said.
"The last time we took a point against them makes us confident as a team. We understand that they will come out all guns blazing at us, and we need to stick together as a team." In that drawn game in 2019 also, Qatar dominated throughout with waves of attacks on the Indian citadel. It was to the credit of goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sandesh Jhingan-led defence that stood tall to deny the Qataris a win.
Currently fourth in Group E with three points from five matches, India are already out of reckoning for a World Cup berth but still in contention for the 2023 Asian Cup.
Qatar have won five out of their six matches in these qualifiers.
Boasting of a lethal attacking line-up with top striker Almoez Ali and Hasan Al-Haydos leading the pack, Qatar would be looking at nothing less than a convincing win.
India (From): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh, Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Narender Gehlot, Chinglensana Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Akash Mishra, Subhashish Bose, Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Rowllin Borges, Glan Martins, Anirudh Thapa, Pronoy Halder, Suresh Singh, Lalengmawia Ralte, Abdul Sahal, Yasir Mohammad, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan, Ishan Pandita, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh.
Match Startss: 10:30pm IST. New source PTI
We didn't play to our potential in 2022 WC Qualifiers, admits Indian footballer Sandesh Jhingan
Doha, Jun 1 Indian players should be brave enough to accept that the national football team did not play to its potential during the 2022 FIFIA World Cup qualifiers, experienced defender Sandesh Jhingan said on Tuesday.
Already out of reckoning for a place in the next round of the World Cup qualifiers, India are currently placed fourth in the group with three points from five matches.
From the remaining fixtures, the side will hope to collect as many points as possible and finish third so that it can seal automatic qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup qualifying third round.
India are scheduled to play Asian champions Qatar on June 3, Bangladesh on June 7, and Afghanistan on June 15 with all three matches to be played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium here.
"We can never take things for granted. The team needs to stay focussed on the job at hand. It hasn't gone the way it should have," said Jhingan, who has returned to the national team after more than seven months.
"I will be the first one to raise my hand and say that we haven't been able to play to our potential. It's not gone the way we all would have wanted it to go - especially after such a promising start.
"We need to be brave enough, raise our hand and take the blame for it. I reiterate, we haven't played to our potential." Jhingan is back to the scheme of things after recovering from his knee injury.
"It's a relief. I am happy that I have been able to get back after the injury lay-off. A man's greatest honour is to represent his country. In that sense, I am lucky, grateful and thankful whenever I get a call-up. " Jhingan had been sidelined by the injury since October last year, which forced him to miss the entire ISL season for Kerala Blasters FC. He sustained the injury ahead of the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh in October 15 last year.
The talismanic India footballer said the team needs to learn from its mistakes going forward.
"It's a human tendency to remember and talk about the negatives. In Dubai, we drew Oman who are such a good side -- that too with 10 debutants. People don't talk about how we came back from behind, and had it been a little longer, we could have won.
"I am a person who has believed in the process and the roadmap which (coach) Igor (Stimac) has laid down for us. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But right through my career I have learnt that you learn more from your failures. You just need to stay positive and keep going," he said.
Asked about India's preparation for the upcoming matches, Jhingan said: "Anyone who understands football will know the importance of a proper preparatory camp, and how important a friendly match is in preparation for a major tournament." "Owing to the pandemic we lost out on friendly matches in Dubai which isn't ideal. But there are always two ways of looking at things. The easier option could have been to throw in the towel but the great squad which we have – we are there to fight." By his own admission, he draws a lot of inspiration from the admiration he gets from coach Stimac, who considers him as an "Ironman".
"As an individual it means a lot when you get so much confidence from your coach. Every time I have tried to improve as a player, he has always helped me. It motivates me to work hard. But it also hurts me that I couldn't play a part. " Jhingan said spending time in bio-bubble in the times of COVID-19 pandemic is tough, but for him national duty is paramount than anything else.
"After all, we are also human beings and not robots. Our families are back in India. But the call of the nation supersedes everything. As professional players when we signed contracts, we were aware of the obstacles that could have come our way," he concluded. New source PTI
Indian goalkeeper Amrinder Singh joins ATK Mohun Bagan after leaving Mumbai City FC
Mumbai, May 31 India goalkeeper Amrinder Singh on Monday joined ATK Mohun Bagan on a five-year deal after leaving reigning Indian Super League champions Mumbai City FC.
The 27-year-old, who is currently in Doha as part of the national team for the upcoming World Cup qualifying round matches, was with the then ATK on loan in 2015-16 season, featuring in 13 matches.
"Even though I played in Kolkata before, it was for a very short time. This joining, of course, is going to be a new chapter in my football career," Amrinder, who has turned out for India in six matches, said.
"Winning all the trophies for Mumbai last year was a memorable event in my life. I want the same success in the Green-Maroon jersey next season.” Earlier in the day, Mumbai City FC confirmed the departure of Amrinder after an association of five seasons.
He joined the Mumbai club in 2016 initially on loan from Bengaluru FC and made his debut against FC Goa later that year. He penned a three-year extension with the club in March 2018.
In January 4, 2020, Amrinder became the most capped Mumbai City FC player when he led the Islanders against ATK MB, bettering the earlier record of Lucian Goian.
Amrinder made 84 appearances for Mumbai City FC with the last match being the 2020-21 ISL final against ATK Mohun Bagan.
Explaining why he joined ATK Mohun Bagan, Amrinder said, "I played for a while in ISL-2 under the coaching of Habas. Everyone knows about his success in ISL.
"Habas’ football philosophy always draws me. The biggest thing is that he brought out the best game from the Indian footballers. It's great to be a member of this team.
"The support of a huge number of ATK MB supporters, the football philosophy of the principal owner of the team and the glorious history of football of this city (Kolkata) are the reasons." New source PTI
Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu says goalless draw against Qatar is not his best performance
Doha, May 31 India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu says the memorable goalless draw against Asian champions Qatar, in the FIFA World Cup qualifier in September 2019, is not his greatest performance till date.
According to him, he has performed his best, surprisingly, in a 0-4 loss to Iran in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at a packed Azadi Stadium in Tehran, and during a match against China in China.
"Almost everyone I speak to always makes me remember about the Qatar match. But if you ask me, that isn't my best performance so far. I understand that in the Qatar match, we got a result -- and hence, it will always stay a highlight," Gurpreet told the All India Football Federation.
The country's top custodian added, "Rather, I will always pick two other matches ahead of my performance against Qatar. The away match against Iran in the World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifiers in 2016 in front of a packed Azadi Stadium in Tehran, will always remain on top of my list.
"Yeah, we lost 0-4, but I feel there was much more pressure in Tehran, than in Doha.
"The match against China in China also ranks high on my list. It required me to be at my best, and depicted my mentality, like all others." Already out of reckoning for a place in the next round the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, India are still in with a chance to make the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in China with impressive an performance in their upcoming matches of the joint qualifying campaign.
India are scheduled to play Asian champions Qatar on June 3, Bangladesh on June 7, and Afghanistan on June 15 with all three matches to be played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha.
Gurpreet, who had captained the 'Blue Tigers' against Qatar in the first-leg of the qualifiers, spoke about the belief that helped India to hold the Asian champions Qatar to a stalemate.
"The plan on match day was to make life difficult for Qatar, who are such a talented team. They had won the AFC Asian Cup earlier that year, and were buzzing after playing in the Copa America.
"We had to stay compact against them, and take our chances whenever we smelt a counter. And with that, we had to fight with everything. Everyone was desperate to contribute -- everyone was trying their best.
"As a goalkeeper, it's always so assuring to get the first touch of the ball without committing any mistake. That sets the tone for me, and I guess for all goalkeepers. Hence, I always look forward to getting the feel of the ball early." That showing against Qatar remains by far India's best performance in the qualifying campaign that has otherwise not gone as per plan.
On that game Gurpreet added, "I remember they had a corner and someone at the first post in an attempt to head it out flicked the ball. I lost my cool, shouted at him. But soon realised that he tried his best to jump for that extra inch.
"The clock started ticking, and we started to grow in confidence. The first-half ended goalless. We could gauge the frustrations around as the predictions that we would be whitewashed weren't coming true. It allowed us to breathe a bit more.
