India handed reality check by Mohun Bagan, lose 1-2 despite Chhetri strike
Kolkata, May 11 (Football News) The Talismanic Sunil Chhetri returned to action with delightful strike but it was not enough as India went down 1-2 to Indian Super League side ATK Mohun Bagan in a practice match at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Wednesday.
Returning to action after a seven-month injury layoff, the 37-year-old India captain was in his element as he utilised a Glan Martins cross to give India a perfect start.
But the Indian backline -- minus star centre forward Sandesh Jhingan and the dependable Pritam Kota who played for ATK Mohun Bagan -- crumbled soon after with Liston Colaco and rising youngster Kiyan Nassiri scoring a goal each in the space of seven minutes.
It was a rude reality check for the Igor Stimac-coached side that starts as overwhelming favourites in the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.
The margin of defeat could have been worse as ATKMB missed a flurry of chances with Colaco, David Williams and Kauko squandering easy opportunities.
Jhingan also returned to action after sitting out ATKMB's AFC Cup matches last month and played for 10 minutes in the second-half before pulling out after a suspected injury.
The details of the injury are unknown and it remains to be seen whether he will be available for ATKMB's AFC Cup Group league opener against Gokulam Kerala here on May 18.
In a keenly-contested match, the 106th ranked India dominated up front before the Mariners seized the momentum with Colaco's strike in the 30th minute.
Colaco then set up the winning goal for Nassiri in the 37th minute.
In the absence of an injured Rahim Ali, Chhetri started out with VP Suhair up front as Stimac also tried out the likes of Udanta Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Asish Rao, Akash Mishra, Jeakson Singh.
The Juan Ferrando-coached ATKMB also played their main team players in the first-half before giving chances to the juniors after the break.
It was India's first of the two practice matches in build-up to next month's Asian Cup qualifiers.
The second match is against 'I-League All Stars' which is scheduled to be played on May 17.
India next fly to Doha to play two more friendlies against Zambia (May 25) and Jordan (May 28) before they take on Cambodia (June 8) here at the Salt Lake Stadium.
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Chhetri has recovered well, will be team's main force: Stimac ahead of Asian qualifiers
Kolkata, May 10 (Football News) Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri will return to the national team during next month's Asian Cup qualifiers and head coach Igor Stimac is confident that the country will win the tournament and book a ticket for the continental showpiece in China next year.
The 37-year-old Chhetri will return to action after six months, having last played for India during their 3-0 win over Nepal in the SAFF Championships final in October.
Stimac said Chhetri is back to his full fitness and will be the "main force and strength" of the team.
"Sunil is still here, he's still in great shape," Stimac said when asked how long Chhetri can prolong his career.
"We didn't involve him in Bahrain and Belarus games because he needed time to recover from some minor problems he was facing throughout the last couple of years.
"That time has served very well to Sunil. He has recovered very well. He's showing that on the training pitch every day and still at this point he will be the main force and strength of the Indian national team up front." Chhetri had suffered minor niggles and missed out of the friendlies against Belarus and Bahrain in March.
Stimac also said young forward Rahim Ali, who will be out of action for at least six weeks due to an injury, will be a big loss.
"I feel very sorry that Rahim Ali who in the recent past created a great partnership with Sunil. He was someone who was making Sunil's life much easier up front and doing a great job to be honest, bringing players to his back and leaving Sunil open and free there on the other side," he said. "He was showing great game improvement. Most of the last season he played with this injury on his abductors and now that became chronic and that will keep him out for six-seven weeks." Focus would be on Stimac after his contract was extended till September 2022 with an eye on the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
"Expectations are always there. I'm very confident that the work we are providing here and at least this time, we had enough time to prepare well, never mind that some of the players are not with us," the 54-year-old said during a virtual interaction.
"We have enough quality in our team with the players who are here with us to make sure that India qualifies and that's what we're going to do. I see India in the final stages and there is no doubt about it. We're going to have great support in the stands here." India will now play two practice games -- against ATK Mohun Bagan (Wednesday) and I-League all stars (May 17) before flying to Doha to play two more friendlies against Zambia (May 25) and Jordan (May 28) in the build up to the Asian qualifiers.
"This is a far better situation than in the previous games when we got the players one or two days prior to the games then there is nothing you can do there.
"This is finally something which is giving me as a coach the opportunity to prepare well for the games you know which was not the case in the previous cases," Stimac said.
India, who are the highest-ranked side (106) in group D, will face Hong Kong (147), Afghanistan (150) and Cambodia (171) in a one-legged final round of qualifiers beginning here on June 8.
"That (ranking) doesn't mean anything. Whatever is there you need to earn it on the pitch throughout 90 minutes. The way you prepare your team mentally and physically that will make the difference when the day comes," he said.
Thirteen teams have already qualified and another 11 spots -- six group toppers and five best runners-up -- are up for grabs during the final phase in June.
"... I'm interested in the final result in a way that we qualify for the Asian Cup. That's our aim. I don't mind how many points or how many goals we score. Our aim is to qualify.
"Of course, if we make it if we make three wins, that would be fantastic. That's what we are aiming for. But my aim is to qualify." On Sandesh Jhingan's availability, Stimac said they would monitor the progress of the star India central defender during ATK Mohun Bagan's AFC Cup group matches beginning on May 18.
"We're going to follow ATK (Mohun Bagan) players throughout the competition and we'll see who is in form and who is not.
"The competition in the team is strong. I strongly believe that we have enough quality here and whoever is here we're going to make our job done," he concluded.
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Mumbai Indians win toss, elect to field against Kolkata Knight Riders
Navi Mumbai, May 9 (Cricket News) Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma won the toss and elected to field against Kolkata Knight Riders in an Indian Premier League match here on Monday.
MI made one change with Ramandeep Singh coming in for injured Suryakumar Yadav, who has been ruled out of the remainder of the IPL owing to a left-forearm muscle injury.
KKR made as many as five changes to their playing XI, bringing in Ajinkya Rahane, Pat Cummins, Venkatesh Iyer, Varun Chakaravarthy and Sheldon Jackson.
Teams: Mumbai Indians: Ishan Kishan(w), Rohit Sharma(c), Tilak Varma, Ramandeep Singh, Kieron Pollard, Tim David, Daniel Sams, Murugan Ashwin, Kumar Kartikeya, Jasprit Bumrah, Riley Meredith.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Ajinkya Rahane, Venkatesh Iyer, Shreyas Iyer(c), Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Sheldon Jackson(w), Tim Southee, Pat Cummins, Varun Chakaravarthy.
Also Read : On BCCI's invite, national football captain Sunil Chhetri interacts with North East cricketers
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On BCCI's invite, national football captain Sunil Chhetri interacts with North East cricketers
Bengaluru, May 9 (Cricket News) About 150-odd cricketers from North East and other Ranji Plate teams, camping at the National Cricket Academy, got a pleasant surprise when India's football captain Sunil Chhetri dropped in after being invited by the BCCI.
North Eastern states got their first-class status as recently as three seasons back and football is still the most popular sport in the region and the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia and Chhetri are any day bigger icons compared to current star cricketers in states like Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
The aim of NCA was to ensure that even cricketers from the region could connect with someone who enjoys an iconic status in the region and can narrate his own success story in club and international arena.
Chhetri, one of the top scorers among active players in international football alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, did have his share of fun, taking part in fielding drills.
Chhetri, who is a close friend of former India captain Virat Kohli, did impress one and all with his smooth pick-up and throw during a fielding session as the campers watched in awe.
"He had a delightful fielding competition and shared some learnings from his own incredible journey in football with boys from north east and plate teams," BCCI tweeted.
Later Chhetri joined NCA head VVS Laxman for a one-on-one session with the cricketers, who are having a skills training session at the NCA.
"It was a fantastic session as cricketers got to know from an icon in Indian sport as to what kind of hard work and sacrifice is required to reach the top," a BCCI official privy to development told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
"This initiative by BCCI will give young and budding talents equal opportunity to hone their skills and represent India across formats. NE has enormous potential in sports and the board will keep no stone unturned to ensure that we are able to tap the best talent for the country," BCCI secretary Jay Shah had tweeted few days back.
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Stimac names 41 probables for camp ahead of Asian Cup 2023 final round qualifiers
New Delhi, Apr 19 (Football News) The Indian men's national football team head coach Igor Stimac on Tuesday named 41 probables for a preparatory camp ahead of its AFC Asian Cup Final Round qualifiers in June.
The players and the support staff will assemble in Bellary on April 23 and will start training from the next day till May 8.
The team will then move to Kolkata to continue with the camp till the qualifiers. According to a release issued by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the players from Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan will join the camp after their respective club commitments.
India have been drawn alongside Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and Cambodia in Group D of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 final round qualifiers.
The leg which will kick-off on June 8 will be played at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata. India play their first match against Cambodia on June 8.
The Blue Tigers had earlier played international friendlies against Bahrain and Belarus in March.
List of 41 probables: Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Prabhshukhan Gill, Mohammad Nawaz, TP Rehenesh.
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Ashutosh Mehta, Asish Rai, Hormipam Ruivah, Rahul Bheke, Sandesh Jhingan, Narender Gahlot, Chinglensana Singh, Anwar Ali, Subhashish Bose, Akash Mishra, Roshan Singh, Harmanjot Singh Khabra.
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Vikram Partap Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Pronay Halder, Jeakson Singh, Glan Martins, VP Suhair, Lalengmawia, Sahal Abdul Samad, Yasir Mohammad, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Suresh Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Ritwik Kumar Das, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Rahul KP, Liston Colaco, Bipin Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan.
Forwards: Manvir Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Rahim Ali, Ishan Pandita.
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Chhetri ruled out of India's Bahrain and Belarus friendlies
New Delhi, Mar 7 (Football News) The Indian football team was dealt a huge blow on Monday as its talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri was ruled out of the upcoming international friendly matches against Bahrain and Belarus due to injury.
The 37-year-old forward had been named among the 38-member probables by coach Igor Stimac for the matches to be played in Manama on March 23 and 26.
"I was really looking forward to the two friendlies against Baharain and Belarus and it's a shame I'll be missing out," Chhetri told the All India Football Federation (AIFF) website.
"It's been a long, tough season and I've suffered a few small injuries that need time to heal. I will be doing all I can to recover in time for the predatory camp in May," he added.
As many as eight new faces figured in the list of 38 probables named for the preparatory camp ahead of the freindlies.
"The potential this squad possesses is immense, and a lot of the lads are riding high on confidence on the back of good performances in the League season.
"I'm certain we'll put out best foot forward. I'm wishing the team all the luck," said Chhetri who did not specify the nature of injury.
Goalkeepers Prabhshukhan Gill and Mohammad Nawaz, defenders Deepak Tangri and Roshan Singh, and midfielders Vikram Partap Singh, VP Suhair, Aniket Jadav and Jerry Mawihmingthanga got their maiden national camp call-up for the two matches.
The AIFF said midfileder Ashique Kuruniyan, who was also named for the preparatory camp, is under rehabilitation.
The players, along with the head coach and the staff, will assemble in Pune on March 10, for the camp with practice starting from next day onwards.
The players whose clubs would be playing in the semi-finals of the ongoing Indian Super League will be joining the camp as and when their club commitments end.
The contingent will be flying to Bahrain on March 21. The Blue Tigers are scheduled to play Bahrain on March 23, and Belarus on March 26, with both matches kicking-off at 9.30pm IST.
There is still a cloud of uncertainty whether India will play against Belarus as the AIFF had said on Tuesday that it was trying to "avoid" playing against the east European country which had extended support to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
FIFA has suspended Russia but has not announced any such measure for Belarus as yet.
Last week, European football governing body UEFA barred Belarus from hosting international games but it will have no impact on India's international friendly.
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ISL announces expansion of metaverse with new 'Moments' collection
(Football news) The Hero Indian Super League, in association with its licensed partner Terra Virtua has announced the expansion of its metaverse with new ‘Moments’ digital collectibles ahead of the 2021-22 seasons semifinals and finals. Aimed at enhancing the virtual experience of its fanbase, Hero ISL ‘Moments’ will be launched in three phases, the first drop is on March 7 and it will include all 11 team posters and 44 videos featuring top goals scored and key goalkeeping moments. It will be followed by 22 videos on March 14 of top defensive moments.
The third and most awaited drop will be on March 23rd and will feature the 2021-22 winning Hero ISL trophy with the winner’s name added virtually to the coveted piece of silverware, days after the Final scheduled on March 20. Since making its debut in November, an estimated 500,000 fans have uniquely engaged with the metaverse in a bid to own and display an ISL digital collectible. Topping the fan demand for collectables are Sunil Chhetri, Roy Krishna and Sahal Abdul Samad while team collectables including Mumbai City FC, ATK Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters FC are the most sought after.
Speaking on the launch, ISL Spokesperson said, “Following the enthusiastic response to the Hero ISL digital collectibles series launched last year in partnership with Terra Virtua, we are now set to expand the metaverse. On the plate is the launch of our latest collection ISL Moments, designed to close the gap between fans and their favourite teams and players. These collectibles promise to amp up the level of engagement for our fans as they immerse themselves in a rewarding and action-packed experience.”
Terra Virtua, Chairman, Gary Bracey said, “It’s been fantastic to collaborate with Hero ISL on this project. It’s been a huge success and it’s great to see so many fans engaging with sport in the metaverse. We’ve produced a huge variety of digital assets as part of the project and the latest collection allows us to check-in mid-season, something that with physical collections would be significantly more challenging. We look forward to continuing to work with the Hero ISL and engaging with the next generation of football fans through digital collectibles.”
SC East Bengal end season rock-bottom as Bengaluru signs off with a win
Vasco, Mar 5 (Football News) SC East Bengal ended their disastrous Indian Super League (ISL) campaign at the rock bottom of the table after losing 0-1 to Bengaluru FC in their last match of the season here on Saturday.
Sunil Chhetri's solitary strike (24th) proved to be the difference, bagging three points for Marco Pezzaiuoli's men in their final fixture of their 2021-22 campaign.
The result meant that the Kolkata-based club finished the season in the bottom-place on the points table, with only one win in 20 matches. On the other hand, Bengaluru FC finished in sixth place as they secured 29 points overall.
Antonio Perosevic tested Lara Sharma in the goal from a free-kick early in the match but the custodian made a fine save.
The game was evenly balanced until a moment of individual brilliance from Chhetri who broke the deadlock. The skipper controlled a long ball on his chest and slotted the shot into the bottom left corner to give the lead to the Blues in the 24th minute.
Udanta Singh then came close to scoring but saw his long-range shot hit the crossbar at the stroke of half-hour.
The first half did not have any more goals apart from a lot of goalmouth action from both teams.
The Red & Gold brigade suffered a setback by losing Perosevic to an ankle injury, who was replaced by Marcelo Ribeiro.
The second half saw a harder push for the second goal from Bengaluru FC. However, they handed a gift to Thongkhosiem Haokip at the hour mark only for him to lift his chip sail way over the bar.
A whole host of changes were made by both coaches to give time to youngsters and inject more energy in the match after the hour mark.
Bengaluru came close to extending their lead, courtesy Chhetri, whose powerful drive was parried away by Suvam Sen in SCEB's goal.
Ananta Tamang and Sen them combined a few minutes later to deny a second goal to Chhetri.
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ATK Mohun Bagan ends Bengaluru FC's semifinal hopes
Margao, Feb 27 (Football News) ATK Mohun Bagan took a big step towards booking a semi-final spot with a 2-0 win over Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) here on Sunday.
The defeat ended all hopes for the Blues of making it into the top-four. As for the Mariners, they remained third, level on points with second-placed Jamshedpur FC.
Liston Colaco (45+1) scored his eighth goal of the season from a sensational free-kick to give his team the lead. Manvir Singh (85th) added a second goal late in the game to put the result beyond doubt.
An early chance saw Colaco testing Lara Sharma from a direct free-kick, but the goalkeeper was steadfast in collecting the ball.
On the other end, Cleiton Silva threatened to score but managed to send his volley above the crossbar. At the half-hour mark, Sunil Chhetri was left unmarked in the box but his header went off-target, much to his disappointment.
The Mariners suffered a setback in the first half as Hugo Boumous was substituted in the 40th minute, possibly due to an injury.
Just when it looked like both teams will go into the half-time break without scoring a goal, the deadlock was broken with a moment of individual brilliance. Colaco’s powerful direct free-kick beat Sharma in the goal to give the lead to ATKMB.
Nine minutes after the restart, Manvir Singh found acres of space behind BFC’s backline, but poor decision-making on his part saw his shot getting blocked.
Moments later, Colaco was serviced by Kauko but saw his shot hit the left post.
The Blues dominated possession in the final stage of the match but struggled to create clear scoring chances.
Manvir then scored against the run of play in the 85th minute with a precise finish.
ATK Mohun Bagan will lock horns with Chennaiyin FC in their next outing here on Thursday while Bengaluru FC will play SC East Bengal in their last league game of the season at Vasco on Saturday.
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At first I declined offer to join ISL: league's highest scorer Ogbeche
Margao, Feb 21 (Football News) Ace Nigerian forward Bartholomew Ogbeche, who recently surpassed Indian captain Sunil Chhetri to become the highest scorer in the ISL, says he declined the initial offer to join the league.
Veteran striker Chhetri recently became the first player to cross the 50-goal mark in the Indian Super League with a fine performance against Hyderabad FC.
Both Chhetri and Hyderabad's Ogbeche were on 49 goals each, when the India captain won the race to reach the half-century milestone.
The four season-old Ogbeche, however, overtook the Bengaluru skipper with a brace during Hyderabad's 3-2 victory over the weekend. While the Nigerian striker took his league tally to 51 goals, his 16 goals in as many games this season puts him in a position to win the Golden Boot award.
Ogebeche reached the 50-goal mark in just 73 games, 38 lesser than Chhetri.
Ogbeche, speaking on ISL's weekly podcast Lets Football Live, revealed he almost declined the opportunity to join the ISL.
"At first I declined to be completely honest. I said no, I was not going to go there," Ogbeche said.
The Nigerian striker was reassured by friend and former ATK striker Kalu Uche to take up the offer from NorthEast United FC in 2018.
"However, I had a friend who played in ISL. I spoke to him and did my due diligence. I heard a lot of fantastic things about ISL and gave it a second thought.
"Offers came back a second time, I said I would think about it. When they came for the third time, I took it more seriously," Ogbeche said.
Into his fourth ISL season, Ogbeche has represented four different clubs and racked up 49 goals from 71 appearances. He has scored 12 for NorthEast United in his first season and followed it up with 15 at Kerala Blasters in 2019-20.
Last season, Ogbeche joined Mumbai City, for whom he scored eight goals and ended up winning the enviable double -- the ISL trophy and the League shield. Currently, he has scored 14 goals for Hyderabad, topping this season's goal-scoring charts.
Ogbeche in hindsight felt assured he made the right move to join ISL against the wishes of his close ones.
"Friends and family suggested not to move to India at the time. But I listened to my heart and was convinced that I was making the right choice for my career. It turned out to be a shrewd decision and I am really thankful." The 37-year-old credited his formative years at the Paris Saint Germain academy for his longevity.
"I feel I am doing the best job in the world. There are millions in the world who would love to do what I am doing." "I was very lucky to have played with some of the best players to have ever played the game at the very start of my career. Ronaldinho, Jay-Jay Okocha, and Nicolas Anelka took me under their wings like a little brother, and that shaped me both as a footballer and a person."
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NorthEast United defeat Bengaluru FC to dampen top four hopes
(Football news) Bengaluru FC’s hopes for being in the top four of the Indian Super League table were dealt a blow after losing to NorthEast United 2-1 at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda on Friday. After a goalless first half, Bengaluru FC took the lead through Cleiton Silva in the 66th minute but two goals in six minutes from Deshorn Brown (74th) and Laldanmawia Ralte (80th) secured a win for Khalid Jamil’s side. The result means NorthEast United have 13 points from 18 matches while Bengaluru FC are on 23 points from 17 matches.
NorthEast United had their first real opportunity through Imran Khan who headed Joe Zoherliana’s cross off-target. Deshorn Brown also hit the crossbar after Suhair Vadakkepeedika set him up as Bengaluru FC were kept on the backfoot. The Blues tried to get back in the game as Sunil Chhetri made runs on the left flank, trying to combine play with Cleiton Silva but NorthEast United continued to have better opportunities as Hernan Santana forced Lara Sharma to make an important save just before the cooling break.
Although Bengaluru FC looked comparatively the better side heading into half-time, they lacked the killer instinct in the final third while NorthEast United had better opportunities but failed to capitalise on them. Sharma was forced to make an early save in the second half to keep Suhair's effort at bay while Chhetri played a neat one-two with Udanta Singh but his effort was saved by Mirshad Michu who narrowed his angle and used the right leg to deflect the ball. The Blues finally found a breakthrough when Cleiton Silva scored from close range from Danish Farooq’s cross in the 66th minute.
However, NorthEast United reacted just a few minutes later as Deshorn Brown scored an equaliser in the 74th minute after nodding the ball past Sharma. To make matters worse, Marcelinho escaped a few Bengaluru FC t-shirts six minutes later and provided the assist to Laldanmawia Ralte in the 80th minute who tapped the ball into the back of the net. Bengaluru FC will face Odisha FC in their next match on Monday, 21st February at the GMC Athletic Stadium while NorthEast United FC will take on Jamshedpur FC on Friday, 25th February at the Fatorda Stadium.
Hyderabad FC maintain lead in the ISL after edging out Bengaluru
(Football news) Hyderabad FC consolidated their lead at the top of the Indian Super League table after defeating Bengaluru FC 2-1 at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim. Sunil Chhetri made history by becoming the league’s all-time top scorer with 50 goals but the landmark achievement was in vain as his side dropped three points. With this result, Hyderabad FC have 29 points from 16 games while Bengaluru remain in third place with 23 points from 16 matches.
Both teams started off strongly, looking to cancel each other out and prevent goalscoring opportunities. The Nizams managed to get an early lead when Ogbeche whipped in a cross from the left flank only for Javier Siviero to score past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the 16th minute. The goalkeeper managed to get his hand on the ball but couldn’t prevent it from going into the back of the net.
If that wasn’t all, Hyderabad FC continued to push for a second goal and were rewarded at the half hour mark with a perfect training ground move. Souvick Chakraborty and Joao Victor combine from a free-kick combined for a freekick with the 33 year old Brazilian firing a low shot in the bottom right corner in the 30th minute.
Bengaluru FC tried to get back in the game, especially in the second half but couldn’t deliver in the final third while Hyderabad FC defended resolutely. Three minutes before full time, Bengaluru FC managed to get a consolation goal through Sunil Chhetri who became the league’s all time top scorer with his 50th goal. Cleiton Silva fed Udanta on the right flank and the latter whipped in a cross for Chhetri to convert in the 87th minute.
Bengaluru FC will next face NorthEast United on Friday, 18th February at Fatorda Stadium while Hyderabad FC will take on FC Goa on Saturday, 19th February at the GMC Athletic Stadium.
Stellar second-half show helps Bengaluru rally past Jamshedpur
Bambolim, Feb 5 (Football News) Bengaluru FC made it three wins on the spin to move to the third spot, riding a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Jamshedpur FC in the Indian Super League at the Athletic Stadium here on Saturday.
Daniel Chima Chukwu had given Jamshedpur the lead inside the first minute but Bengaluru made a roaring comeback in the second half with Cleiton Silva (62nd, 90th) scoring twice on either side of Sunil Chhetri's equaliser in the 55th minute.
Chhetri scored his 49th goal, equalling Hyderabad FC's Bart Ogbeche who became the all-time highest scorer of the ISL the other day with 49 strikes as Bengaluru stretched their unbeaten run to eight games.
Bengaluru now have 23 points from 15 games, same as Kerala Blasters who are second due to better goal difference.
Jamshedpur dropped to fourth with the loss with 22 points from 13 matches.
Jamshedpur were in the ascendancy in the very first minute of the game with Chima getting on the scoresheet for the second consecutive game since joining the Men of Steel.
Alexandre Lima carried the ball through the heart of the pitch and passed it to Boris Singh. It was then fed to Chima who got in between Alan Costa and Roshan Naorem to first trap the ball and then fire it into the roof of the net.
Pegged back so early on, Bengaluru tried hard to equalise but Jamshedpur, missing the services of skipper Peter Hartley due to suspension, sat back and defended well as a unit.
The Blues' best chance of the half fell to Sunil Chhetri who could not turn in a brilliant Roshan corner despite having to head into an empty net after keeper TP Rehenesh committed early. The skipper dragged his header wide and had his hand on his head as his team went into the break trailing by that solitary goal.
The Marco Pezzaiuoli-coached team came out all guns blazing in the second period and Chhetri atoned for his miss just before half-time to fire home from inside the box after a long throw from Parag Shrivas saw the ball come off Bruno Ramires' legs and into the path of the veteran marksman.
In the next seven minutes, Bengaluru doubled their lead. The hard-working Naorem swung in a superb corner for Silva to nod in past an outstretched Jitendra Singh and into the back of the net.
Bengaluru were all over Jamshedpur after taking the lead, with Silva and Chhetri combining to almost set Udanta Singh in the clear only for Ricky Lallawmawma to intercept.
Silva doubled his tally in injury time, making the most of Narender Gahlot's botched clearance from a throw-in to beat a defender and fire into the far post from a tight angle.
Jamshedpur had their chances but Chukwu and Stewart were denied from the goal line as it was Bengaluru's day in office.
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Few aspects of goalkeeping remain unchanged, feels Padma Shri Brahmanand Sankhwalkar
New Delhi, Feb 2 (Football News) Former India captain and goalkeeper Brahmanand Sankhwalkar, the eighth footballer to be honoured with the Padma Shri, feels the art of goalkeeping has changed a lot in modern times but few aspects remain unchanged.
In getting the prestigious award, Brahmanand joined legends such as Gostho Paul, Sailen Manna, Chuni Goswami, PK Banerjee, Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, and Bembem Devi.
"There have been a lot of improvement in goalkeepers over time since my playing days," said Brahmanand in a chat with www.the-aiff.com.
"Nowadays you have taller goalkeepers, who are extremely agile, and good with the ball at their feet," he added.
"A goalkeeper has a completely different view of the game, and can really influence the positioning of his teammates," opined Brahmanand.
"But he also needs to maintain the balance. You can't be too much into what others are doing, and in the process completely forget what you are supposed to do yourself. One needs to keep focus, and instruct his teammates in the crucial areas. This comes with maturity." While there is improvement in keepers these days, the Padma Shri awardee feels that there are a few aspects of a goalkeeper's learning process that has remained unchanged.
"One thing that holds true even now is that keepers need to be constantly encouraged, and need to be given match time to mature as footballers. It's important to build that competitive mindset," he explained.
At the end, however, the 67-year-old feels that it all comes down to the passion of the individuals to keep improving themselves.
"No matter all the facilities that one gets, passion and self-discipline are two of the most important things for not just goalkeepers, but any footballer," he expressed.
"If you have passion for the game, you won't get tired, no matter how hard you are working. It's always important to have that mentality."
Also Read : Japan seek to continue domination of recent years against China in women's Asian Cup semis
News Source : PTI
Hyderabad FC score five past NorthEast United with Ogbeche setting new record
(Football news) Bartholomew Ogbeche showed why he is considered to be the greatest striker in the Indian Super League’s history as his brace against NorthEast United propelled him to the top of the all-time scorers' list as Hyderabad FC defeated the Highlanders 5-0 on Monday. Ogbeche scored in the 3rd and 60th minute which meant the Nigerian has now scored 14 goals this season and 49 overall, one more than Sunil Chhetri and Ferran Corominas. What makes it even more impressive is that this feat took only three and a half years to accomplish.
Apart from Ogbeche, Akash Mishra (45th), Nikhil Poojary (84th) and Edu Garcia (88th) were also on the scoresheet for Hyderabad FC as Manolo Marquez’s men put up a five star performance at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda and extended their lead at the top of the Indian Super League table to four points and are now on 26 points from 14 games. NorthEast United remain in 10th place on the table with 10 points from 15 matches.
Hyderabad FC took the lead just three minutes after kickoff as Bartholomew Ogbeche was in the right place at the right time, scoring from a rebound after Joao Victor's header hit the post. After breaking the deadlock, the Nizams dominated the game and continued to threaten NorthEast United’s defense. They doubled the advantage in the first half added time with Akash Mishra scoring his second goal in as many games after heading in a corner from Joel Chianese. Despite a brief spell of possession by NorthEast United just before halftime, the Highlanders went into the break trailing 2-0.
In the second half, Ogbeche scored his second goal in the 60th minute, thereby becoming the league’s all-time top scorer. Joel Chianese whipped in an inviting ball which was subsequently cleared by Subhashish Roy Choudhury but the ball went into the far post. Chianese then headed the ball into Ogbeche’s path and the 37 year old found the back of the net. For all his effort, Chianese deserved to be on the scoresheet and almost managed to score a goal when he got free of his marker but his effort went off target.