"We realised we were heading in the right direction. 'Take some blows guys, we can do it,' was the sentiment. The pressure was huge, but the belief was more." "The dynamics were even better in the second half. Seeing Sahal, Udanta dribble past the best in Asia -- the ones who won the Asian Cup was a message which hit them hard. It was a great boost." New source PTI
India football coach Igor Stimac thanks Qatar for allowing his players to train there in these grim times
New Delhi, May 29 Indian football team coach Igor Stimac has thanked the Qatar government and its football association for allowing his players to train there ahead of the World Cup and Asian Cup Qualifiers.
India are scheduled to play Asian champions Qatar on June 3, Bangladesh on June 7, and Afghanistan on June 15 with all three matches to be played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha.
"These are difficult times, and there are a number of safety regulations that have been put in place, which we are working around.
"I would like to extend a big thank you to the Qatari Government for allowing us to train in Doha under such circumstances, and the Qatar FA for hosting us in such difficult times," Stimac said.
"Qatar are the future hosts of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and we are aware that they have some great facilities here for the football teams," the coach added.
Already out of contention for a World Cup berth, India will be aiming to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
Stimac is confident of a good performance in the upcoming assignments in the Qatari capital.
"We do not have to do anything extra to motivate them. They are all very good professionals and I don't have any problem in lifting their spirits," Stimac said.
"They are well aware of the situation and have shown full commitment on the training ground. I can assure you that they will do everything possible to do well on the pitch." India has been facing a deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and Stimac said these grim times have made the Blue Tigers more resolute in their endeavours.
"They are very much aware of what's happening in India. So many families are suffering right now. We have a chance to make the people of India happy with our performance. We need to take this opportunity and bring back smile to the people's faces," the coach said. New source PTI
Dheeraj Singh says he's ready to learn from senior goalkeepers in national team
Doha, May 27 Young Dheeraj Singh is ready to learn the tricks of his trade from senior goalkeepers Gurpreet Singh and Amrinder Singh as he seeks improvement in "various areas" to establish himself in the Indian national team.
Dheeraj is one of the three goalkeepers -- along with Gurpreet and Amrinder -- in the India squad which is training here ahead of the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers beginning on June 3.
"It is an honour for me to get this opportunity at a young age. We have Gurpreet paji and Amrinder paji and I am looking forward to learning lots of things from them -- both on and off the pitch," Deeraj told AIFF TV.
"I am very young and have lots of areas that I have to improve upon," said the 20-year-old who had earned accolades for his impressive show under the FC Goa bar in the recent AFC Champions League matches.
The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cupper and former Indian Arrows custodian, who received his first Blue Tigers call-up in November last year, recollected his welcome to the national team 'family' and explained how he has been learning from his seniors.
"I still remember when I got the first call-up for the senior national team –- they (Gurpreet and Amrinder) congratulated me and the team welcomed me like a family member," said Dheeraj who is yet to earn his senior India cap.
"They keep motivating me, help me rectify my mistakes during training and tell me what to do and what not to do. It is something very important and a huge learning for me." He spoke about the strength and depth of the Blue Tigers' goalkeeping department, terming it as a 'tough competition'.
"Honestly speaking, we have very good goalkeepers in India -– in the senior national team and the leagues. We have most clubs playing with Indian goalkeepers domestically.
"It’s a very tough competition and a tough challenge for me and for every goalkeeper as they (senior goalkeepers) have set benchmark for us to try and reach. I am working for that chance and know that I have to use the coming opportunity in the best way." He said for a goalkeeper, it's important to play regularly to gain confidence.
"Training and playing matches are totally different. When you play games, you learn a lot of things and there are many unique situations that come up in the matches.
"It’s a good experience for a goalkeeper to keep on playing matches consistently," Dheeraj signed off. New source PTI
Indian football stars optimistic ahead of World Cup, Asian Cup Qualifiers
Doha, May 26 Indian football team stars, including skipper Sunil Chhetri, on Wednesday expressed confidence of doing well in the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers next month, despite their preparations not being ideal owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
India are scheduled to play Asian champions Qatar on June 3, Bangladesh on June 7, and Afghanistan on June 15, with all three matches to be played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium here.
The team is currently stationed in the Qatari capital, preparing for the task ahead.
"We are making the most of the circumstances," Chhetri said during a video conference organised by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Top defender Sandesh Jhingan added, "The confidence in the squad is high. We have done it earlier and there's no reason why we can't do it again. We have grown as a team and we need to take it forward together." Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu said, "We understand that the preparations have not been ideal but we are confident in our abilities as a team. We are not scared, and moving into the qualifiers, that's important." AIFF President Praful Patel contacted with the senior members of the team to get a feel of their preparations ahead of the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The president encouraged the players to stay fit and wished them luck.
"More power to all of you. I wish all of you good health and strength. We are extremely proud of you," Patel said.
"We spoke to the Qatar government and we were lucky that they didn't insist on the 10-day quarantine, and that has allowed the squad to assemble in Doha and begin our training sessions," the president said.
The Indian team, fourth in Group E with three points, is out of contention for a World Cup berth but is still in the reckoning for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
"This has been a terrible time. We have not had any normalcy as such. The format of the leagues was also different -- all played from inside the bubble. I understand and appreciate the concern of Igor and the entire team arising out of the difficult circumstances," Patel stated.
Head coach Igor Stimac thanked the president for helping the squad arrive early in Doha.
"We are thankful to you Mr. President and all in the AIFF for providing us the opportunity to come earlier, and also taking our cause with the Government of Qatar and arranging for us to train even during quarantine," Stimac said.
Apprising the president about the daily schedule of the squad, the coach added: "The expectations are high but realistically the situation hasn't been ideal." New source PTI
Need to improve my conversation rate, says Indian footballer Anirudh Thapa
New Delhi, May 26 Young Indian midfielder Anirudh Thapa says he is focussing on improving his goal conversion rate and adapting to different playing circumstances during matches.
The 23-year-old is currently training with the Indian football team in Doha ahead of next month's 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers in Qatar.
"... I need to improve on a whole lot of aspects. I need to convert more chances. Vision wise, I know I can do better. I need to be adapt to the changing playing circumstances that arise during the match," he said in a release issued by AIFF.
"For example, there may be phases where we need to play direct football during the match. I need to push up front a bit more to help increase the numbers.
"But then, it should never be coming at the cost of me leaving a vacant hole in the midfield. I am learning how to balance it. I need to watch my back and go up." The Indian team, fourth in Group E with three points, is out of contention for a World Cup berth but is still in the reckoning for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
India's first match is against hosts and Asian champions Qatar on June 3, followed by games against Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15).
The last time India played Qatar in Qatar, it was a goalless draw.
"That was some 18 months back. It's a different situation right now. But we understand that Qatar are eagerly looking forward to the match. But we know that we will try to do good on the field. We don't want to be disappointed," said Thapa.
"We are not there to make up the numbers. We are confident in our abilities and we are taking it one match at a time." Thapa feels as a senior pro in the team with the recent influx of young talent.
"My role has changed. There are many young players coming in and challenging everyone. My job is to guide them as to what is expected from them in the national team set-up," he said.
"You just cannot be selfish and just help yourself. You need to think about others too." Thapa, a former AIFF Academy cadet, said he was focussing on his fitness when he was at home after the international friendlies in March.
"The primary aim was to stay fit, and in proper condition so that when the National Team call came I would be in my best physical prowess.
"Professor (Luka Radman, fitness coach) has always insisted on building muscle power and strength and I was working relentlessly in the gym.
"But then the second wave struck and I was confined to my home for the last two weeks. From that time onward, I worked mostly on the individual programmes which were sent to me." New source PTI
Long camp would have helped but can't do anything: Indian footballer Pritam Kotal
Doha, May 25 A long preparatory camp would have been ideal for the Indian football team ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers here, feels defender Pritam Kotal.
Kotal, however, said the players will have to be contended with the short two-week camp inside a bio-bubble here in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Indian players had already started their preparations after landing here on last Wednesday.
The team was to have a national camp in Kolkata from May 2 before coming here later this month for the Qualifiers beginning on June 3 but the plan had to shelved due to the raging health crisis in India.