NorthEast United thought they had managed to get a consolation goal with Suhair Vadakkepeedika finding the back of the net but it was disallowed. To make matters worse, Nikhil Poojary scored Hyderabad FC’s fourth goal of the evening after substitute Sahil Tavora set it up for him on a platter. Edu Garcia also joined the party to make it 5-0 which not only contributed to Hyderabad FC extending their lead on top of the table but also helping their goal difference tally with a four point gap between the Nizams and second place Jamshedpur FC.
Hyderabad FC will face ATK Mohun Bagan next on Tuesday, 8th February at the GMC Athletic Stadium while NorthEast United FC will take on Kerala Blasters FC on Friday, 4th February at the Tilak Maidan.
Bengaluru FC end Kerala’s unbeaten run in the Indian Super League
(Football news) A brilliant goal by Bengaluru FC’s Naorem Roshan Singh ended Kerala FC’s 10 game unbeaten run in the Indian Super League as the West Block Blues entered the top four for the first time this season after a 1-0 victory at the Tilak Maidan on Sunday. After a goalless first half, Roshan broke the deadlock in the 56th minute from a freekick as the Blues moved to fourth place with 20 points from 14 games while Kerala FC remained in third place with 20 points from 12 matches despite losing their first match of the season.
It was evident that the Manjappada looked rusty, having not played a competitive fixture in two weeks and Bengaluru FC looked more likely to score the opening goal. Danish Farooq and Prince Ibara came close to breaking the deadlock but could not hit the target while a botched clearance by Jorge Diaz hit Sunil Chhetri and almost went in goal but Nishu Kumar cleared the ball off the line. A cagey first half came to an end with both the teams cancelling each other out but Bengaluru FC had the better half overall.
The goal came from a moment of individual brilliance in the 56th minute as Roshan curled a fantastic freekick from just outside the box with a left footed shot which went past a diving Prabhsukhan Gill and into the back of the net. With the West Block Blues a goal up, Kerala Blasters showed more urgency to pull a goal back but lacked the cutting edge in the final third to get a breakthrough as a volley by Harmanjot Khabra went straight to Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Bengaluru FC could have doubled their advantage but substitute Cleiton Silva’s effort went for a corner after being deflected by Gill. Bruno Silva also had a great opportunity to score his side’s second goal after being set up by Udanta but failed to hit the target. Kerala Blasters will next face NorthEast United on Friday, 4th February at the Tilak Maidan while Bengaluru FC will take on Jamshedpur on Saturday, 5th February at the GMC Athletic Stadium.
Kerala Blasters look to continue unbeaten run against resurgent Bengaluru
Vasco, Jan 29 (Football News) Kerala Blasters will be desperate to get back to action and continue their dream run when they take on resurgent Bengaluru FC in an Indian Super League match at the Tilak Maidan Stadium here on Sunday.
Kerala last played on January 12, recording a 2-0 win over Odisha FC before their next two games were postponed.
The men in yellow are on a 10-game unbeaten run and have 20 points from 11 matches, sitting third in the league standings.
A win will take the Blasters to the same number of points as current league leaders Hyderabad FC, who have a superior goal difference.
But for Ivan Vukomanovic's men the advantage is that they have two more games in hand than Hyderabad and one more than second-placed Jamshedpur FC.
"Bengaluru are a great team which have the momentum. They have a great coach. They have a team that deserves to be in the top four and I believe they will at the end of the league," said Vukomanovic, showering praise on the former champions.
On the other hand, Bengaluru are on a seven-match unbeaten streak and their improvement in attack has been a key reason for their climb up the table.
In the last match, Bengaluru beat Chennaiyin 3-0. It was the fourth time in the last seven games that they had scored three goals or more in a match.
The Blues have also been creating more chances of late. In the last seven matches, they have created 10 or more chances on six occasions.
"The mood in the camp is good after the win against Chennaiyin. We're second in the number of goals scored, which is good for our confidence. We have a good squad, a very good team, and when we play our style of football we have a very good chance of winning this game," Bengaluru head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli said.
Sunil Chhetri's return to form has also collided with Bengaluru's unbeaten streak on the spin. After no goal contributions in his first 11 matches, Chhetri has hit form, providing two assists in his last two games.
"Sunil Chhetri is a very important player for this team. You can see how many kilometers he covered in the last game. Also when he could have scored a goal himself, he saw Udanta in a better position and played it to him. He is vital to the team in many ways," Pezzaiuoli said.
Udanta Singh has also found his scoring boots after a couple of forgettable seasons. The young forward scored a brace in Bengaluru's win over Chennaiyin and has been involved in four goals this season.
Also Read : Barcelona identify free agents Azpilicueta and Christensen as summer targets
News Source : PTI
Bengaluru FC get convincing victory over Chennaiyin FC in the ISL
(Football news) Chennaiyin FC’s hopes to climb on top of the Indian Super League table were dealt a massive blow after the Marina Machans lost 3-0 to Bengaluru FC. The West Block Blues were missing their first choice goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu as Lara Sharma was brought in as a replacement. Iman Basafa opened the scoring from the spot in the 12th minute while Udanta made it 2-0 in the 42nd minute. The winger then scored his second goal in the 52nd minute, thereby ensuring his side went sixth in the ISL table with 17 points from 13 games. Meanwhile, Chennaiyin FC remained fifth with 18 points from 13 matches with current leaders Hyderabad FC on 20 points from 12 outings.
The game began frantically at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim as both sides looked to hit the ground running right from kick off. Chennaiyin FC had a few good opportunities but failed to take advantage of them, the most notable one coming from Lukasz Gikiewicz as his shot ricocheted off the bar and went out. However, just two minutes later, Sunil Chhetri was brought down and Basafa managed to send the goalkeeper the wrong way as his shot went into the top left corner. Already a goal down, Chennaiyin FC fought hard for an equalizer with Germanpreet Singh and Vladimir Koman getting opportunities but shooting wide.
Just before halftime, Bengaluru FC doubled their advantage when Sunil Chhetri showed both composure and unselfishness as he dummied his shot, cut into his left and passed the ball to Udanta who scored easily in the 42nd minute. The second half saw Bengaluru FC dominating the game and they were soon rewarded when Udanta rounded Debjit Majumder and coolly slotted the ball into the back of the net in the 52nd minute after stealing possession from Mohd Sajid Dhot. Bengaluru FC could have scored more but Prince Ibara and Rohit Kumar failed to capitalize on their opportunities. Chennaiyin FC had the opportunity to pull a goal back Lallianzuala Chhangte tested replacement goalkeeper Lara Sharma but the Bengaluru FC shot stopper managed to avert the danger.
Bengaluru FC will next face Kerala Blasters on Sunday, 30th January at 7:30 pm IST at the Tilak Maidan while Chennaiyin FC will take on East Bengal on Wednesday, 2nd February at 7:30 pm IST at the same venue.
Chennaiyin FC play Bengaluru FC in grudge Southern derby
(Football news) Chennaiyin FC will look to go top of the table but will have their big task against a quality Bengaluru FC in the 2021-22 Hero Indian Super League at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Wednesday.
Chennaiyin are fourth on the league table with 18 points from 12 games. A win on Republic Day would see them overtake Jamshedpur FC, Kerala Blasters FC and Hyderabad FC to the top of the table but for that Bozidar Bandovic's wards will have to topple Bengaluru FC who played out a gritty draw in their last game. The Blues hadn't trained for over a week before the game against FC Goa but Sunil Chhetri's first goal of the season ensured they came out with a point after Goa had taken the lead.
Bengaluru are eighth in the table and a victory would mean they close the gap on the top-four teams. Head coach Pezzaiuoli would be a happy man after Indian skipper Chhetri ended his goal drought. The legendary forward was dropped to the bench after his indifferent start to the season but came back strong in the last game.
Pezzaiuoli though would be concerned with the team's list of injury concerns. "We have a few problems in terms of personnel. Ashique (Kuruniyan) had an injury after a sprint, Cleiton (Silva) is a question mark, and we are not sure if (Yrondu) Musavu-King can play again this season because we have to assess his injury," the Blues' boss said on the eve of the game.
For Chennaiyin, Vlagyimir Koman's return from injury was crowned with a goal in the last game and the Hungarian midfielder is now their leading scorer this campaign with three goals. Bandovic would also like to work on his team's incisiveness in the final third. However, Bandovic revealed that talented winger Lallianzuala Chhangte may not be a part of his side. "I'm not playing Chhangte for tactical reasons. The player's contract is coming to an end and it's up to the player to make a decision," Bandovic said.
The last time the two southern rivals met in the derby, Bengaluru ran out 4-2 winners in a high-scoring tie.
Also read: Ogbeche's hat-trick helps Hyderabad beat SC East Bengal 4-0
Indian women football team earns praise from Bhutia
Navi Mumbai, Jan 21 (Football News) The Indian women's football team could not force a win against Iran in its Asian Cup opener but the performance has drawn praise from the legendary Bhaichung Bhutia. Bhutia, who watched the proceedings from the venue on Thursday, said the Indian team was unfortunate not to end on the winning side.
"I am extremely impressed by the manner the girls played. They were unfortunate not to get three points. The Iranian goalkeeper also came up with some amazing saves which further denies us," Bhutia said.
"Women's football has come a long way," said the former captain, who is the only second Indian to have played more than 100 matches for the country along with current skipper Sunil Chhetri.
From his own experience, Bhutia knows the first match was always tough but he was pleased at the manner the team operated tactically.
"The Blue Tigresses were so organised and maintained their shape all throughout. They were able to open up during the attacks, and narrow it down while defending – all of which are hallmarks of a well-drilled squad," he said in a release from All India Football Federation.
"They (players) moved back to positions fast, and there was always someone to support the other.
"Coach Thomas Dennerby needs to be complemented. He has done an awesome job," Bhutia, known as 'Sikkimese Sniper' during his playing days, said.
Considering the missed chances by the Indian forwards against Iran, Bhutia rued the unavailability of star striker Bala Devi, who is recovering from a surgery.
"Maybe, looking back, the experience of a Bala Devi upfront may have been handy. But injuries are part and parcel of football, and I am confident the others will fill in the void," Bhutia said.
Former national women's team captain Bembem Devi, who was also present at the stadium, was also delighted at the performance of the home side.
"The face of women's football in India has totally changed. Everything was so well coordinated, the fitness level was exceptional. I am unable to recall as to when our women’s team was such a fit unit," she said.
"All of these promise a bright future for us. The passing accuracy stood out. Iran have always been a very physical team. But our players were fearless -- the strength of our players stood out,” Bembem said.
She said coach Dennerby has changed the approach of the Indian team with his training methods.
Also Read : We need few tweaks in our attack to win against Chinese Taipei: India coach Dennerby
News Source : PTI
Bengaluru FC inflict further misery on Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League
(Football news) Reigning champions Mumbai City FC suffered their fourth defeat of the campaign at the hands of Bengaluru FC who defeated them 3-0 at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda. The defending champions’ poor run of form continued, picking up only two points from their last five matches while Bengaluru FC are only three points away from fourth place in the Indian Super League table. The Blues took an early lead in the 8th minute through Danish Farooq while a brace by Prince Ibara in the 23rd and 45th minute were enough to secure the three points.
Minutes after the kick off, Gurpreet Sandhu was forced to make saves from Cassio Gabriel and Bipin Singh. However, Bengaluru FC took the lead in the 8th minute through Danish Farooq whose left footed shot from outside the box went past Phurba Lachenpa. Prince Ibara then doubled the lead in the 23rd minute with a towering header from close range after a cross from Roshan Naorem. The Blues created a lot more opportunities as the Islanders continuously found themselves on the backfoot.
To make matters worse, Prince Ibara scored again with a header from Roshan Naorem’s corner as the game quickly went out of reach for Des Buckingham’s men. The second half largely continued in the same way as Bengaluru FC created more opportunities but Mumbai City FC ensured they kept possession and tried to get back into the game. Sunil Chhetri replaced Ibara who suffered an injury and Apuia saw his half-volley from long range hit the post in the 65th minute.
Naorem was also forced to be substituted due to a muscle injury as Ajith Kamaraj replaced him on the pitch. Despite five minutes added for stoppages by the fourth official, Mumbai City FC couldn’t score a single goal as Bengaluru FC finished the game with three goals to their name and a clean sheet. The Blues will next face ATK Mohun Bagan at the PJN Stadium on Saturday, 15th January while Mumbai City FC will take on Kerala Blasters at the Tilak Maidan on Sunday, 16th January.
SC East Bengal hold Bengaluru FC to a 1-1 draw in the Indian Super League
(Football news) Bengaluru FC were forced to share the spoils against a resilient SC East Bengal after a 1-1 draw at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Tuesday. With this result, SCEB extended their winless run to nine matches while Bengaluru FC’s playoff hopes were dealt with a major blow. SC East Bengal’s Semboi Haokip opened the scoring with a diving header in the 28th minute but an own goal by Sourav Das in the 55th minute handed Bengaluru FC an equalizer.
Early in the match, SC East Bengal’s goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharja was shown a yellow card for fouling Prince Ibara. Meanwhile, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu also had a rusty start to the game after misjudging a freekick. Both sides couldn’t create a real opportunity until the 18th minute when Lalrinliana Hnamte’s shot from the edge of the box was stopped by Bengaluru FC’s defense. Roshan Naorem was shown a yellow card for a shirt pull, resulting in a freekick from which Semboi Haokip broke the deadlock in the 28th minute with a diving header.
Bengaluru FC’s centre back Alan Costa nearly equalized a few moments later from Cleiton Silva’s free-kick but the attempt went over the bar. Marco Pezzaiuoli’s Bengaluru FC kept looking for an equalizer but ended up trailing at half-time. When the second half began, Pezzaiuoli brought on Sunil Chhetri which changed the dynamic of the fixture and resulted in an equalizer just 10 minutes later. Roshan’s cross from the right flank was met by Sourav Das who miscued his header which went past his own goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Ibara could have given Bengaluru FC the advantage at the hour mark but his header went over the crossbar and his side had another opportunity to go ahead in the 71st minute but Chhetri’s attempt from 10 yards was cleared by Hira Mondal. In the later stages of the match, substitute Ankit Mukherjee received a yellow card for fouling Ashique Kuruniyan. Udanta Singh also attempted to score a goal but couldn’t make the right contact as the effort went wide. Neither side eventually managed to break the deadlock and were forced to settle for a point each.
SC East Bengal will next face Mumbai City FC at the Tilak Maidan on Friday, 7th January while Bengaluru FC will also take on the Islanders on Monday, 10th January at the PJN Stadium.
Bengaluru win six-goal thriller against Chennaiyin FC
Vasco, Dec 30 (Football News) Inspired substitutions from Bengaluru FC head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli did the trick as his side ran out 4-2 winners over Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League here on Thursday.
Mirlan Murzaev's fourth minute strike gave the hosts the lead before strikes from Cleiton Silva and Alan Costa gave Bengaluru the advantage heading into the break.
The second half played out in similar fashion, with a Rahim Ali strike restoring parity for Chennaiyin, only for Udanta Singh and Pratik Chaudhari to score off the bench.
Earlier, Bengaluru started with Ashique Kuruniyan, Cleiton Silva and Prince Ibara in atack, as Sunil Chhetri took his place on the bench for the third successive game.
In defence, Pezzaiuoli handed starts to Parag Shrivas and Ajith Kumar, while Naorem Roshan Singh returned from suspension to take his place at left-back.
Despite what looked like a promising start, Bengaluru were pegged back in only the fourth minute when Kyrgyzstani Murzaev broke free of the backline and slipped through on goal. The Chennaiyin winger cut in on his right and slotted home past Gurpreet to give his side an early lead.
Bengaluru had chances of their own through Silva and Ibara, but the duo were denied by Vishal Kaith.
Pezzaiuoli rang in an early change as Udanta replaced Ajith just shy of the half hour mark.
Bengaluru found themselves with an opportunity to equalise just moments later when Ashique's cross deflected off the arm of Jerry Lalrinzuala, prompting the referee Rahul Kumar Gupta to point to the spot. Silva then sent Kaith the wrong way to level things up.
The Brazilian then turned provider just minutes shy of the break, as his corner fell to Costa for the Blues' defender to deflect goalward and past Kaith to give the Blues the lead.
Bengaluru took their advantage down the tunnel, but it didn't last long after the restart when a mix up at the back allowed Rahim Ali to score with an effort that was scuffed into goal.
Pezzaiuoli rang in three changes past the hour mark as Ibara, Ashique and Jayesh Rane were withdrawn to be replaced by Pratik Chaudhari, Chhetri and Danish Farooq. Bozidar Bandovic made a change of his own as Lallianzuala Chhangte replaced Rahim Ali.
The Blues reclaimed their lead with a slick move down the flank that had three of their substitutes involved.
After Chhetri found Danish in attack, the midfielder's pass for Cleiton was left by the Brazilian for Udanta to drive home. Soon after, another substitute found himself on the scoresheet as Kaith spilled Roshan's corner allowing Bruno to nod down for Pratik to score on the bounce.
Bengaluru pushed forward in a bid to add a fifth to the board, but Chhetri's attempt on the volley was skied before Silva saw his effort saved by Kaith. However, it mattered little as the Blues ran away with the win, their first in eight games.
Bengaluru next face SC East Bengal in their first encounter of 2022, at the GMC Athletic Stadium, in Bambolim, on January 4.
Also Read : Chennaiyin FC's Rafael Crivallero out of ongoing ISL season due to injury
News Source : PTI
Neeraj Chopra's rise in seven-star Olympic show and fall of Sushil Kumar, 2021 had it all
New Delhi, Dec 30 (Sports News) Neeraj Chopra's javelin flew high and did not come down until it had travelled enough to provide a golden touch to India's best-ever Olympic campaign at the Tokyo Games in a momentous 2021 which also witnessed the fall of the great Sushil Kumar.
The manner in which Chopra bossed the field with his 87.58m throw fulfilled the aspirations of a billion-plus nation that had not seen a track and field Olympic champion in its 74-year old sporting history since Independence.
It sent the country into a state of frenzy and turned Chopra into a phenomenon, and it was quite appropriate, too. After all, it was an accomplishment that fuelled the hopes of a nation that has been starving for success at sport's grandest stage.
It gave the current and future generation of athletes the belief that becoming an Olympic champion was indeed a possibility in this country if the right kind of training, exposure and timely financial support is provided.
The second-most populous region of the world rejoiced only its second individual Olympic gold medal since shooter Abhinav Bindra's spectacular show at the 2008 Beijing Games.
The 24-year-old son of a farmer was not alone in creating a moment of reckoning. India signed off with six more medals, won by athletes who did not have much in common geographically but had common traits of perseverance, grit and a burning passion to excel.
A sheen of silver was provided on the opening day itself by a chuckling Mirabai Chanu.
The Manipuri weightlifter carried on her small yet strong shoulders high hopes after her astounding success at the World Championship, and delivered with a stunning lift of 202kg (87kg+115kg) in the 49kg event in Tokyo.
The performance more than compensated for her Rio Olympics' heartbreak when she could not make a single legal lift.
A bunch of passionate hockey players, largely from humble backgrounds, reignited the love for the national sport with their bronze medal that felt like gold after a 41-year wait to see an Indian hockey team on the Olympic podium.
Skipper Manpreet Singh, a livewire on the field, the ever-smiling P Sreejesh and a fierce Rupinder Pal Singh all of them came together to shrug off the 1-7 bashing at the hands of Australia to trample Spain, defending champions Argentina, Japan and Great Britain en route to the semifinals.
Belgium broke a billion Indians' hearts by stopping the Indian team from entering the final but the players did not disappoint in the bronze medal play-off against Germany.
Putting years of physical and mental training to work, the players soaked in the pressure of a high-stake game to emerge deserving 5-4 winners, ensuring that the game of hockey would not slip into oblivion.
The Indian women's hockey team, led by Rani Rampal, scripted its own success story by reaching the medal round despite a hat-trick of defeats in the beginning.
The campaign did not culminate in a medal but the courageous fourth-place finish, after toppling mighty Australia in the quarterfinals, was no mean achievement. It earned the players plaudits and respect.
If Tokyo Olympics was about hockey's revival, the sport of wrestling continued to offer medals at the biggest stage, underlining its consistent growth.
The focus was on star grapplers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia but away from the limelight, it was Ravi Dahiya who left a lasting impact on the psyche of Indian sports lovers with his phoenix-like rise in the 57kg semifinals against Kazakhstan's Nurislam Sanayev.
Trailing 2-9 with less than a minute to go, Ravi managed to pin his rival, showing immense physical prowess and mental toughness.
He could not repeat his success in the final against Russia's Zavur Uguev but it was enough to make him an overnight star. After all, he was only the second Indian, who was competing for an Olympic gold, after Sushil Kumar.
While Bajrang too stood on the podium, a bronze medal did not feel like an achievement as he was expected to reach at least the final, given the expectations and hype around him.
Vinesh's Olympic dream, though, was shattered once again with her unexpected second round exit after entering the event as a title contender. There was embarrassment in store for the game when two-time Olympic medallist Sushil landed in Tihar Jail after being accused of murder of a fellow wrestler, Sagar Dhankar.
The way the 38-year old Sushil, the only Indian wrestler to have won two Olympic medals and a world title, played hide and seek with the police before being arrested exposed the murky underbelly of Indian wrestling.
The year also propped up a new star in Anshu Malik who entered the history books as the first ever Indian woman to reach the World Championship final.
Badminton star PV Sindhu's legend grew with a second Olympic medal as she grabbed a bronze despite not being in top form. She is now only the second Indian to have won two individual Olympic medals.
Kidambi Srikanth regained his touch with a historic World championship silver and young Lakshya Sen continued to dazzle but the listless performance in team events was a significant low for Indian badminton in a topsy-turvy year.
Lovlina Borgohain clinched the welterweight (69kg) bronze to ensure the boxers did not return empty-handed from Tokyo.
Hailing from the small Baro Mukhia village in Assam, the 23-year-old became only the third Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal, after Vijender Singh and the legendary MC Mary Kom.
The Indian men's campaign came to a screeching halt after Satish Kumar (+91kg) went down to world champion Bakohodir Jalolov in the quarterfinals. The other four male boxers bowed out after opening-round defeats while Mary Kom (51kg) and Poja Rani (75kg) also bowed out early.
While the country got new heroes to idolise, established cricket star Virat Kohli lost a bit of his aura, even as the team cherished a historic success in Australia and came close to winning a Test series in England.
Kohli quit T20 captaincy at the end of the World Cup and had no plans to leave the ODI captaincy but India's premature exit from the tournament led to the inevitable and the mighty Kohli did not see that BCCI bombshell coming.
Following his sacking as 50-over skipper, dirty linen was washed in public with Kohli and BCCI President Sourav Ganguly contradicting each other on the sequence of events that led to the former's removal.
The early exit at the T20 World Cup was a big disappointment but it marked the end of a successful era under Kohli and Ravi Shastri, especially in the longest format.
The win at Gabba by a second-string side will be remembered for long as Indian cricket enters a new era under Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid.
During the year, the Indian senior men's football team won a record-extending eighth SAFF Championship title but for a nation seeking to relieve its glory days of the 1950s-60s, a triumph in a regional tournament is not something it would be contend with.
Veteran Sunil Chhetri went past the legendary Pele and equalled Lionel Messi when he scored the team's opener -- and his 80th goal -- against Nepal in the summit clash of the SAFF Championships in October.
The Indian shooters failed miserably at the Games, where they had gone with a lot of hype and expectations. They produced outstanding results throughout the year but when it mattered the most, they faltered.
Discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur and golfer Aditi Ashok, though, came up with gritty show. They did not win medals but certainly new fans.
An important factor in India's stupendous success in 2021 was the way the government opened its coffers to support athletes.
Also Read : Naveen shines in Dabang Delhi's win over Bengal Warriors
News Source : PTI
Chennaiyin aim to heap more misery on struggling Bengaluru FC
Vasco, Dec 29 (Football News) Former champions Chennaiyin FC would look to recover from a heavy defeat and get back to winning ways when they take on struggling Bengaluru FC in an Indian Super League match here on Thursday.
Chennaiyin defence was put to the sword by high-flying Kerala Blasters who ran out 3-0 winners, leaving Bozidar Bandovic's wards sixth in the table with 11 points from seven matches.
In Bengaluru FC, Chennaiyin will know they have an opponent who are not very high on confidence after remaining winless in their last seven games.
Languishing at 10th place, the Blues got off to a winning start this season but since then haven't managed to muster a single victory, pocketing just six points from eight outings. They played out a dour 0-0 draw in their last game, showing the lack of creativity in the final third.
The Marco Pezzaouli-coached team kept a clean sheet in the last game but in general lacked spark, which has been their bane for quite some time now. Skipper Sunil Chhetri hasn't been at his best, forcing the coach to relegate him on the bench.
"Sunil is very professional, he works very hard and I see the luck is coming back in training, and it’s only a matter of time before it comes back in the games as well," Pezzaouli said on the eve of Thursday's game.
"It's not difficult for me to tell Sunil that he isn't starting. He's a professional who assesses himself, and he knows very well how to deal with these situations. He is an option for tomorrow because he has been training well." Chennaiyin coach Bandovic stressed on the team camaraderie and said it's very important to stay together especially inside a bubble.
"The most important thing for me is that our players are okay. I am very happy with them. We are a team inside and outside the field and that is very important," Bandovic said.
"We are trying to improve every game. The players are responding well and I am very happy with them. Our atmosphere is fantastic," he added.
Chennaiyin have failed to score against Bengaluru FC in their last four games and they would surely want to reverse the trend on Thursday.
In the nine games between the two sides, Chennaiyin have won three, including the ISL final in 2017-18. Bengaluru FC have four wins while two games ended in draws.
Also read : I-League hit by COVID outbreak, at least seven players test positive
News Source : PTI
When Chhetri went past Pele, India won 8th SAFF title and women braced for their moment of reckoning
New Delhi, Dec 28 (Football News) As it is wont to, Indian football hardly made any noises in a year marked by many a stalemate, a few losses and fewer wins, and a talisman dribbling past a record held by arguably the sport's greatest.
Heading into 2022, the sport continues to yearn for that big success story, that massive breakthrough, which will transform it forever, especially from on-field performance point of view.
During the year, the Indian senior men's team won a record-extending eighth SAFF Championship title but for a nation seeking to relieve its glory days of the 1950s-60s and re-establish itself on the big stage, a triumph in a regional tournament is not something it would like to contend with.
But that's where the problem lies.
The moment the Indian men ran into bigger teams, they struggled to deliver the goods and eke out favourable results, even though the Blue Tigers did play well in patches.
Whenever it seemed like a win was around the corner after a spirited fight against a biggie, all the team could achieve was a draw.
This meant the Indian men's team ended its campaign in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers with seven points after registering four draws, three losses and one win from their eight matches.
They scored six goals and conceded seven, and again, they could not clear the second round of the qualifiers.
India were placed in the Group E of the qualifiers where they finished third behind Qatar and Oman.
India, though, still have a chance to earn a qualification to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
Veteran Sunil Chhetri went past the legendary Pele and equalled Lionel Messi when he scored the team's opener -- and his 80th goal -- against Nepal in the summit clash of the SAFF Championships in October.
Draws against Bangladesh (1-1) and Sri Lanka (0-0) in the first two games of the tournament had attracted criticism, but India got their act together just in time to win the next set of matches and maintain their dominance in the regional meet.
Head coach Igor Stimac found himself under immense pressure after a prolonged run of unimpressive outings but he managed to keep his job for another year.
When it came to women's football, it was a year when they braced for the litmus tests that lay ahead.
2021 was all about preparation, participating in invitational tournaments, going on exposure trips and playing friendlies, so that the women are up for it when the country hosts the AFC Asian Cup in January-February and the U-17 FIFA World Cup towards the end of next year.
The results have been poor to say the least even though the team did display the attributes to fight during the South American sojourn when they ran into, among others, world football heavyweights Brazil.
Going by the numbers, the have lost 11 of their 14 matches this year, under Maymol Rocky and Thomas Dennerby, who was recruited keeping in mind the two big upcoming tournaments.
Rocky's tenure came to an end after a string of poor performances. However, To be fair to her, she had taken over the reins during a rough phase and helped the team settle into a cohesive unit.
With potentially six 2023 World Cup spots up for grabs in the AFC Women's Asian Cup, India will be looking to give their best shot at making it to the world stage.
The players are aware of the opportunity and the onus will on them to grab it with both hands.
"This is the right time to give our best, we will not regret it later. For us, each and every game we will play will be a do-or-die situation. Every game is an opportunity for us," winger Dangmei Grace said of the Asian Cup.
India are clubbed with Iran, Chinese Taipei and China and the host nation will have its task cut out against these teams.
Of the 27 players present in the camp in Kochi, as many as 13 were under the age of 25, and all of them had been working hard to make the final squad.
"There are plenty of youngsters in the squad, and they are all working really hard to make the final cut for the Asian Cup.
"We even have a number of really young players, who are also in the U-17s – Shilky (Devi), Astam (Oraon), Martina (Thokchom), and a few others, who have brought a lot of energy into the squad," said Grace.
Another highlight of the year was Indian Super League (ISL) team FC Goa playing in the AFC Champions League, creating history in the process as no other club from the country had gone that far.