"Longer duration camps always help. Most of the boys came from their respective homes where they were in all kind of locked down," Kotal said.
"Majority of us played our last competitive match almost two months back. So a longer camp would have helped. But it is what it is," he was quoted as saying by the official website of All India Football Federation.
India's first match is against hosts Qatar on June 3, followed by games against Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15).
The 27-year-old Kotal said inspired by the fitness and diet regime of India cricket team captain Virat Kohli, he has become health conscious of late. "We were educated about a sportsman's diet during our AIFF Academy days. Post 2015-16, I took it extremely seriously, that’s when the realisation crept in.
"I read about how Virat Kohli approaches his fitness, his training regime, diet, and how he never ever goes against the roadmap laid down by his personal trainer," said the ATK Mohun Bagan player, who has also donned India jersey in more than 30 matches.
"Having Sunil-bhai (Chhetri) around helped as with his controlled diet plan, Sunil-bhai’s fitness and performances reached a different level. Both Virat and Sunil-bhai are the pioneers." He said the trend (of footballers becoming health conscious) is here to stay.
"It’s all about the diet. Even on a vacation Indian footballers don't eat anything and everything. We have to make sacrifices. The mentality -- you are what you eat -- has sunk in. So no one gives in to the temptation.
"I roped in my personal trainer, set up my personal gym at home, and eventually cut my tongue off." Kotal has not been a first-choice player since the 2019 Asian Cup, and the defender admits there is healthy competition in the team, which augurs well for Indian football.
"Different coaches tend to plan and play football differently. As professional players, it is our responsibility to adapt and (do it) faster.
"This is healthy competition which we all relish. Competition has improved me as a player," he said. New source PTI
AIFF's detailed plan to send Indian women's team to 2027 World Cup gets Ministry, SAI endorsement
New Delhi, May 24 Endeavouring to send the women's national team to the 2027 FIFA World Cup, the All India Football Federation has charted a detailed plan in this regard, which has been "endorsed and supported" by both the Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India.
It is worth mentioning that AIFF president Praful Patel had said that the national women's side can qualify for the FIFA World Cup before the men's team does, despite the less attention given to it.
For a while now, the federation has been working towards all-round development of women's football in the country.
"We have laid a detailed plan for the (current) U-18 girls in our attempt to qualify for the 2027 World Cup. The plan has been endorsed and supported by the Ministry of Sports and SAI, for which we stay eternally grateful," AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told PTI.
Last December, Patel had said the AIFF is hoping for the women's team to qualify for the 2027 World Cup. Supporting his view, the sports ministry had asked the AIFF to prepare a "concrete and actionable" roadmap to work towards the team's qualification in the 2027 edition of the world's biggest football event for women.
The U-17 women's World Cup will be held in India from October 11 to 30 next year, the FIFA Council said last Thursday.
India were scheduled to host the U-17 World Cup last year but it was postponed to 2021 before being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
India is also scheduled to host the AFC Women's Asian Cup in 2022.
"We want to carry this message to all girls who aspire to play the sport, that the football federation stands by them and wants to see them compete at the highest level," Das said.
"We are confident that the legacy that the U-17 World Cup in 2022 leaves behind, will allow and inspire girls in India to play more. That, in itself, will mark a major shift in the paradigm of sporting culture in India, and the society overall." As the discussion turned to Indian football's talisman Sunil Chhetri, the federation's top official was asked whether he is worried if the men's team would be able to find a successor for the 36-year-old when he decides to retire.
"Sunil is one of the greatest Indian footballers ever, and an inspiration to all generations.
"There are many talented youngsters in the Indian football set-up, some of whom even Sunil is extremely fond of.
"But talent alone doesn't lead you anywhere. The commitment and the sacrifices of a Sunil Chhetri is the way forward for the Apuias, the Udantas, the Thapas, the Sahals, the Brandons, the Manvir's and all others," Das said.
International football's second highest scorer among active players, Chhetri is currently in Doha for the Indian team's remaining joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The team, bolstered by the return of Chhetri, plays its first match on June 3 against hosts Qatar. The other two matches are against Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15).
The Indian team, fourth in Group E with three points, is already out of contention for a World Cup berth but is still in the reckoning for the 2023 Asian Cup in China. New source PTI
Indian football team begins training in Doha after all players test negative for COVID-19
New Delhi, May 22 All the players and support staff of the Indian football team have tested negative for COVID-19 after arrival in Qatar and have also started training ahead of the joint Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup next month.
The team, which arrived in Doha on Wednesday evening, was under compulsory quarantine and waiting for the results of their RT-PCR tests before starting their preparatory camp.
"Yes, all the 28 players and support staff tested positive in the tests done after their arrival," All India Football Federation General Secretary Kushal Das told PTI.
The team, bolstered by the return of Sunil Chhetri, will have a preparatory camp inside a bio-bubble here before its first match on June 3 against hosts Qatar. The other two matches are against Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15).
Through the good offices of Qatar Football Association, a 10-day hard quarantine was waived off for the Indians and they began training as soon as they got the COVID-19 negative results.
"Gearing-up for the challenges ahead. The #BlueTigers had their training first training session in Doha, Qatar last night," the AIFF said in a tweet, along with pictures of training of players under head coach Igor Stimac.
The matches are being played in Doha in view of the COVID-19 pandemic which doesn't allow the original format of home and away matches.
The Indian team, fourth in Group E with three points, is already out of contention for a World Cup berth but is still in the reckoning for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
The Indian players were to have a national camp in Kolkata from May 2 onwards but the raging pandemic in the country led to its cancellation.
The players and the support had left the country on Wednesday after undergoing RT-PCR tests prior to flying off to Doha from New Delhi.
They had arrived in New Delhi on May 15 with mandatory negative RT-PCR test results. News source: PTI
AIFF's bubble is a case study for international federations, institutions: General Secretary Das
New Delhi, May 21 Genuine apprehensions preceded the kick-off, but many months, matches and competitions later, the All India Football Federation's COVID-19 bio-bubble remains as impregnable as ever.
It's proud general secretary, Kushal Das, feels their model could be used as a case study for institutions and international sports federations which have seen their bio-bubble being breached by the raging pandemic, leading to cancellations and postponements of matches and events.
In the case of Indian football, no tournament has been cancelled since competitions resumed with the I-league Qualifiers last October.
"Praise came in from FIFA, AFC. Indian football's bio-bubble protocol is a case study for many -- not just in sports management institutions, but across international federations as well," Das told PTI during an interview.
Behind the AIFF's success in hosting competitions amid the pandemic lies a slew of stringent measures it has adopted, including a complete shunning of VIP culture in the stadiums.
Once inside, no one was allowed to come out of the bubble.
"Our biggest success in our bio bubble protocol was that it was unbreachable. We did away with the VIP culture and every operational staff who were part of the bubble were never allowed to move out for the entire duration. No one was allowed to come in either.
"Tests were conducted every 3-4 days, and if anyone tested positive, he was kept in isolation for over 17 days and released only after 3 RT-PCR tests came out to be negative.
"It was hard, and I need to laud the sacrifices of AIFF staff who were there in the bubble throughout. We even had X-ray machines, doctors, physios, masseurs, drivers staying inside the bubble to make it a completely sustainable eco system for our events," Das elaborated.
The top official said his federation was aware about the task at hand, considering the logistical challenges of organising top tournaments amid a constantly evolving pandemic.
"It has without doubt been an extremely difficult phase. But we are dynamic enough to understand the challenge and deal with it as the situation continually changes. There have been quite a few leagues across the globe that were cancelled this season.
"In a country like India with such a huge population, and diverse demographics, execution and implementation was even tougher," Das said.
He stressed that Indian football was able to hold its own in the face of the challenges posed by the extraordinary situation arising out of the unprecedented health crisis.
"Indian Football takes immense pride in leading from the front to bring back live sporting action in India while following the required protocols putting the safety of our athletes first.
"It was Indian football which first executed the concept of a bio bubble with the I-League qualifiers, as a result of which the model was stamped as a standard, and followed by others as well." Thereafter, Indian football successfully executed the bubble for the Hero I-League and the recently concluded AFC Champions League in Goa. Even the Hero ISL was played under the bio bubble.
Besides club football, Das also reminded that the U-16 national team, the women's senior team and the men's national team were also involved in international friendly matches.
"There can never be any compromises with the safety of the players and support staff along with the operational staff. Indian football understands the significance of the bubble, and we have been able to strike a chord with the players, assuring them of their safety as our main motivation." The Indian men's team is leaving for Qatar on Wednesday after the gulf country accepted the AIFF's request to allow its players to train there ahead of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers next month.
Not only that, Qatar has even agreed to the AIFF's request to waive off a mandatory 10-day hard quarantine after reaching there. The players will have a preparatory camp of nearly two weeks in a bio-bubble in Qatar before the first match on June 3.
"The Group E World Cup Qualifiers will be played from inside a secure bio bubble. There are certain health parameters which we need to adhere to after arrival in Doha, and we will complete diligence on the matter.
"The AIFF President Mr. Praful Patel had detailed chats with the President of the Qatar FA who raised our concern with the Prime Minister's Office, after which the 10-day quarantine period was waived off.
"However, all the players and staff have undergone a mandatory isolation in Delhi and RT-PCR tests prior to departure." Out of reckoning for a World Cup berth, Das is optimistic about India securing an entry into the 2023 Asian Cup.
"The AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers China 2023 are to kick off from November 2021 onwards. We need to finish third in the group to get a secured slot in the Qualifiers. This is our main priority to achieve. If not, then we may need to play the play-offs for the Qualifiers," he signed off. News source: PTI
Indian football team awaiting COVID-19 test results after arrival in Doha
Doha, May 20 The Indian football team players underwent COVID-19 tests on arrival and are waiting for results before starting their preparatory camp ahead of the joint Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup.
The 28-member squad and support staff landed here on Wednesday night from New Delhi.
"The 28 players and the support staff are in compulsory quarantine till they receive the test results of the conducted RT-PCR tests in Doha," the All India Football Federation said in a release.
"The squad will, thereafter, be allowed to kick-off their preparatory camp as part of their preparation for the matches." The team, bolstered by the return of Sunil Chhetri, will have a preparatory camp inside a bio-bubble here before its first match on June 3 against hosts Qatar. The other two matches are against Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15).
The round of matches is being played in Doha in view of the COVID-19 pandemic situation which doesn't allow the original format of home and away matches.
The Indian team, fourth in Group E with three points, is already out of contention for a World Cup berth but it is still in the reckoning for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
The AIFF thanked Qatar Football Association (QFA) for allowing the team to arrive much before the matches and have a preparatory camp in Doha. QFA also used its good offices to allow the Indians start training without serving 10-day hard quarantine.
"We are extremely grateful and thankful to the Qatar FA for the manner they went out of the way and helped us begin our camp in Qatar early," AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said.
"The Group E World Cup Qualifiers will be played from inside a secure bio bubble. We understand that there are certain mandatory health parameters which we need to adhere upon arrival in Doha, which we will do with complete diligence." The Indian players were to have a national camp in Kolkata from May 2 onwards but the raging COVID-19 pandemic in the country led to its cancellation.
The Blue Tigers were also to have a friendly match -- not international -- behind closed doors in Dubai as part of the preparation, but even that had to be cancelled.
"The AIFF President Praful Patel had detailed chats with the President of the Qatar FA who raised our concern with the Prime Minister's Office, after which the 10-day quarantine period was waived off," Das said.
The 28-member squad, along with the support staff, flew out from New Delhi where they were in a compulsory isolation upon their arrival from their respective hometowns from May 15 onwards.
The entire contingent had arrived in New Delhi with mandatory negative RT-PCR test results and had undergone another RT-PCR test prior to flying off to Doha. News Source : PTI
Chhetri returns as Indian football team leaves for Doha for WC Qualifiers
New Delhi, May 19 Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri made a return after recovering from COVID-19 infection as a 28-member Indian football squad leaves for Doha on Wednesday evening for the three upcoming joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The team will have a preparatory camp inside a bio-bubble in Doha before its first match on June 3 against hosts Qatar.
After missing the two international friendly matches against Oman and the UAE in March, Chhetri is set to feature in the forthcoming games.
As per the health parameters required to travel to Qatar, all the players and staff will carry with them negative results from the RT-PCR COVID-19 tests conducted in the last 48 hours.
Prior to their departure, all of them were serving quarantine in the national capital since May 15.
Head coach Igor Stimac stated that although it is not the "ideal situation" ahead of the June Qualifiers, the Blue Tigers will be putting in "intense" sessions during the camp before their matches get underway.
"It's not an ideal situation as we move ahead to the Qualifiers in June. Due to the pandemic, our national camp which was slated to begin in Kolkata at the beginning of May had to get cancelled.
"The pandemic also robbed us of a friendly match in Dubai," Stimac said.
India's fixtures: June 3: India vs Qatar (10.30pm IST).
June 7: Bangladesh vs India (7.30pm IST).
June 15: India vs Afghanistan (7.30pm IST).
The Squad: Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh.
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Narender Gehlot, Chinglensana Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Akash Mishra, Subhashish Bose.
Midfoelders: Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Rowllin Borges, Glan Martins, Anirudh Thapa, Pronoy Halder, Suresh Singh, Lalengmawia Ralte, Abdul Sahal, Yasir Mohammad, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan.
Forwards: Ishan Pandita, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh. News Source : PTI
With no football for two months, coach will find it difficult to pick team: Anirudh Thapa
New Delhi, May 18 India midfielder Anirudh Thapa on Tuesday said that head coach Igor Stimac will find it difficult to pick the team for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers in Qatar as there has been very little football in the last two months.
Due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic, only two matches were possible in the last two months -- the international friendlies against Oman and Qatar on March 25 and 29.
"It will be really difficult for the coach to pick the team. We have not played for nearly two months and it will be difficult for us (players) also," Thapa said at a virtual press conference.
"It (not playing for long) could be at the back of our minds, the concerns over injury, how will you react to a given situation, all these could be there," he said.
The players are serving quarantine at a hotel in the national capital and they are expected to leave for Qatar on Wednesday. They are awaiting the results of their RT-PCR tests for COVID-19.
In Qatar, the team will be in a bio-bubble and train before the first game against the host country on June 3. The other matches are on June 7 (against Bangladesh) and June 15 (against Afghanistan).
India, fourth in Group E points table, is out of reckoning for a 2022 World Cup berth but remains in contention for the 2023 Asian Cup.
Thapa said fortunately, the players are fit and in good shape.
"We get fitness programmes everyday and we have been following them. So, we are fit and hoping to give our best. We were also told there could be matches coming up and to be mentally ready.
"World Cup qualifiers are big matches. We are representing the country and that is motivation enough to give our best." The 23-year-old, however, admitted that the players are not immune to the unprecedented chaos and devastation the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon the country.
"We used to hear our near and dear ones passing away. We are also afraid that ourselves or family members may get the infection. So, we are concerned.
"It is difficult times but we have to remain mentally strong," said Thapa who is yet to get his first COVID-19 vaccine jab due to "unavailability of enough doses" at his place.
India played out a 0-0 draw against reigning Asian champions Qatar in Doha in the first leg in 2019. After that impressive show, India could not win against Bangladesh (at home) and Afghanistan (at neutral venue), playing out identical 1-1 stalemates.
Asked about the areas of improvement if the team wants to put up a good show against Qatar in the second leg, Thapa said, "We have to create more scoring chances, score more goals.
"Against Qatar (in first leg), we played a different style of football. Against Afghanistan and Bangladesh, we played possession football but could not create chances and score goals. That is what we are lacking and that is our main concern." Thapa attributed the 0-6 thrashing by UAE, in the international friendly on March 29, to inexperience of the rookie players. Stimac had given debuts to more than 10 players in the two international friendlies in March.
"Nobody was expecting the result. We played well against UAE in 2019 Asian Cup but it was opposite in that (0-6 loss). Coach was disappointed and told us we need to work harder." On the personal front, Thapa said he spent time during lockdown reading books related to environment and football superstars Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar as well on Michelle Obama, the former first lady of the USA.