Meanwhile, Chhetri, perhaps for the first time ever in more than a decade, found himself benched as his team Bengaluru FC struggled to get going in the first phase of the ISL.
At 37, he is not getting any younger and it remains to be seen how long he will carry on as the face of Indian football. The coming year might give a clearer picture.
Also Read : Deshorn Brown’s hat-trick ensures Mumbai City FC draw against NorthEast United
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Bengaluru FC held to a goalless stalemate against Jamshedpur
(Football news) The Athletic Stadium in Bambolim featured a clash between Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC in a fixture that had everything except for a goal. With the two sides sharing a point each, Jamshedpur FC moved to second in the Indian Super League table, three points behind Mumbai City FC while Bengaluru FC now have two consecutive draws and are second last on the table.
For a second game in a row, Sunil Chhetri started the match on the bench while their opponents Jamshedpur FC suffered a blow before the match even began as Lithuanian striker Nerijus Valskis suffered in injury during warm-up and was replaced by Jordan Murray. Bengaluru FC’s Udanta Singh caused Jamshedpur a few problems early in the match but the Indian international failed to convert those opportunities into goals. The 25 year old should have converted the tap in from Ajith Kamaraj's cross and later ran past the Jamshedpur defense to square the ball into the box but none of the Bengaluru strikers could make contact with the ball.
At the other end, Brazilian midfielder Alex Lima began causing problems for Bengaluru FC but failed to find the back of the net as his effort went wide after swiveling past three men to take a shot. Jamshedpur FC’s Greg Stewart, who scored a hat-trick in his last match started influencing the game as he attempted to cross towards Murray but Bengaluru FC’s Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a vital clearance. Jamshedpur FC’s Rehenesh TP made a brilliant save when Ashique Kuruniyan gave a perfect delivery to Cleiton Silva whose header was cleared by the goalkeeper.
For Jamshedpur, Greg Stewart and Alex Lima continued to threaten Bengaluru FC but their defense kept them in the game. Despite having a couple of shots, Prince Ibarra failed to hit the target while Cleiton was substituted for Sunil Chhetri with a quarter of an hour to go. The Indian captain almost got the winner in the 83rd minute when a long freekick by Ashique found Chhetri’s head but the ball bounced off the crossbar due to a slight deflection from Alan Costa as the game ended 0-0.
Bengaluru FC will next face Chennaiyin FC at the Tilak Maidan on Thursday, 30th December while Jamshedpur FC will take on Kerala Blasters on Sunday, 26th December.
Indian Super League: Bengaluru FC hold ATK Mohun Bagan in high scoring draw
(Football news) A six goal thriller between Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim ensured both sides shared the spoils with a 3-3 scoreline on Thursday evening. With six different goalscorers, the fixture provided tons of entertainment for the fans but didn’t give the desired result for the two sides as Bengaluru FC remains winless in six matches while ATK Mohun Bagan haven’t won any of their last four.
The first goal was scored in the 13th minute by ATK Mohun Bagan’s Subhasish Bose with a well placed header but Bengaluru FC levelled the scoring five minutes later when Cleiton Silva found the back of the net from the penalty spot. Bengaluru FC then maintained their momentum to get the lead in the 26th minute through Danish Farooq who scored his first Indian Super League goal. However, ATK Mohun Bagan fought back with an equalizer to make it 2-2 when Hugo Boumos scored in the 38th minute. A second half penalty around the hour mark by ATK Mohun Bagan’s Roy Krishna resulted in his team’s third goal of the match but the lead was neutralized yet again when Prince Ibara equalized in the 72nd minute, scoring his second goal of the season.
Sunil Chhetri started the match on the bench while Ashique Kuruniyan was deployed in a more offensive role. ATK Mohun Bagan started off strongly and were unlucky to have a goal disallowed for offside in the first seven minutes. Subhasish Bose gave his side the lead in the 13th minute after some sustained pressure from his side after heading the ball from a corner and guiding it past Bengaluru FC goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu. However, Bengaluru FC were awarded their third penalty of the campaign just a few minutes later when Liston Colaco brought down Cleiton Silva inside the box. The Brazilian calmly converted the penalty to level the scoring 1-1.
Four minutes before the hour mark, Danish Farooq scored his first Indian Super League goal with a header from Silva’s corner. After the drinks break, ATK Mohun Bagan scored against the run of play when Roy Krishna provided the assist to Hugo Boumos in the 38th minute and he slotted the ball into the back of the net with a left footed strike. Before halftime, both Ajith Kumar and Hugo Boumos received yellow cards which prompted a more cautious start from both the teams at the beginning of the second half. An infringement in the box by Prince Ibara prompted referee Crystal John to award a penalty to ATK Mohun Bagan which was duly converted by Roy Krishna in the 58th minute. However, Ibara redeemed himself 14 minutes later when his powerful header from Roshan Naorem’s corner found the back of the net.
Both teams failed to score the winner despite plenty of half chances from either side. Bengaluru FC will face Jamshedpur FC next at the Athletic Stadium on Monday while ATK Mohun Bagan will play struggling NorthEast United FC at the PJN Stadium on Tuesday.
Bengaluru head coach Pezzaiouli not unduly worried about Chhetri's goal glut in ISL
Bambolim, Dec 12 (Football News) India captain Sunil Chhetri is yet to score a goal in six matches in the ongoing Indian Super League but his Bengaluru FC head coach Marco Pezzaiouli is not unduly worried about the talisman's form, saying "he is also a human being".
Pezzaiouli conceded that "it's hard times" for Chhetri but said he has the support of the team.
"He (Chhetri) is a human being. Sometimes you don't have luck going for you. With the national team, he had a lot of luck as the ball fell to him many times and he scored five goals," Pezzaiouli said after Bengaluru lost 1-2 to FC Goa on Saturday night.
"In this hard time, he has the support of the team and also how he worked for the team was good. He needs more luck inside the box. It happens when you don't work but with him he is working and it will come back." Chhetri, who needs just two strikes to become ISL's all-time highest goal-scorer, has missed two penalties this season. He also missed a golden chance against FC Goa on Saturday as he blazed over from close range in the 18th minute.
"Today he had a great chance and if he scores it's 1-1. Normally he would score that with his eyes closed," said Pezzaiuoli of Chhetri who played his 100th ISL match on Saturday.
Asked if it's possible to look beyond Chhetri when it comes to selecting the playing XI, the head coach said, "I don't think we should be talking a lot about Sunil. I don't pick one player out. We lost today as a team and that I feel is the important part." Bengaluru FC have lost four out of their six matches they have played so far. They are currently at 10th spot out of 11 teams.
Asked how difficult it would be for his team to make the top four, Pezzaiuoli said, "I think let's take small steps first. We missed two penalties. We lost some points there. Now we make stupid mistakes despite the numerical advantage. This costs points in the end.
"But I still believe how we play and how we try to win the game. I see that we are getting better and better. This is a new team with new players and they need to find the chemistry." Bengaluru next play ATK Mohun Bagan on December 16.
Also Read : Chennaiyin's unbeaten run continues, plays out draw with ATK MB
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Consistency key for Hyderabad as Bengaluru attempt resurgence
Bambolim, Dec 7 (Football news) Hyderabad FC and Bengaluru FC will both look to get back to winning ways when they lock horns in an Indian Super League (ISL) match here on Wednesday.
Hyderabad FC are placed seventh in the standings with four points from three matches. Head coach Manolo Marquez was unhappy with his team's first-half show in the 1-1 draw against Jamshedpur FC in their last match and would want his charges to improve when they take on Bengaluru.
The Blues, meanwhile, lost 1-3 to table-toppers Mumbai City FC in their last game, leaving them with just one win from four matches.
But coach Marco Pezzaiuoli said after the game that he was happy with how the team responded through Cleiton Silva after conceding a goal inside the first ten minutes.
Both teams have shown promise with Hyderabad getting the better of Mumbai in their second match of the season. Bengaluru got off to a winning start after they downed NorthEast United FC 4-2 but have since found it difficult to remain consistent.
The two teams would look to steady their ship and remain focussed in crucial moments that has hurt them so far.
"What we need is consistency. All teams are strong in this League. Hence, the results have fluctuated the way it has. I assume the final standings will be decided only in the final stages of the season," Marquez said.
"Halicharan Narzary and Mohammad Yasir will be out for the game against Bengaluru. Hopefully, Halicharan will be available for the next game but Yasir will be out for a long time," added the Spaniard.
Bengaluru are unbeaten against Hyderabad in the ISL. In the four matches between the two so far, Bengaluru have won one and drawn the other three.
"I don't think it has been a bad start, we can make some things better. I agree, we can defend better, but when you see all the games, you'll see the opponent has few chances. What we need to do now is work hard for a clean sheet, and that's our aim against Hyderabad," Pezzauioli said.
For Pezzaiuoli, Sunil Chhetri's poor run of form is a cause for concern. The Indian captain has now gone four matches without scoring a goal in the League.
The former champions have multiple players who remain doubtful or completely unavailable for selection.
"Prince Ibara is undergoing a test right now, but we're not sure yet. The same goes for Udanta Singh, Iman Basafa and Yrondu Musavu-King. Sarthak Golui has left the bubble to tend to a family emergency," the coach said.
Also Read : Jamshedpur FC shock ATK Mohun Bagan 2-1
News Source : PTI
Mumbai City humble Bengaluru FC
Bambolim, Dec 5 (Football news) Mumbai City FC managed to defeat Bengaluru FC 3-1 in their latest Indian Super League assignment at the GMC Athletic Stadium.
Igor Angulo (9') opened the scoring by converting a penalty with immense composure. Cleiton Silva (20') then scored with a sublime long-range direct free-kick bringing the game to equal terms.
Mourtada Fall (54') rose the highest to head the ball and send his team into the lead again on Saturday night. Ygor Catatau (85’) got on the scoresheet after coming on from the bench to seal the win on Saturday night.
Mumbai City FC was unchanged from their incredible win against ATK Mohun Bagan. As for Bengaluru FC, Jayesh Rane came back into the starting lineup. Cleiton Silva and Prince Ibarra started together for the first time this season as well.
The game got off to an electric start with Cleiton Silva hitting the crossbar with a powerful volley.
On the eighth minute mark, BFC's Alan Costa seemingly handled the ball inside the box during an aerial battle with Mourtada Fall.
Referee Pranjal Banerjee pointed towards the penalty spot and Igor Angulo made no mistake in converting the spot-kick for his fourth goal of the season. Suresh Singh Wangjam received a yellow shortly after for a poor challenge.
On the stroke of 20 minutes, Cleiton Silva got on the end of a direct free-kick from 25-yards-out and found the back of the net with a sublime finish. The curling effort gave no chance to Mohammad Nawaz and brought the score to one goal each.
BFC's Prince Ibarra then had to leave the field after complaining of a muscle injury and was replaced by Edmund Lalrindika.
With two minutes left to the end of the first half, Lalrindika was brought down inside the box and the penalty was awarded to BFC. Sunil Chhetri stepped up but his attempt was brilliantly saved by Nawaz. The first half ended with nothing to separate both teams.
Des Buckingham chose to replace Vikram Pratap Singh with Raynier Fernandes at the break, and Ahmed Jahouh quickly went into the book with a yellow for a foul on Jayesh Rane after the restart.
At the 54th minute mark, the towering Fall got on the end of a free-kick from Jahouh and headed the ball in the net, giving Gurpreet Singh Sandhu no chance of saving it.
Just after the hour mark, Cassio was taken off and replaced by Ygor Catatau. Seven minutes later, Raynier Fernandes's low shot was saved brilliantly by Sandhu who was making his 100th appearance for the Blues.
Then, Amey Ranawade took a yellow for a tactical foul on Rane. Chhetri also received a yellow card for a late challenge on Ranawade later in the second half.
Pezzaiuoli chose to replace Rane with Siva Narayanan in the 77th minute to inject more pace into the team. At the stroke of the 84th minute, MCFC put the win beyond doubt as Igor Angulo’s header hit the post but the rebound was expertly finished by Ygor Catatau to increase the lead to two goals.
Angulo was taken off along with Bipin, and the pair was replaced by Brad Inman and Gurkirat Singh. BFC also made two changes following suit by bringing Bidyashagar Khangembam and Danish Farooq for Chhetri and Suresh.
Five minutes were added after the 90th-minute mark and the Islanders remained solid in defence to secure all three points.
Bengaluru FC will next play Hyderabad FC on Wednesday while Mumbai City FC are up against Jamshedpur FC on Thursday.
Also Read : NorthEast United FC's Federico Gallego to miss ISL season due to injury
News Source : PTI
Bengaluru and Blasters end equals in thrilling ISL contest
Bambolim, Nov 28 (Football news) Ashique Kuruniyan turned from a hero to a villain in a matter of four minutes when he found the opposition net but then scored an own goal as Bengaluru FC played out a 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters in an Indian Super League (ISL) match here on Sunday.
Kuruniyan put Bengaluru ahead in the 84th minute only to do Kerala Blasters a favour four minutes later by scoring an own goal in nightmare of a match for him.
Bengaluru now have four points from three games while the Blasters still remain winless.
Marco Pezzauioli, on the back of the 3-1 defeat at the hands of Odisha, brought in more creativity with Iman Basafa being slotted into midfield. Cleiton Silva returned to lead the line.
Blasters too had a couple of changes. Puitea featured alongside Jeakson Singh in a double-pivot role as Alvaro Vazquez replaced Jorge Pereyra Diaz.
Bengaluru remained on top with superior ball possession early on but Blasters had Jeakson Singh almost create a favourable chance under two minutes itself.
Kuruniyan's pace kept former teammate Harmanjot Singh Khabra on check with Basafa looking settled in dictating play from the centre of the pitch.
However, it was a battle of tactics with the Indian youngsters doing well. Vincy Barretto and Kuruniyan were involved in an intense tussle on the wings.
Bengaluru deployed the idea of stretching the game wide with Sunil Chhetri repeatedly threading the ball onto the flanks for Kuruniyan and Udanta Singh to bomb down the channels.
On the other side, Sahal Abdul Samad showcased some slick moves to beat Roshan Singh and cross inside the box.
But, Kuruniyan was equally adept at defensive duties, clearing off the danger, in the 23rd minute.
There were some clumsy attempts from both sides but neither was able to trouble the opposition goalkeeper too much in the first half.
It was a frantic ten minutes after the change of ends. Cleiton and Udanta combined well to keep Blasters anxious. First, the Brazilian shot wide and then lobbed the ball high over the bar.
Roles were reversed as Cleiton then found Udanta who blazed the ball wide. Surprisingly, Chhetri was substituted off at the hour mark, without having any substantial impact on proceedings.
The last ten minutes defined the script of the game. Kuruniyan found the ball on the edge of the box. After toying with Khabra, he shot on the angle and a spill from Albino Gomes saw the ball go into the net.