He said he recently changed his name on his phone and Instagram to 'thapinio' and 'ipadnio' as it is easier for other people to identify, especially European players and coaches. News Source : PTI
We are grateful to BCCI, says Hockey on Australian players' return
Melbourne, May 17 Cricket Australia's interim chief executive Nick Hockley on Monday said he was "grateful" to the BCCI for ensuring a "safe and quick" return of Australia's IPL contingent from India following a stopover in Maldives.
Australian players, including Pat Cummins, David Warner and Steve Smith, arrived in Sydney almost two weeks after the T20 league was indefinitely suspended following a breach in its COVID-19 bio-security bubble.
"We are delighted. We're really grateful to the BCCI for getting them home quickly and safely. I haven't spoken to them since they've landed, but obviously we've been in text exchange and I'm sure they'll be very relieved and very appreciative to be home," Hockey was quoted as saying in Sydney Morning Herald.
A group of 38 Australians, including 14 players, had left for Maldives on May 6 after the suspension of IPL 2021 as their government had banned flights from India till May 15 in the wake of unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases there.
Besides the players, the arriving group included support staff and commentators, who were all flown out of India to the Maldives via chartered planes after the IPL's suspension.
The Australia cricketers, support staff and commentators will undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine across hotels in Sydney before leaving for their respective destinations.
The IPL was suspended 29 matches into the season.
Chennai Super Kings' batting coach Michael Hussey also headed home on Sunday via Doha after testing negative for COVID-19 on Friday. He had tested positive for the virus on May 4 and was brought to Chennai from Delhi in an air ambulance. News Source : PTI
Australian IPL cricketers return home after Maldives stop-over
Melbourne, May 17 Australia's IPL players, including Pat Cummins and Steve Smith, arrived in Sydney on Monday after a stop-over at Maldives due to travel ban from COVID-ravaged India, almost two weeks after the T20 league was suspended due to the health crisis.
Most of the 38 members of the Australian contingent, including players, officials and commentators who participated at the non-suspended league, landed at the Sydney airport this morning after spending 10 days at Maldives.
The lucrative league was indefinitely suspended on May 5 after four players and two coaches from four different teams tested positive inside the bio-bubble.
Australian players, however, couldn't head home immediately as the country had imposed a travel ban from India, which is battling a deadly second wave of the coronavirus.
They will all be spending two weeks in a Sydney hotel for the mandatory quarantine.
According to national broadcaster ABC, Smith, Cummins, batsman David Warner and Ricky Ponting, who coached Delhi Capitals, were among the people on the Air Seychelles flight.
Chennai Super Kings batting coach Michael Hussey also headed home on Sunday via Doha after testing negative for COVID-19 on Friday. He had tested positive on May 4 and was brought to Chennai from Delhi in an air ambulance.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday said the players and officials were not given any special dispensation.
"They are happy, for them to come in over the cap. That is something we insisted upon and they were to agree with that, Morrison was quoted as saying by ABC.
"They will come back under their own steam, upon their own ticket, and they won't be taking the spot in quarantine of any other Australian who is returning home under the NSW caps." News Source : PTI
Sathiyan requests for TT table to be used in Olympics, says working on variations
New Delhi, May 7 Leaving no stone unturned for his maiden Olympics, ace Indian paddler G. Sathiyan has requested the government to arrange the table which will be used at the Tokyo Games.
The 28-year-old had notched comfortable win at the Asian Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Doha in March to qualify for his maiden Summer Games.
"I am trying to get a TT table to be used in Olympics so if things can come together, definitely, it'd be one of the best preparations and very intense preparation," said Sathiyan during a virtual press-conference arranged by Sports Authority of India (SAI) on Friday.
"I am planning to get the the San-Ei absolute W advance table, which will be used in the Olympics. I have put up the proposal to TOPS. That is one of the tables which is never used in any of the competitions." Sathiyan's request will be considered under the government's Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
He is also working on adding more variety to his game ahead of the mega event.
"We've been working on a lot of technical aspects of course, a lot more into strokes which are more powerful. I think I've been a very good player on the speed practice, but I think I need to put on more power inject more power into the strokes, so working on that.
"I have been working on the variations I think you will be seeing a Sathiyan with a lot of variations on the table...you will be seeing a lot of different kinds of variations in every aspect on my slopes, serves and receives coming into the table, which will give a new flavour when I play the players at the Olympics." Sathiyan, who is training with sparring partner Anirban Ghosh in Chennai until the Olympics, is hopeful of training on the table which will be used in the Olympics.
With widespread travel restrictions on India and several state governments imposing lockdowns, travelling abroad for training or competitions is a difficult task but the world no 38 is content with training at home.
“So we play some practice matches in Chennai, but that's what we're looking at. If there is a mini Indian camp. There's also been talks for a camp to be organized with Sharath (Kamal).
"There's a possibility, things get better if I go in and play some matches, but it's mostly going to be preparation in India." Sathiyan feels playing in the Polish and Japanese leagues helped him lot in the past one year when international events were scarce.
“I went to Poland, beginning of April, played some quality matches three or four quality matches and won it at all. So, that really helps in playing the Olympic qualifiers in the national events because match practice is something very important, especially in a sport like table tennis.” “Playing Japan League and what is league I was really lucky, despite the circumstances I was able to play quality matches, not only matches, but some high intensity training with top players." Indian table tennis has improved leaps and bounds in the past couple of years and Sathiyan feels winning at the Asian Games instilled the belief that India too can challenge traditional powerhouses like Japan.
“The Asian Games I think that is the one event, that changed the overall mindset of the entire Indian TT fraternity. That winning against Japan, a very formidable team in an event like Asian Games, put lot of belief in ourselves in the entire Indian TT community that we can win against the superpowers and that really made a difference." News Source : PTI
Malaysia Open postponed due to COVID-19 surge; Saina, Srikanth's Olympic hopes take hit
New Delhi, May 7 The Malaysia Open Super 750 tournament, one of badminton's last two Olympic qualifying events, was on Friday postponed due to a recent COVID-19 surge in the host country, dealing a severe blow to the Tokyo hopes of Indian stars like Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth.
The USD 600,000 event was scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur from May 25 to 30.
"All attempts were made by the organisers and BWF to provide a safe tournament environment for all participants, but the recent surge in cases left no choice but to postpone the tournament," Badminton World Federation said in a statement.
"BWF can confirm the rescheduled tournament will no longer take place in the Olympic qualifying window. New tournament dates will be confirmed at a later date." The decision came as a huge setback for London Olympics bronze-medallist Saina and men's star Srikanth's last hopes of Olympic qualification.
Following the postponement of the India Open (May 11-16), Saina and Srikanth's qualification for the Tokyo Games hinged on the Kuala Lumpur event followed by the Singapore Open (June 1-6).
It is highly unlikely that the Indian duo will be able to travel to Singapore as the country has suspended all flights from COVID-ravaged India.
The Badminton Association of India had earlier said that as per the laid-out guidelines, for any Indian to enter Singapore, they have to either be in quarantine in a foreign country other than India for 14 days to be allowed to enter Singapore.
"Alternatively all players have to maintain a 21 days quarantine in Singapore." Malaysia too has banned all flights from India and BAI had been exploring alternative routes to reach there via Doha or Sri Lanka but with the suspension of the Kuala Lumpur event, efforts would now be directed towards Singapore.
Indian shuttlers who have already made the cut for the Olympics include PV Sindhu, B Sai Praneeth and the men's doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.
Besides the quartet, Srikanth, Saina and the women's doubles pair of N Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa were supposed to participate in the two Olympic qualifiers. News Source : PTI
Women’s rugby has received an overwhelming response in India
Rugby is a sport which is not commonly associated with India. There are no All Blacks and their famous Haka to intimidate opponents before the game has even begun. Most people on the streets would never have heard of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Jonah Lomu or Brian O’Driscoll, but the sport is quickly growing, especially in the tier 2 and 3 cities of India. Why is that?
In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, we are exploring that question with the CEO of Rugby India, Mr. Nasser Hussain. He’s the former captain of the Indian Rugby team and has featured in the XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi, XVI Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, XV Asian Games in Doha, Qatar and the Asia Rugby Championships from 2004 to 2013.