Moments later, it was an anti-climax. A cross from the left saw Leskovic pip goalwards but Kuruniyan, instead of clearing, shot right into his own net.
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Odisha FC beat Bengaluru FC 3-1 in historic win
Vasco, Nov 24 (Football news) Two early goals in either half and a clean late strike ensured Odisha FC register a comfortable 3-1 win over Bengaluru FC in their Indian Super League (ISL) match here on Wednesday.
This was Odisha FC's first win over Bengaluru FC in the ISL.
It was Javi Hernandez (3rd, 51st minute) who led the charge for Odisha with a brace. While he rode on some luck for his first goal, the second was nothing short of breathtaking from just outside the box.
Alan Costa (21st) scored one for Bengaluru as Sunil Chhetri failed to convert a penalty kick.
Aridai Suarez (90+4) sealed the deal for Odisha with a sublime goal, adding more sheen to the win.
Bengaluru left Cleiton Silva on the bench while young Roshan Singh was given a run out at right back. Odisha lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Kiko Ramirez's Spanish influence evident.
It was a horrible start for India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who ventured out of his box in an attempt to clear a long punt from his counterpart Kamaljit Singh.
A comedy of errors ensued as his mistimed clearance fell right for Javi Hernandez who lobbed the ball over the keeper and defenders into the net for Odisha to draw the first blood.
Shell-shocked, Bengaluru were still picking up the pieces after the opener when Jonathas, Odisha's high-profile signing in the summer, found Nandhakumar Sekar with a one-two but the latter squandered the opportunity with a tame shot in the 12th minute.
Odisha captain Hector Rodas had nodded the ball out for a corner kick which Roshan swung in from his left foot. Brazilian defender Alan Costa made use of his towering physique to rise high and head the ball into the net for the equaliser.
Bengaluru looked comfortable after that goal as the Odisha defence, led by Rodas, was tested on multiple occasions before half time but remained unscathed.
Five minutes into the second half, Jonathas was brought down by Udanta Singh on the edge of the box. Javi's left foot freekick left the entire Bengaluru wall for dead, as the Bhubaneswar-based side restored the lead.
Cleiton Silva was called upon and won a penalty at the hour mark. Chhetri stepped up only to be denied by the keeper but the follow-through, which was netted by Cleiton, was disallowed as he encroached the box before the shot was taken.
Bengaluru kept on pressing for an equaliser but that was not to be. Striker Prince Ibarra sliced a cross from Alan Costa over the bar as Chhetri struggled to mark his presence in the Odisha box.
It was then Spanish Aridai Suarez who piled on more misery on the Blues in the final minutes of the match with clinical strides and a deft touch to find the back of the net to seal the match for Odisha FC.
Also Read : ISL: NEUFC, Kerala Blasters eye first points
News Source : PTI
Bengaluru FC look to build on opening match success with win over Odisha
Vasco, Nov 23 (Football news) Former champions Bengaluru FC would look to build a winning momentum after their opening match victory when they face Odisha FC in their second Indian Super League fixture here on Wednesday.
The Sunil Chhetri-led side have faced Odisha eight times in the ISL, winning five, losing two and drawing one, and they will once again start favourites at the Tilak Maidan.
Fresh from the 4-2 win over NorthEast United in their campaign opener, the Blues would look to build on the positives and noth up their second consecutive win.
"We need to focus on our game, take the good things from the previous game, and try to improve ourselves and do better. We have three points on the board and we need to try and build on that," Bengaluru head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli said at the pre-match conference.
He admitted his team did not do well in the midfield and that's why Chhetri was relatively quiet in the previous match.
For Odisha FC head coach Kiko Ramirez said he knew Bengaluru's impressive track record in the ISL but his team has also prepared well.
"They have quality attackers, they play good football and have proven themselves in the ISL. We know It’s going to be a difficult game against Bengaluru as they won their first game, but we are ready," he said.
Asked about specific way to counter the Bengaluru players, Ramirez said, "The team has to give 100% concentration in the game, not make any mistakes. We have to stay focused from the beginning and implement what we have practised in the week.
"I will put four of my most competitive foreign players on the pitch. They are important, but the seven Indian players are more important as they are going to play every match. So, our focus is also on the Indian players whom we aim to develop in this season."
Also Read : Mumbai City begin title defence in style with win against FC Goa
News Source : PTI
Bengaluru FC record classic win against NorthEast United
Bambolim, Nov 20 (Football news) Bengaluru FC beat NorthEast United FC 4-2 in a thrilling Indian Super League (ISL) match that saw six different players scoring goals here on Saturday.
Cleiton Silva (14th minute), Jayesh Rane (42nd) and Prince Ibarra (81st) provided the fireworks for Bengaluru FC, while Deshorn Brown (17th), Mathias Coureur (25th) scored for the Highlanders along with Mashoor Shereef (22nd), who unfortunately found his own net.
Former Bengaluru man Deshorn Brown almost provided the opener of the night with an acrobatic attempt in the very first minute. NorthEast United looked dominant in the opening exchanges but the game opened up right around the quarter-hour mark.
An entertaining 11 minutes ensued with four goals, two at either end. First up, Brazilian target man Silva made most of Udanta Singh's build-up play, to leave NorthEast defenders high and dry with a fine goal.
Three minutes later, Brown was to have his say in the game. VP Suhair, on the left flank, brilliantly found Brown who, with a controlled first touch, smashed into the net to draw level.
NorthEast then shot themselves in the foot. Ashique Kuruniyan lobbed the ball in from range and it rebounded off the crossbar and came back into play. Mashoor Shereef, instead of clearing it, scored an own goal.
On the other end, new signing Mathias Coureur made amends for his teammate. Suhair yet again set up the move for Coureur to slot it in on the second time of asking, equalising for the second time in the night.
Sunil Chhetri, desperate to get into the act, squandered a chance but it was Jayesh Rane right before half-time who drove down a left-footer to bring up the fifth goal of the game.
NorthEast looked visibly second-best after the break. Chhetri missed an easy chance before Sehnaj Singh was brought in by Khalid Jamil, who looked to the bench for experience.
The game descended into a tactical battle with multiple substitutions from both sides, hampering the flow of the match later on.
There was one bit left, where Alan Costa's long ball found Prince Ibarra, who cut in and finished with style.
Bengaluru managed to hold on to the lead to secure all three points.
Also Read : SC East Bengal, Jamshedpur FC eye three points in campaign opener
News Source : PTI
Bengaluru FC name 32-man squad for ISL
Bengaluru, Nov 14 (Football news) Bengaluru FC on Sunday announced their 32-man squad for the upcoming 2021-22 Indian Super League season with talisman Sunil Chhetri set to lead the team for a ninth consecutive season.
The team, coached by German-Italian Marco Pezzaiuoli, is set to face NorthEast United in its campaign-opener on November 20.
On the occasion of Children's Day, the club had students from Sri Guru Harkrishan School in Bengaluru draw the players for the announcement of the squad, which was made via a post on Bengaluru FC's social media handles.
"It's a good group that has a nice mix of youngsters and foreigners, and a good base of Indian internationals. There are a lot of different personalities in this squad, who will bring important things to the team.
"Our aim is to make the players we have better, as the season progresses and to also finish in a much better position than we did last season," said Blues head coach, Marco Pezzaiuoli.
The squad that comprises as many as three players who played in the club's reserve squad last season -- Akashdeep Singh, Damaitphang Lyngdoh and Sivasakthi Narayanan.
"It's important to remember that our efforts will need time. We've trained with the complete squad together for the first time only after the first week of November. The idea is to get everyone up to speed as fast as possible.
"All the parts will have to come together to form the big picture and the effort is on to make it happen soon," Pezzaiuoli added.
The Blues' foreign contingent for the season include Brazilians Cleiton Silva, Bruno Ramires and Alan Costa, Congolese striker Prince Ibara, Iranian midfielder Iman Basafa and Gabonese centre-back Yrondu Musavu-King.
The 2021-22 campaign is Bengaluru's fifth in the Indian Super League, with the Blues having made the final in their first two seasons, winning in 2018-19, and the semifinal the following year, in 2019-20.
Chhetri had led the same team for four seasons in I League.
The squad: Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Lara Sharma, Sharon Padattil Defenders: Pratik Chaudhari, Wungngayam Muirang, Ajith Kumar, Parag Shrivas, Alan Costa, Sarthak Golui, Yrondu Musavu-King Midfielders: Suresh Wangjam, Ajay Chhetri, Ashique Kuruniyan, Namgyal Bhutia, Naorem Roshan Singh, Biswa Darjee, Damaitphang Lyngdoh, Akashdeep Singh, Rohit Kumar, Jayesh Rane, Danish Farooq, Bruno Ramires, Iman Basafa Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Edmund Lalrindika, Udanta Singh, Cleiton Silva, Leon Augustine, Sivasakthi Narayanan, Prince Ibara, Harmanpreet Singh, Bidyashagar Singh.
Also Read : Hyderabad FC announce 26-man squad for Indian Super League
News Source : PTI
Primary reason why I got Khel Ratna is playing for 19 years: Chhetri
New Delhi, Nov 13 (Football news) The first footballer to be conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, Indian maestro Sunil Chhetri on Saturday credited his longevity at the top level as the reason for bagging the highest sporting honour of the country.
The 37-year-old India captain, who began his professional career in 2002 with the famous Mohun Bagan club and made his international debut in 2005, received the Khel Ratna from President Ram Nath Kovind.
"One of the primary reasons why I got the Khel Ratna Award is because I have been playing for 19 years. I want to thank each one of the masseurs, physios and doctors. You superstars have been the main reason why I could be on the pitch," Chhetri said.
"There have so many time when I thought I couldn't, but you guys made it possible for me," he said in a statement issued by All India Football Federation.
He also thanked all the clubs he had played for, his teammates -- both at the clubs and the national team, the fans and his family.
"All these years you have suffered with me, rejoiced with me, you were there at with me at every ups and downs, you dreamt with me -- and I very happily share this Award with each and every one of you." Arguably India's greatest footballer after the 'Golden Era' of the last century, Chhetri has played most number of international matches and scored most goals.
With 80 strikes from 125 international matches, he is currently tied with Argentine superstar Lionel Messi on number of goals among active players.
He is one of the few Indian footballers who have won the Padma Shri and has also been conferred with the Arjuna Award.
AIFF President Praful Patel congratulated Chhetri on being conferred with the Khel Ratna.
"Congratulations! No one deserves it more than Sunil. He has been the flag bearer and a role model for Indian football, having won so many laurels for his country and all his clubs over the years.
"I wish him all the best in his future endeavours, and look forward together to him leading us to unprecedented glories in near future." AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said: "My heartiest congratulations to him. The Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award is the pinnacle of all sporting awards in the country and Sunil deserves the award.
"He is a living legend, and the icon whom all fans look up to. I wish him all the best for his professional and personal life. You have been a true flag-bearer for Indian football.
"I expect this award to be a motivation to all other Indian footballers, and inspire them to reach higher echelons in their career."
Also Read : India honours its sporting best at dazzling National awards ceremony
News Source : PTI
India honours its sporting best at dazzling National awards ceremony
New Delhi, Nov 13 (Sports news) Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, veteran woman cricketer Mithali Raj and history-making Paralympic stars shared the spotlight as an unprecedented 12 sportspersons were presented with India's highest sporting honour -- the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna -- by President Ram Nath Kovind here on Saturday.
In a glittering function organised at the Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhawan here, the President recognised the country's unparalleled Olympic and Paralympic performances.
The event became an in-person affair this time after going online the previous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The star attraction of the evening was Chopra, who received his Khel Ratna award amid thunderous applause from the select dignitaries present on the specially organised function.
Chopra was the first among the Khel Ratna awardees to receive the honour.
Besides the 23-year-old star, other recipients of the Khel Ratna recognition, were Olympic bronze-winning Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh, veteran goalkeeper P R Sreejesh, Olympic silver-medallist wrestler Ravi Dahiya, Olympic bronze-winning boxer Lovlina Borgohain and Mithali.
Sunil Chhetri became the first footballer to be bestowed the award, a well-deserved recognition for keeping pace with the likes of Lionel Messi in scoring international goals.
Paralympic gold-winners Avani Lekhara (Shooting), Sumit Antil (Athletics), Pramod Bhagat (Badminton), Krishna Nagar (Badminton), Manish Narwal (Shooting) were also given the Khel Ratna.
Along with 12 Khel Ratnas, India this year has 35 Arjuna awardees. The long list this year was a result of the historic medal hauls at the Olympics (7) and Paralympics (19).
The event is traditionally held on August 29 every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand.
The Khel Ratna award carries a cash prize purse of Rs 25 lakh, a medal a scroll of honour.
The Arjuna award carries a prize money of Rs 15 lakh, a bronze statue and a scroll of honour.
Present at Saturday's ceremony was sports minister Anurag Thakur along with a host of other dignitaries, including his predecessor Kiren Rijiju.
Also Read : My entire focus is on sports, biopic can wait until I win more medals: Neeraj Chopra
News Source : PTI
Chhetri, football's first Khel Ratna awardee, says it has been a dream journey
New Delhi, Nov 3 (Football news) The first footballer to be conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, Indian maestro Sunil Chhetri on Wednesday said the journey that he has been through in the last 16 years has been nothing short of a dream.
Since his India debut on June 12, 2005 against Pakistan in Quetta, Chhetri has rewritten the country's football history many times and he has now added another feather in his cap by being named for the country's highest sporting award.
"I am thrilled, I am really thankful and honoured. I have always said that it is a dream that I have gone through, and it would not have been possible without my family, teammates and coaches I have played under," Chhetri said.
"It has been amazing to play for the National team, for so many years, for the number of matches, it has been an outstanding journey," said the 36-year-old year talismanic India captain in an AIFF release.
Arguably India's greatest footballer after the 'Golden Era' of the last century, Chhetri has played most number of international matches and scored most goals.
With 80 strikes from 125 international matches, he is currently tied with Argentine superstar Lionel Messi on number of goals among active players.
He is one of the few Indian footballers who have won the Padma Shri and has also been conferred with the Arjuna Award. He is the first footballer to win the Khel Ratna, the country's highest sporting award.
Chhetri was on Tuesday named among 12 sportspersons to be conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award for 2021, on November 13.
Asked about his role models in his life, Chhetri said: "The amount of encouragement and inspiration around us is a lot, we just have to keep looking. The hunger of trying to learn more is needed, and you will seek out from so many people." "There're many people who came out to help people during the Covid-19 pandemic, be it financially or on the ground. They put their lives in danger and gave it their all. These people are extraordinary! So if anyone is looking for inspiration, it is all around, and if you need to find it, you can look for it anywhere." He is not yet ready to discuss the remarkable statistics during his 16 years of illustrious career, saying he would want to focus on playing and scoring goals for the country.
"I am just happy that I get the opportunity to score for my country. That is about it! To see my name on the big screen, even for just five seconds, and to know I have just contributed in some manner for my country, is all that I need," said Chhetri.
"Once I am done whenever it is, we can pick out a goal and cherish the moment and talk about it. Once I have a big belly with a lot of food, we will talk about it then." All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel lauded Chhetri on getting the Khel Ratna.
"Congratulations! No one deserves it more than Sunil. He has been the flag bearer and a role model for Indian football, having won so many laurels for his country and all his clubs over the years.
"I wish him all the best in his future endeavours, and look forward together to him leading us to unprecedented glories in near future," Patel said.
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das also congratulated Chhetri.
"The Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award is the pinnacle of all sporting awards in the country and Sunil deserves the award. He is a living legend, and the icon whom all fans look up to.
"I wish him all the best for his professional and personal life. You have been a true flag-bearer for Indian football," Das said.
Also Read : Indian football team finishes second in AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers
News Source : PTI
Neeraj Chopra, Ravi Dahiya, Lovlina Borgohain among 11 recommended for Khel Ratna
New Delhi, Oct 27 (Sports news) Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who became only the second Indian to win an individual Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games, and silver medal-winning wrestler Ravi Dahiya were on Wednesday recommended for the Khel Ratna as an unprecedented 11 athletes were selected for the country's highest sporting honour.
Boxer Lovlina Borgohain, who won a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, seasoned hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and woman cricket Test skipper Mithali Raj were also recommended for the Major Dhyanchand Khel Ratna by the selection committee.
Iconic Sunil Chhetri also became the country's first footballer to be selected for the honour.
Last year, five athletes were picked for the award while four were selected after the 2016 Rio Games.
The announcement of the national sports awards was delayed in order to consider the performance of the para-athletes in the Tokyo Paralympics (August 24 to September 5).
Shooter Avani Lekhara and Manish Narwal, javelin thrower Sumit Antil and shuttlers Pramod Bhagat and Krishna Nagar, who all have won a gold each in the Tokyo Paralympics, completed the list of those recommended for the Khel Ratna. The committee also picked 35 athletes for the Arjuna award, eight more than last year's number of awardees.
Cricketer Shikhar Dhawan, para TT player Bhavina Patel, para shuttler Suhas Yathiraj and high jumper Nishad Kumar are among those selected for the Arjuna award.
Members of the men's hockey team that won a historic bronze in the Olympics will also receive Arjuna award.
Also Read : Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra and other Tokyo Games participants felicitated by JSW Sports
News Source : PTI
SAFF Championships title not a 'special success', aim is to qualify for 2023 Asian Cup
New Delhi, Oct 19 (Football news) India winning the SAFF Championships for an eighth time is not a "special success" as the country is dominant in the South Asian region and the bigger aim is to do well in the 2023 Asian Cup qualification, national football team head coach Igor Stimac said on Wednesday.
India won the regional tournament after beating Nepal 3-0 in the final in Male on Saturday to hand Stimac his first trophy as in-charge of the team.
"I don't consider it (the SAFF title) as a special success because it is normal that India wins when it goes to SAFF but it demonstrates that we are very dominant in this competition and we can progress in our game a lot more," Stimac said at a virtual interaction.
He, however, admitted that his team was under a lot of "result pressure" after drawing Bangladesh (1-1) and Sri Lanka (0-0) in the first two round-robin league matches. The results had put India in danger of going out of reckoning for the final.
India then beat Nepal 1-0 and hosts Maldives 3-1 in must-win matches before outplaying the Himalayan country 3-0 in the summit clash to stamp their authority.
"It was obviously a difficult situation we found after the first two matches but they looked bad only because of the results. There was no big difference in approach, the numbers and statistics, we had enough shoots, scoring chances, movement and energy by players.
"We scored sometimes and didn't score sometimes and that made the difference. So, we had a lot of results pressure on our shoulders but we dealt with it the way it should be and in the end we won the trophy which was really important." Stimac was speaking from Bengaluru after his return from Maldives and he is leaving for Dubai Tuesday night with the U-23 national team, which he has taken charge of for the 2022 Asian U-23 Championships qualifiers in the UAE from October 25 to 31.
The Croatian gaffer said that the side's aim is to make it to the 2023 Asian Cup for which the qualification third round is set to begin early February next year.
That could be tricky as the Asian Cup qualification matches would be outside of FIFA window and the federation will need to convince the Indian Super League organisers and clubs to release players for national duty.
"We don't know yet who we are going to play, we don't know our group yet. But we need to prepare ourselves because we have been told our first game will be on February 1.
"If we are going to succeed in this qualifier which are games to play outside FIFA window, we need to sit down with other stakeholders in domestic competitions (read ISL), how much time the national team players will get for preparation." The ISL organisers have issued the fixtures of the first leg of the league from November 19 to January 9. They have not yet announced the second leg fixtures.
He said the national team would need good preparation time to produce good results in the Asian Cup qualification matches.
"Otherwise, we are going to gamble, as simple as that," he quipped.
"Because the players will begin ISL season now and we need to make sure as soon as possible that this February opening of the third round of qualifications (for Asian Cup) is part of the ISL calendar so that the players are released for national team duty." Stimac was also all praise of the talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri, who at 37 is one of the fittest players in the team.
"His influence is keeping the team going. He is a role model and leader off and on the field. He is the most passionate player in the dressing room and his fitness level is unbelievable.
"He is in the best shape possible and that is why he played in all the matches (of SAFF Championships). When somebody who can score better and who has better fitness (comes along), only then he can be replaced, otherwise you cannot replace him and he keeps on playing till the time he is with the team." Chhetri netted five out of India's eight goals to emerge as the best player and highest scorer in the regional tournament in Maldives.
He was named the most valuable player for the third time in as many appearances in the tournament, the earlier instances being in 2011 and 2015.
He was the highest scorer in the 2011 edition in New Delhi with seven goals while finishing joint second with three goals in the 2015 tournament in Thiruvananthapuram. India won all the three editions Chhetri played in.
Also Read : Chhetri credits youngsters in Indian team for SAFF C'ships triumph
News Source : PTI
Chhetri credits youngsters in Indian team for SAFF C'ships triumph
Male, Oct 17 (Football news) Talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri played a pivotal role in India's eighth SAFF Championships title triumph by striking five goals but he credited the young brigade for team's victory.
The 37-year-old Chhetri, Indian football's torch bearer for the last 10 years, went past legendary Pele and equalled Lionel Messi when he scored the team's opener -- and his 80th goal -- against Nepal in the summit clash on Saturday.
"Look at the youngsters -- it feels good for all of them. It's all due to their hard work. We were here for 20 days till the final, staying on an island, riding the waves every day for practice sessions, and matches," Chhetri said in a release from All India Football Federation.
"We made it special as we were not so good in the first two games. It was tough from there to come up and play the way we did," added Chhetri after his third triumph in the SAFF Championship as a player.
Chhetri, who has won the regional tournament in 2011 and 2015 also, was referring to the draws against Bangladesh (1-1) and Sri Lanka (0-0) in the first two matches which had attracted criticism.
"Didn't start like we should have, but ended exactly how we wanted to. Proud of this bunch and the way we got things on track," he later said in a tweet.
Chhetri, who scored five out of India's eight goals, was all praise of the other two Indian goal getters on Saturday -- Suresh Singh and Sahal Abdul Samad.
"I enjoyed watching that, Sahal. Suresh, of all the things you copy from me, this is up there. Make it a habit," said the captain.
Sahal, on his part, said it was an "unbelievable" moment and "a miracle".
"I don’t know what happened inside the box. I came in for the last 4-5 minutes. My teammates have been working hard – it all goes to them," he said.
"But I just don't remember what happened inside the box. I got it and went in. This is an amazing feeling." Head coach Igor Stimac, who was banned from the dugout in the summit clash after being red carded in the earlier league match against Maldives, let the players take centrestage.
"The boys have done it," he quipped.
Stimac became the third foreign coach after Jiri Pesek (1993) and Stephen Constantine (2015) to clinch the title with the Indian team.
The Blue Tigers dedicated the trophy to their two injured teammates -- Farukh Choudhary, and Brandon Fernandes, who weren’t able to travel to the ground.
While Mandar Rao Dessai and Glan Martins carried Brandon’s jersey with them, Rahul Bheke preferred to wear Farukh’s jersey even at the victory podium.
"Farukh and Brandon are very much here, and a part of this triumph. Their contribution in this Championship will never go unnoticed," Bheke said.
"I wore Farukh’s jersey as I wanted him to be with us during the trophy celebrations.” With the title win, India extended their domination in the regional tournament. Saturday's final was the 12th for India in 13 editions.
The players leave for Bengaluru Sunday night from where they will join their respective clubs for the Indian Super League.
However, the U-23 players, including goalkeeper Moirangthem Dheeraj Singh, will stay back in Bengaluru for a couple of days before flying to Dubai for the AFC U-23 Qualifiers on October 20.
Also Read : Sunil Chhetri overtakes the great Pele in the scoring charts for most international goals
News Source : PTI
India seek eighth SAFF C'ships title and first trophy under Stimac in final against sprightly Nepal
Male, Oct 15 (Football news) Having endured a topsy-turvy beginning to their campaign before a fine turnaround, seven-time champions India will start title favourites when they take on first-time finalists Nepal in the summit clash of the SAFF Championships here on Saturday.
The final will be the 12th for India in 13 editions which shows the domination of the Blue Tigers in this regional tournament. The third-place finish in 2003 was the worst performance for them.
A win against Nepal will also be head coach Igor Stimac's first trophy after taking charge of the Indian team in 2019. Should the team come good, he will become the sixth coach to win the SAFF Championships title and third foreigner after Jiri Pesek (1993) and Stephen Constantine (2015).
India drew against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in their first two matches which had put them in danger of missing the final but the win against Nepal brought them back in the reckoning.
The 3-1 outplaying of hosts Maldives, thanks to a double strike from talisman Sunil Chhetri, sealed India's place in the final.
The frayed nerves before the must-win Maldives match are no longer there after a dominant win over the defending and two-time champions, who were considered the toughest opponents in the region but the job is not yet done.
Nepal, ranked 61 places below India at 168th, have shown that they are no pushovers in this tournament and it needed a late goal (82nd minute) from Chhetri for India to beat them in the round-robin match. They have beaten Maldives while drawing with Bangladesh.
India will, however, have the psychological advantage over the Himalayan country as historical or recent statistics will show that Stimac's side is the clear favourites to lift the title yet again.
In the three matches played between the two sides so far this year, India won twice and drew once.
Before the SAFF Championships, India played two international friendlies against Nepal in Kathmandu last month, drawing one (1-1) and winning the other (2-1).
But Chhetri would not want any complacency from his team-mates. He had urged them to be on their toes, terming Nepal as the "best team that plays as a team" in this tournament.
"They (Nepal) may not have an extraordinary player in their ranks like an Ali Ashfaq (of Maldives). But as far as attacking and defending are concerned, they do it as a team. They have been the best team that plays as a team in this Championship -- they fight as a team," Chhetri said.
"We have played them thrice since September and they are extremely compact as a team and it’s not going to be easy. The job is not yet done," said Chhetri who has now gone past legendary Pele in terms of number of international goals scored with 79 strikes from 124 matches.
"But we have become better and better as games have gone by, and in the final we have to be at our best. We pulled our socks up after the first two games and now it is time to finish the job." Out of the five goals, India has scored so far, Chhetri's share is four but Manvir Singh's strike against Maldives -- after Stimac's comments that one player should not be scoring goals all the time -- should ease some pressure for the 37-year-old warhorse.
Defenders have improved after letting in a late goal against a 10-man Bangladesh in the first match. But Subhashish Bose, described the best performer along with Rahul Bheke among the seniors by Chhetri, will be missed in the final after a red card (due to double booking) against Maldives.
Match starts at 8:30pm IST.
Also Read : Indian football: Young striker Farukh suffers ACL injury, team dedicates win over Maldives to him
News Source : PTI
Indian football: Young striker Farukh suffers ACL injury, team dedicates win over Maldives to him
Male, Oct 14 (Football news) An Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury has ended Indian striker Farukh Choudhary's SAFF Championship campaign and to make sure that the youngster does not feel left out, the national football team dedicated its win over Maldives to him.
India defeated Maldives 3-1 in its final league engagement to make the summit clash with an unbeaten run. The match saw star striker and captain Sunil Chhetri score a brace and go past the legendary Pele in terms of number of international goals.
In its moment of triumph, the side remembered the 24-year-old Choudhary, who suffered an ACL injury in the match against Nepal that ruled him out for the rest of the Championship. He has played just 14 matches so far in his India career.
The entire contingent posed with a jersey of Choudhary saying in chorus "We love you, Farukh." The team also placed his jersey no. 12 on the bench throughout the match. And, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu even wore it jersey at the post match flash interview.
"This is for Farukh," Gurpreet stated, pointing to the jersey.
"Unfortunately, he sustained a bad injury and he did have a very valuable assist in the match against Nepal. It was extremely harsh that he had to go out. We want to dedicate it to Farukh and make it worth it," he added.
Chhetri said the team wanted to win the game against Maldives to bring a smile on Choudhary's face. "Here is the guy who went through this (injury) so that we can win the game against Nepal, if there is any moment in the game (against Maldives) where we lose motivation we are going to do it (win) for him because it may bring a little bit of smile on his face," he said.
"All of us understood his pain. Losing a match, losing a tournament, losing 5-0, all these things are bearable but getting injured is the worst. No person should go through it." The Indians will take on Nepal in the final on Saturday.
Also Read : It's going to end soon but not for next few years: Chhetri talks about career
News Source : PTI
It's going to end soon but not for next few years: Chhetri talks about career
Male, Oct 14 (Football news) Indian football's torch-bearer for the last 10 years and talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri on Thursday said "it is going to end soon" while reflecting on his career but at the same time, also asserted that he is "not going anywhere for the next few years." The 37-year-old, who overtook the legendary Pele in the number of international goals with his 79th strike in the ongoing SAFF Championships match against Maldives on Wednesday, turned philosophical while dissecting his approach towards the game in what is clearly the final leg of his glorious career.
Chhetri said "it's a fact that it (his career) is going to end soon" and tells himself to enjoy every moment of it.
"Now I have got a very simple mantra. Dost khade ho ja, bahut kam time bhacha hey, bahut kam game bache huwe hey, chup chaap ja aur apna best de. Thoda time pe khatam hone wala hey (I tell myself that there is very little time left, there are very few games left, go quietly and give your best. It is going to end in some time)," he added when asked how he picks himself up amid the ups and downs during his illustrious career.