How much of an inspiration has your father been in your love for rugby? How was the experience of playing alongside him?
He has undoubtedly been an inspiration and a driving force behind my involvement in the sport. I remember in my early days going to watch him while he played for the club team. I have some recollection of messing around the field with a rugby ball, throwing it around without knowing anything about the game. He encouraged me to play sports in school and take up rugby professionally. I started in 1995 at the age of 15 and there has been no looking back since. I’ve been lucky and privileged to have a father who was involved in the sport and having the opportunity to play alongside him not just for the club team but also for the national team. When India played its very first game internationally, my dad was the captain and I was the youngest player in the team. It wasn’t always easy because of the father and son relationship, because I had to do extra compared to other players but looking back, they are fond memories and will stay with me and my dad as well.
How has the interest in rugby grown from 1998 when you made your debut for India until today? What do you consider the reason for this?
There have been massive strides, back in the day it was only played by a few clubs in Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and Bangalore so there were only a handful of teams and only one major tournament in a year. Since then, there has been tremendous growth in the game and one of the major driving forces behind this has been the National Governing Body for the sport in India i.e. the Indian Rugby Football Union (IRFU) aka Rugby India as they are popularly called. Their strategic focus and vision has contributed to the growth, especially at the grassroot level since the last decade. Reaching out to the youth and the masses has been significant and successful and we have managed to get the sport included in the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) at the Under 14, 17 and 19 level for boys and girls. Multiple national level tournaments are held across the country throughout the year so there has been huge strides that the sport has taken which is largely due to the IRFU Board members and other stakeholders who are driving it forward.
How challenging has it been to promote rugby in India? How can those challenges be overcome?
It has been a challenge and continues to be. Being a sport that’s not popular in terms of following and understanding, educating the masses has been a challenge which we are addressing. There is a usual mix-up between Rugby and American-Football and there is a misconception that it’s a dangerous sport and we are trying to change that mindset. Yes, it’s a contact sport but not necessarily a dangerous sport. We have had to be creative and innovative in terms of our approach such as reaching out to schools with the non-contact ‘Touch Rugby’ version of the sport. It follows the same fabric of the game but looks at various aspects such as teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, decision making and respect which are the core values of rugby. In the last 4-5 years we’ve rolled out the ‘Get Into Rugby’ (GIR) programme, a World Rugby initiative towards growing the game and we have incorporated it with Touch Rugby to make it easier for schools, teachers, parents to accept rugby because it’s the non-contact version and once the athlete/participant is ‘Rugby Ready’, they will progress and move on to the contact version of the sport. World Rugby carries out an annual review for GIR and in 2019, India ranked number 1 globally, in terms of participation reach through the GIR programme and has been number 1 in Asia consecutively over the last three years. I can confidently say that the Get Into Rugby programme has played a significant role in introducing the sport and had a massive impact in growing the game in India.
What has been the response in promoting rugby for women? Where do you get most of the talent from?
Women's rugby got introduced only in 2009, it's been only ten years that they have been involved in the sport, the response we have received has been overwhelming and exceptional, it's something that we did not envisage. To be honest, we were quite weary when we were introducing women's rugby but we have been proven wrong and the kind of response and hunger we see amongst the women to learn and be involved is fantastic.
Surprisingly a lot of interest comes from tier two cities, smaller towns and villages. A lot of our players are from rural and tribal India and it's been amazing to stumble upon this. What we have realised is the lack of opportunity available to women in sports, especially a team sport and we have managed to address that and provide the girls of our country a structured programme which they are more than willing to participate in it. The hotbeds for women's rugby are Odisha, Bihar, remote areas of West Bengal, districts of Maharashtra, likes of Delhi, Haryana as well as Kerala from South India. Also, something that we as Rugby India have stressed upon is that all our programmes, at least in the last 5-7 years are gender inclusive. There is no programme, event tournament or initiative that we would do only for men, it has to have women and girls involved as well and the numbers are increasing day by day. In our National level tournaments we get 24 to 25 states in the men and close to about 21 -22 states in the women that participate, so they are pretty much at par and considering they have been only involved in the last ten years, that's quite significant.
How realistic are the aspirations to make it to the 2024 Summer Olympics? What needs to be done to achieve that goal?
Honestly, it's quite tough for 2024. We have in our internal planning looked at L.A 2028 and are trying to work towards that. We have also made a presentation to that effect to the Ministry of Sport as well and they have been very receptive of it and positive in terms of the feedback that we have got. No doubt we will still strive to be part of 2024 but realistically I think 2028 is something we should be focusing on. Yes we can use the milestones in between; be it the Commonwealth Games or the Asian Games that fall from between now and 2028 as the events or stepping stones towards the Olympics. There are a couple of things that we have actually highlighted and one of the reasons we reached out to the Ministry of Sports was the re-categorisation of rugby. Currently rugby is categorized by the Ministry under ‘Other Sports’, the lowest category, and we have tried to make a case for this to be reviewed and the category changes to ‘Priority’, which is one level higher and being an Olympic sport, one would fall into that category. The minute that happens, we will get a lot more support from the Ministry in terms of the annual calendar, training and competition and the support towards facilities and infrastructure which probably are our major challenges that we face currently. If we manage to address this, it would free up a bit of resources that we can focus on the high-performance side and directly on our Olympics target.
What are your goals from Rugby in India in the future? How do you plan to achieve them?
It's been a good journey and we are going through an exciting time at the moment. I would personally want to see the sport getting the recognition that is due from the ministry and enhanced visibility from a broadcasting standpoint. We are also seeing corporates taking notice and one worth mentioning is Societe Generale, who are our current partners of Rugby India. Not only have Societe Generale invested in the National teams and top end of the sport but also supported the grassroots development. Investing towards both ends of the sport is testament to their long-term relationship and commitment towards growing the game. I think we need to get more corporations taking notice and looking at investing with a long-term perspective. From an achievements point of view, I think it's only a matter of time to break into top 3 or top 5 in Asia. That's something we could probably do in the next 5 years if we were given the right support, resources and backing in terms of infrastructure as well.
Hockey India extends monetary help to former coach COVID-19 positive MK Kaushik
New Delhi, May 6 Hockey India (HI) on Thursday said it will transfer Rs five lakh to help in the treatment of former India player and coach M K Kaushik who is fighting the battle against COVID-19 in a city nursing home here.
The 66-year-old Kaushik, a member of the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold-medal winning Indian team, had tested positive for the dreaded virus last month.
"Hockey India will transfer Rs 5.00 Lacs to the Hospital where Mr M K Kaushik Hockey Olympian is being treated in Delhi on opening of Lockdown in Delhi on Monday 10th May, Mr Eshan Kaushik Son of Mr M K Kaushik has been told about it on phone," HI said in a statement.
Despite showing symptoms, Kaushik's RTPCR and RAT tests had returned negative on April 17. However, a CT scan on chest on and pneumonia due to COVID was detected a week later.
"Since then he has been hospitalized and his condition is between, neither stable nor serious. His oxygen level drops drastically at night which is a major issue," Eshan had told PTI.
Kaushik had coached both the senior men and women teams. Under his coaching, India men's team had won an Asian Games in Bangkok in 1998.
Also, Indian women team had won bronze medal at the Doha Asian Games in 2006 under his coaching.
He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1998, before being bestowed with the Dronacharya award in 2002.
India is battling a devastating second wave of COVID-19 pandemic which has been killing over 3,000 people everyday. News Source : PTI
Replicating conditions of International venues key to India's Olympic success
Mangal Singh is an Indian archer who has represented India in many International tournaments. He has won medals at the Asian Games, World Cups, Archery Championships and has even represented the country at the Olympics.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Mangal Singh spoke about his career so far, his inspirations, the importance of mental health, challenges faced by archers and promoting the sport at the grassroot level.
When were you first introduced to archery? When did you realize that it’s a sport you can pursue professionally?
I had heard about archery during the 1992 Olympics while Limba Ram sir was playing. My elder brother told me about him and the Olympic games. In 1993, the Sports Authority of India were carrying out selection trials in our school and that’s how I got formally introduced to the sport. I was selected for the SAI after the trails and went to Ranchi, Jharkhand. In the same year, we participated in the state championship. I was extremely impressed by the new ground, top archers and the atmosphere there. I really thought I could play like them. So that's how it started.
Who have been some of the most influential people in your journey so far?
Limba Ram sir, Japan's Olympic medalist Yamamoto and Olympic Champion Justin Huish. I saw him a couple of times on my TV and I also had his video cassette, which I would ardently watch to make a note of his shooting style and all the preparations he did. I have also met Yamamoto a couple of times. They were my idols and motivated me in my career.
What is the most memorable moment of your career?
It has to be the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar, Doha where we won the very first medal for the country as India hadn't won any medals in the Asian games. That was my biggest and most memorable achievement.
In 2009, you received the Arjuna Award by the President of India. How proud are you of that achievement?
I'm very proud. Especially for all the hard work and training my coaches put in me and I could live up to their expectations. I'm proud of myself and my coaches. I put up relentless hard work for it. By the time I was honoured with the Arjuna award, I had played in the Olympics, earned medals at Asian Games, World Cup, Commonwealth and at state levels. I’m proud that I could do it for my country and got rewarded for the same.
What do you think of India’s chances of winning medals at archery in the Tokyo Olympics?
Yes I definitely believe India can win medals at archery. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the players in training camps will not have distractions and can only focus on the preparations. They are not even allowed to go outside or get holidays during the weekends. I think it’s a good time to prepare since they can focus all their attention to archery. I have big hopes pinned on them for the upcoming Olympic games.
What can be done to promote archery at the grassroot level?
The first thing I would like to say is that archery academies should be opened at the village level and archers at every level should be given the necessary equipment along with access to physiotherapists, doctors and massages for rest and recovery. Archers are expected to practice from morning to the evening and the shoulders face a lot of strain which becomes painful. That’s why physiotherapists and doctors are necessary. The cities already have academies but the villages don’t, and if we hope to compete at the highest level, these facilities are necessary.
As a professional archer who has competed at many International tournaments, how important would you say is mental health to be successful?
That’s a good question, not just for archers but the sport. Mental health, psychology and training the mind to achieve a balance is necessary. Archers also have to learn to do yoga to control breathing, it's important for the mind and body to work cohesively. Only after all this has been achieved can the mind focus at its maximum capacity to shoot on target. If you’re not mentally strong, you will be distracted and that’s why breathing and yoga are so important to remain mentally focused.
What are the challenges Indian archers face and what can be done to solve them?
Let’s assume there is no problem with the equipment or physical and mental fitness. The next challenge lies in replicating the conditions where the next tournament is held. Training needs to be held in conditions where the wind pressure, speed, direction and temperature are almost identical to where the tournament is taking place. This will help archers be better prepared for what’s to come and use their training before the tournament to achieve better results.
What would be your message to aspiring archers in the country?
The challenges that archers face, whether it’s at a physical or mental level are very demanding. It requires patience and discipline and archery helps people improve their lives. It’s a sport that teaches you a lot of things that can be applied in daily life. Archery requires speed, power, patience and mental strength just like any other sport. Aspiring archers should not get disheartened if they don’t manage to achieve many medals in the sport because they will learn a lot of qualities that will help them in life.
Who are the people who have helped you in your journey so far?
Whatever I have achieved is because of other people, my coaches, the AAI secretary general Mr. Paresh Nath Mukherjee, Andhra Pradesh district president Mr. Cherukuri Satyanarayana and my brother who used to take me on the cycle from the village to my training center. The players, officials and coaches have helped me reach where I am, I hope they pray for me and help me going forward so that I can achieve more. I also want to thank the media who tell the public about us and make us heroes.
Former India hockey coach MK Kaushik hospitalised after testing positive for COVID-19
New Delhi, May 5 Former India hockey player and coach M K Kaushik has tested positive for COVID-19 and admitted to a nursing home here.
The oxygen saturation level of the 66-year-old, a member of the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold-medal winning Indian team, keeps fluctuating, according to his family.
"He is suffering from COVID-19 and is hospitalized in a city nursing home here," his son Ehsan told PTI.
"He first developed symptoms on April 17 but RTPCR and RAT tests came negative. Then we did his CT scan on chest on April 24 and pneumonia due to Covid was detected.
"Since then he has been hospitalized and his condition is between, neither stable nor serious. His oxygen level drops drastically at night which is a major issue," he added.
Kaushik's wife was also getting treatment at the same hospital after contracting the virus but she is recovering well and is likely to be discharged this week.
"My mother has recovered now and she should be discharged within 2-3 days," Ehsan said.
Kaushik had coached both the senior men and women teams. Under his coaching, India men's team had won their last major international tournament, the 1998 Asian Games, Bangkok.
Also, Indian women team had won bronze medal at the Doha Asian Games in 2006 under his coaching.
He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1998, before being bestowed with the Dronacharya award in 2002.
India is battling a devastating second wave of COVID-19 pandemic which has been killing more than 3000 people everyday. News Source : PTI
Umpire Menon pulls out of IPL after COVID cases in family; Reiffel's exit stalled due to travel ban
New Delhi, Apr 29 India's top umpire Nitin Menon has pulled out of the ongoing IPL after his family was struck by a couple of COVID-19 cases, while his Australian counterpart Paul Reiffel's attempts at leaving hit a dead end because of his country's suspension of air travel with India.
It is learnt that Menon, a resident of Indore, has left the IPL bio-bubble after his wife and mother tested positive for COVID-19. Menon is the only Indian in the ICC elite panel of umpires and was recently praised for his work during India's home series against England.
"Yes, Nitin has left as his immediate family members have COVID-19 and he is currently not in a mental state to conduct games," a BCCI official told PTI.
In Reiffel's case, the Australian government's imposition of a travel ban on flights to and from India in the wake of the rising COVID-19 cases here led to him being unable to leave the bubble after initial information suggested that he has made the move.
"I tried to, but the flight through Doha, I wasn't able to go through as an Australian," Reiffel told the 'Herald' and 'The Age' on Thursday from his hotel in Ahmedabad.
"They shut the avenue off. I know a couple of the guys got back that way through there, but the avenue was closed so I had to stay. Yesterday, I was booked to go, but it got cancelled," he said.
Reiffel will, therefore, now go back only after the end of the tournament on May 30.
"I was 10 minutes away from leaving the bubble, so I'm very lucky," Reiffel said.
Menon is the second Indian to pull out of the tournament after off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who also went home after all his family members tested positive.
Three Australians Andrew Tye, Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa left home due to the unprecedented health crisis in India.
However, the BCCI is going ahead with the tournament and interim CEO Hemang Amin has assured all players and support staff that they remain safe in the bio-bubble.
BCCI is likely to replace Menon with an umpire from its own pool of umpires. News Source : PTI
India miss Olympic qualifier World Relays in Poland due to COVID-forced flight suspension
New Delhi, Apr 28 An Indian athletics team, including star sprinters Hima Das and Dutee Chand, was on Wednesday forced out of next month's Olympic qualifying World Athletics Relays in Poland after the suspension of a connecting flight to Amsterdam owing to a record-shattering spike in COVID-19 cases here.
The women's 4x100m and the men's 4x400m relay teams were to board a KLM flight to Amsterdam in the wee hours on Thursday but the Dutch government suspended flights from India effective Monday evening.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) tried to book an alternate flight available to any European city en route to Silesia in Poland where the event will be held on May 1 and 2 as there is no direct flight to Poland from India.
Adille J Sumariwalla, AFI President said, "We are very disappointed at this moment. There are no direct flights between Indian airports and Warsaw, Poland. This meant that despite the best efforts, the squad could not be rerouted on another airline." "For the last 24-hours we have been consistently trying to find alternatives... We have been constantly speaking to the Organisers, the World Athletics, various consulates and airlines to reroute them. Under the present scenario nobody has obliged," he added.
S Dhanalakshmi, who had beaten Dutee in the final of women's 100m sprint in the Federation Cup last month, was also named in the team, along with Archana Suseendran, Himashree Roy and AT Daneshwari.
India were also set to field teams in the men's 4x400m event to be held in Chorzow, Silesia, in Poland.
The top eight teams from the World Athletics Relays will automatically qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
The women's 4x400m relay team had earlier pulled out as more than two members were unfit.
The Indian mixed 4x400m relay team has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after reaching the final during the 2019 World Championships in Doha.
The AFI was hopeful of the women's 4x100m relay team qualifying from the Poland event.
The World Relays would have been the first major international event for Indian sprinters since the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha in April 2019.
The Indian women's 4x100m team includes Hima Das, Dutee Chand, Dhanalaxmi Sekhar, Archana Suseentran, Daneshwari TA and Himashree Roy while men's 4x400m squad is comprised of Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Arokia Rajeev, Amoj Jacob, Nirmal Noah Tom and Sarthak Bhambri. News Source : PTI
India on verge of missing Olympic qualifier World Relays in Poland due to flight suspension
New Delhi, Apr 28 Star sprinters Hima Das and Dutee Chand might miss the Olympic qualifying World Athletics Relays in Poland on May 1 and 2 as the Indian team's connecting flight to Amsterdam has been suspended following the record-shattering spike in the country's COVID-19 case load.
The women's 4x100m and the men's 4x400m relay teams were to board a KLM flight to Amsterdam in the wee hours on Thursday but the Dutch government has suspended flights from India effective Monday evening.
The Athletics Federation of India is trying to book an alternate flight available to any European city en route to Silesia in Poland where the event will be held. There is no direct flight to Poland from India.
"There is a serious doubt that our team may not be able to take part in the World Relays. Many European countries have suspended flights from India. So, we may be stuck and there is a high possibility that the team may not go for the event," a top AFI official told PTI.
"But still we are trying, talking to the government and to our embassies if they can help our athletes to fly in any European city like Frankfurt from where they can proceed to Poland. We are also trying for any connecting flight to Dubai or any other West Asian city." S Dhanalakshmi, who had beaten Dutee in the final of women's 100m sprint in the Federation Cup last month, was also named in the team, along with Archana Suseendran, Himashree Roy and AT Daneshwari.
India will also field teams in the men's 4x400m in the event to be held in Chorzow, Silesia, in Poland.
The top eight teams from the World Athletics Relays will automatically qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
The women's 4x400m relay team has pulled out of the event as more than two members are unfit.
The Indian mixed 4x400m relay team has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after reaching the final during the 2019 World Championships in Doha.
The AFI was hopeful of the women's 4x100m relay team qualifying for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo.
The World Relays will be the first major international event for Indian sprinters since the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha in April 2019. News Source : PTI
Fear factor at IPL: Early exits as COVID cases surge in India; BCCI says league will go on
World Table Tennis Day Special: Top-5 stunning victories by Indians at Ultimate Table Tennis
Table Tennis was a sport that was primarily dominated by nations like China and Japan, and usually saw Indians struggling most of the time if not always while competing against top international opponents. This has changed in recent years with the introduction of Ultable Table Tennis, which featured not only the country’s star players but also had youngsters lock horns with the world's top paddlers and also managed to defeat them.
This was followed by several consistent winning performances by Indians against elite international players on the world stage.
On World Table Tennis Day, we list down top-5 sensational victories by Indian paddlers against some of the world's greatest players during three editions of Ultimate Table Tennis.
Current national champion Gnanasekaran Sathiyan was one of the biggest discoveries of the first edition of Ultimate Table Tennis in 2017. The Tamil Nadu paddler stole the limelight when he stunned World No. 8 Wong Chun Ting of Hong Kong 2-1 while playing for Dabang Smashers T.T.C.
Sathiyan's world ranking was 110 when he beat Ting. With this win, he displayed his remarkable skills and quick gameplay. Two years later, the Indian was once again up against the same opponent at an international competition —the 2019 ITTF Asian Cup.
Sathiyan riding on the confidence gained from the win in UTT went on to record one of the biggest triumphs of his international career with the 12-10, 10-12, 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 scoreline facing the World Cup bronze medallist. With some notable performances he also earned a career-best 24th rank — highest ever for an Indian.
Sutirtha, who was ranked outside 200 in the world, had a great run at the last season of Ultimate Table Tennis in 2019. Playing for U Mumba, Sutirtha came into everyone’s attention when she upset World No. 9 Cheng I-Ching to take her side into the semi-finals.
The West Bengal paddler put up a stunning performance to register a 2-1 victory against the World Championship silver medalist star player from Chinese Taipei. Later in January 2020 at the World Team Qualifiers she played a pivotal role and kept the Indian hopes alive with a brilliant 3-2 win against World No. 19 Bernadette Szocs before the side went down 2-3 against Romania. Sutirtha, who is currently ranked in top 100 has already booked a place for her first Olympics at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Currently ranked at No. 1 in the World U-21 along with being the first-ever Indian to achieve this milestone, Manav Thakkar has proved to be a promising youngster with some sensational performances on many occasions while appearing in the three editions of UTT.
In the second edition in 2018 while he locked horns with an opponent from Sweden, who was 223 places above him in the rankings, the 18-year-old showcased great skill sets and composure and shocked the world when he rattled World No. 18 Kristian Karlsson 2-1 to bag his team Empowerji Challengers a memorable victory.
Indian Table Tennis' star Manika Batra put in remarkable performances in the first edition of Ultimate Table Tennis. Batra, while representing Dabang Smashers T.T.C. in season 2 put up one of the noteworthy performances of the league when she upstaged World No. 18 Sofia Polcanova of Austria 2-1. Batra, presently ranked 63 has been among the country’s most consistent performers on the international stage.
Achanta Sharath Kamal, the record nine-time national champion is presently India's most experienced paddler. Seasoned war horse Sharath recorded a remarkable win in the second edition of UTT when he out performed the World Championships silver medalist Mattias Falck. The experienced Indian knocked down Swedish World No. 20 2-1 while playing for the Team Warriors. Earlier last year, Sharath won his first ITTF title after a ten year long wait at Oman Open and he also upset World No. 16 German paddler Patrick Franziska at the recent WTT Star Contender Doha before bagging a spot for his fourth Olympic Games.
India seek to play fearless football against Oman in first international after COVID-19 lockdown
Sathiyan, Sharath and Batra qualify into the second round of WTT Star Contender Doha
According to a press release by Ultimate Table Tennis, star paddlers Achanta Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Manika Batra kick started their WTT Star Contender Doha campaign in high spirits and cruised into the second round of their singles categories on Monday.
Sharath Kamal, the Melbourne Commonwealth Games champion struggled in the beginning stages of the match as he went down in the first game against Brian Afanador. The World No. 32 however bounced back impressively to set the tone and didn't give any further chance to his counterpart and sealed the match 8-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-1 against the Puerto Rican during the men’s singles first round. The Indian paddler will now take on the World No. 16 Patrick Franziska from Germany in the next round on Tuesday.
World No. 37 Sathiyan was also down to 0-2 in the match before making a brilliant comeback with a stunning counter attacking show and sealed a 9-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-4 win against his French opponent Emmanuael Lebesson in the first round of men’s singles competition. Sathiyan will now have a tough job in the next round as he will be up against World No. 5 Japanese paddler Tomokazu Harimoto.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Batra made a clinical straight-set 11-5, 11-9, 11-9 victory against China's Taipei’s Hsein-Tzu Cheng during the women’s singles opening round match and advanced into the next round where she will face World No. 3 Mima Ito of Japan.
Sathiyan, Sharath Kamal and Batra have won direct entries into the singles competition in the current tournament. The second round matches will be held on Tuesday.
Earlier in the first qualifying round of men’s singles, Anthony Amalraj faced a 6-11, 11-9, 3-11, 7-11 loss against Japan's Mizuki Oikawa whereas Harmeet Desai suffered a loss to Ukraine’s Yevhen Pryshchepa - 10-12, 9-11, 11-13, 9-11.
In the women’s singles qualifiers, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Ahyika Mukherjee didn't qualify for the third round. Sutirtha lost a hard-fought 11-9, 11-6, 5-11, 9-11, 9-11 battle to Korea's Hayeong Kim while Ayhika had to see a 5-11, 11-13, 7-11 defeat against Romania's Irina Ciobanu.