"Stop crying, stop rejoicing stop over-celebrating, stop putting yourself down because all these will end very soon. Right now I will pick up myself, go there and try to give my best because I know it's a fact that it's going to end soon." But in the same breathe, he made it clear that the inevitable won't happen for the next few years.
"SC11 is not going anywhere for next few years. So just relax," he said.
The inspirational player, who is the third most prolific international goal-scorer among active players behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, said he prefers to keep away from the outside noise as he doesn't have too many matches left in his illustrious career.
He made his international debut in 2005 against Pakistan in Quetta under head coach Sukhwinder Singh and went on to break all the possible records in Indian football.
He has played in a record 124 matches for India in his 16-year-long career. He has been Indian football's poster boy since the retirement of former captain Bhaiching Bhutia in 2011.
"Gaali khata hun, ya log tarif karte hey...Everything I try to forget, I go there and try to do my best. Missing, I will miss goals, scoring I will score goals but all this we will talk once I am done.
"Because I don't want to regret that I could have done this and that. I want to do everything now." Asked about him overtaking the great Pele, Chhetri said, "Everybody who knows football knows that there is no comparison whatsoever (with Pele). I am happy to keep playing and scoring for my country. That is all I want," he said.
"Very few footages of the great man (Pele) but from whatever I can see, he was a dynamic and powerful footballer. Football was different in those times, the game was brutal at times then.
"Despite that he scored so many goals and that speaks of his extremely great achievement." Chhetri said his short term goal is to help India qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup in China. He has played in the 2011 and 2019 editions of the continent's showpiece event.
He admitted that his side did not play up to the expectations in the first two drawn matches of the SAFF Championships against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka but improved gradually.
"It was a topsy-turvy beginning for us in the tournament. Not scoring against Sri Lanka was unacceptable. We missed a lot of chances against Nepal also. We were not playing against the Qatars and Japans and UAEs of the world," he said.
"Beating a tough team like Maldives in Maldives and that also in a hostile environment (home fan support) was the way we needed to play.
"We are the dominant side in this region and I think we are peaking at the right time and we can go all the way in the final," Chhetri said.
Chhetri picked Manvir Singh, who scored India's first goal against Maldives, as his possible successor in goal scoring.
"I am banking on Manvir when I am done. He is a beast, a machine, in every training tests we have, he will be in top three.
"The problem is he plays at the right side for ATK Mohun Bagan in ISL but as No. 9 in national team. He is young and so he is unable to adapt (from one position to other) and so at times he is off. He will learn with experience. He is our weapon." Among others, Chhetri picked Apuia, Rahim Ali, Anirudh Thapa and Liston Colaco as future goal-scorers.
"The country needs better players than Sunil Chhetris. We have to evolve and be better than before. We will have better scorers than Sunil Chhetris in future, that is the hope and we have to be patient."
Also Read : Sunil Chhetri overtakes the great Pele in the scoring charts for most international goals
News Source : PTI
Sunil Chhetri overtakes the great Pele in the scoring charts for most international goals
(Football news) Sunil Chhetri last night scored two goals against Maldives to take India to the SAFF Cup final. In doing so he went past Pele’s historical mark of 77 goals to become the 6th highest international goalscorer ever. Currently he's the third highest active goal scorer behind the great Lionel Messi (80) and Cristiano Ronaldo (115) and Chhetri can overtake Messi if he scores in the SAFF Cup final against Nepal on Saturday.
The captain, leader and legend himself Sunil Chhetri has managed to take India forward for the last ten years breaking all possible records in Indian football. Chhetri is not only India’s top scorer but he has also made 124 appearances for the Blue Tigers shattering all the records previously held by the great IM Vijayan and Bhaichung Bhutia, so much so that if you combine their goal tally it reaches to 58 goals compared to Chhetri’s 79. Sunil Chhetri has now scored in nine of the ten victories in all competitions, for Indian football fans the astonishing consistency is great to watch but the answer after Chhetri still leaves a big question mark for Indian football. His consistency and his fitness level at the age 37 is quite amazing and it doesn’t look like he is going to stop anytime soon.
Sunil Chhetri over the years has been the cornerstone for Indian football, a living breathing legend who time and time again proves us that he's not only a generational talent but an exceptional football player as well. Sunil has the capabilities to play in Europe but he preferred playing in India as he wouldn’t be able to play for his countries if he played club matches. His dedication and leadership will never be matched and it will take Indian football generations to find a talent like him. Although we can’t compare his goal scoring pedigree with the likes of Ronaldo and Messi, he has been consistently scoring goals ever since made his debut in March 2004 which is quite a feat in itself.
The current Indian captain has a higher goals to game ratio than anyone else in India football. He averages 0.63 goals per game compared to Vijayan’s 0.46 goals per game and Bhutia’s tally of 0.33. In fact, among Indian footballers who have played more than 10 times for India, only Neville D’Souza has a better goals per game ratio than Chhetri but he only played 11 times which doesn’t do full justice to his staggering feat. The consistency with which he has kept on should be an inspiration for the up and coming Indian footballers.
Chhetri on drawing comparisons with Ronaldo said, “I listen to these comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo, I'll be happy and then forget it in five seconds. Because there is no comparison (with Ronaldo). I know it. The joy and love that I get from playing football are unbelievable. It is such a feeling that I want to give everything that I have got. I just enjoy it, I am living a life that I never even dreamt of. I don't let even a day go by wherein I don't give 100 percent. I am where everyone wants to be. I don't (feel) too much pressure with that."
"Messi, Ronaldo comparison: There are no comparisons. People who understand football, they know there is no comparison as far as the players are concerned. There are thousands of players who are better than me in the world and all of them are fans of Messi. So now you know the comparison"
Chhetri double strike helps India beat Maldives 3-1 and enter SAFF C'ships final
Male, Oct 13 (Football news) Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri struck twice to lead a beleaguered India to a 3-1 win over hosts Maldives in their final league match and enter the final of the SAFF Championships here on Wednesday.
Chhetri scored in the 62nd and 71st minutes after Manvir Singh had given India the lead in the 33rd minute in the must-win match for India. Ali Ashfaq pulled one back for Maldives in the 45th minute from a spot kick.
The 37-year-old Chhetri, who was playing in his 124th match, is just one goal shy of Argentine maestro Lionel Messi (80), who is the second highest international goal scorer among active players behind Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (115).
Seven-time champions India, who finished on top of the five-team table with eight points, face Nepal in the final on October 16.
Nepal drew 1-1 with Bangladesh in the earlier match of the day to finish second in the round-robin league with seven points.
India had beaten Nepal 1-0 in a league stage.
With the win over Maldives, India saved themselves from crashing out of reckoning for the final of the regional tournament, which would have been the country's worst result in recent memory.
This will be 12th final appearance for India.
India dominated the match throughout and Chhetri almost gave India the lead in the 27th minute but his header off a Brandon Fernandes corner hit the crossbar.
Ashfaq had a dangerous shot at the Indian goal in the 28th minute but it was blocked by a defender.
Five minutes later, Manvir fired it past Maldives goalkeeper at the near post to give India the lead.
Just second before half time, Ashfaq scored from a penalty to put Maldives back on level terms.
India head coach Igor Stimac brought in nippy winger Udanta Singh in the 51st minute in place of Brandon Fernandes.
Soon after, in the 62nd minute, India took the lead. An Apuia cross was chested down by Manvir for Chhetri to blast into the back of the Maldives net.
The Indian captain scored his second goal of the day with a looping header that crashed into the opposition net in the 71st minute.
Also Read : We cannot depend on just one player to score goals: Stimac
News Source : PTI
We cannot depend on just one player to score goals: Stimac
Male, Oct 12 (Football news) Describing India's inability to score goals as "an old problem", head coach Igor Stimac on Tuesday said the team cannot be dependent on just one player to find the opposition net, in an apparent reference to talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri.
India have so far scored two goals in the ongoing SAFF Championships and both came through 37-year-old Chhetri, who equalled legendary Pele with his 77th strike in the match against Nepal.
"I'm quite happy with our performance in last three games -- looking at the way we played, at possession numbers. We dominated them and our goalkeeper wasn't much disturbed," Stimac said at the media conference ahead of India's last round-robin league match against hosts Maldives.
"But there is an old problem which is following us and that's converting chances. We cannot be dependent on just one player and need to be more confident in front of goal," he added.
Currently at third spot with five points from three matches, India need nothing less than a win against Maldives to stay in reckoning for the final of the regional tournament.
A draw or a loss will knock India out and that will be the worst result for the country in recent memory, which could also raise doubts about Stimac's continuation at the helm of affairs.
The worst performance for seven-time champions India before this edition was the third-place finish in 2003 and the country has either won or finished runners-up in 11 previous editions.
"The situation is a bit easier for Maldives as they need just a draw, and hence, it's clear what we need to do in tomorrow's game," said the Croatian.
The head coach said the win against Nepal has boosted the confidence of his players.
"The best motivation is to win games. It wasn’t easy to have two back-to-back draws in the first two games. Hence, it was a kind of a relief for all the players to beat Nepal. They needed confidence.
"In fact, they deserved to win all the three games but in football, you cannot win unless you score goals.” Talking about opposition team, he said, "Maldives are a much-improved side. They are more compact than they were before. They stress more on passing and possession-based football. They are creating chances, and their movements are great upfront." “There is a reasonable understanding between (star striker) Ali Ashfaq and others. They know how to move when Ashfaq has the ball, and he knows where they are running without even looking at them.
"But how they are going to play also depends on us – as to how much we let them play. If my midfielders and defenders do what I expect them to do, Maldives shouldn’t be able to play much.” Stimac said Wednesday's match is going to witness two great veterans on the pitch -- Ashfaq for Maldives and Chhetri for India.
"It’s a joy to watch them play, and if they were playing in the same team, it would have been a great combination for any coach."
Also Read : India face Maldives in must-win SAFF C'ships match, stare at worst show since 2003
News Source : PTI
India face Maldives in must-win SAFF C'ships match, stare at worst show since 2003
Male, Oct 12 (Football news) Unbeaten still but hugely disappointing so far, a beleaguered India face hosts Maldives in their last round-robin league match of the SAFF Championships here on Wednesday, knowing well that nothing less than a win will save them from elimination.
A draw or a loss will send India out of reckoning for the final of the regional tournament and that will be the worst result for India in recent memory, which could also raise questions about head coach Igor Stimac's continuation at the helm of affairs.
The worst performance for seven-time champions India before this edition was the third-place finish in 2003 and the country has either won or finished runners-up in 11 previous editions.
All the four top sides in the five-team tournament remain in contention for the October 16 final.
With five points from two draws and one win, India are currently at third place below Maldives (six points from three matches) and Nepal (six points from three matches). Nepal play Bangladesh (fourth place with four points) in an earlier match on Wednesday.
Two-time and defending champions Maldives have never been easy opponents for India in the history of this regional tournament though the island country sits 51 ranking points below India in FIFA chart at 158th.
The side led by veteran Ali Ashfaq, one of the best strikers in the region, have regrouped themselves after losing their opening match against Nepal, beating Bangladesh 2-0 and Sri Lanka 1-0.
Just like India captain Sunil Chhetri, the 36-year-old Ashfaq has carried Maldives football on his shoulders for a long time and he has scored two of his side's three goals in this tournament. He will, no doubt, be the man India will have to be wary about.
India felt the absence of experienced Sandesh Jhingan in deep defence as they could not defend a 1-0 lead against 10-man Bangladesh who scored a late equaliser despite numerical inferiority.
In the second match against 205th-ranked Sri Lanka, Indian forwards, including Chhetri, had an off day as they could not create enough chances and also failed to finish whatever few scoring opportunities they had for a 0-0 draw.
Chhetri came to the rescue of the team once again against Nepal, scoring the decisive goal to equal the legendary Pele in the previous match, but the question is how long the country will keep relying on a 37-year-old warhorse to find the opposition net.
Nippy winger Udanta Singh has been inconsistent though he has shown flashes of his abilities at the flanks while Seriton Fernandes in defence and Brandon Fernandes in the midfield have done reasonably well.
Understandably, Stimac has rued the inability of his forwards to convert the scoring chances.
"We need to improve our scoring from the chances which we are creating," he said.
"It is simple, if we do that, games become very easy. Otherwise you need to suffer till the end, or even beyond the end," he added, still believing that his side can reach the final.
With the football crazy Maldivians likely to play the role of 12th player on Wednesday, the onus is on Stimac and his men to avert the country's worst football ignominy in a long time.
Also Read : I hope to keep playing and scoring in foreseeable future: Chhetri after equalling Pele
News Source : PTI
I hope to keep playing and scoring in foreseeable future: Chhetri after equalling Pele
New Delhi, Oct 11 (Cricket news) Indian talisman Sunil Chhetri says he hopes to continue playing and scoring goals for the country in the "foreseeable future", his battle-hardened body getting a booster dose in the form of a landmark 77th international strike that drew him level with King Pele.
Chhetri, 37, equalled the legendary Pele when his 83rd-minute strike helped India beat Nepal 1-0 and saved his side from elimination in the SAFF Championship in Maldives on Sunday.
Even as his team goes through a prolonged lean phase, Chhetri's goal-scoring prowess remains as good as ever, which is a testament to his consistency and dedication.
"I keep getting asked about my consistency, and I wish I had an answer. But the truth is, there is no blueprint. It's more about wanting to turn up every single day and give it my best, which, thankfully, I've never fallen short of," Chhetri told PTI after his latest strike.
Through his glorious journey, the deadly poacher from Delhi has played alongside former stars such as Bhaichung Bhutia and Renedy Singh in the national team, besides well-known international players in the ISL and I-League.
"I have been extremely lucky to have played with some great footballers who don't get enough credit. I've learned something from every single coach I have played for. It's the coming together of many things -- big and small -- and I hope to keep doing it in the foreseeable future," he added.
Notwithstanding the occasional chatter around his age and his longevity, the Indian captain wants to keep playing in top-flight and has not given his future any thought.
"It might sound like a lie, but I've never given my future as a footballer any thought. Like I said, the one thing I probably do the best is wake up and turn up to train and play. I look forward to it, thoroughly enjoy it and haven't ever wanted to stop doing it.
"My future plan with football is literally what my next training session will look like. I am fortunate enough to have a support system around me that makes sure I don't need to think or worry about anything that isn't football. It just makes it all the more easier to love what I do." Playing in his 123rd match for India, Chhetri struck a late goal on Sunday to place himself on a par with the Brazilian great (77 goals from 92 matches).
He is now joint third with UAE's Ali Mabkhout (77) on the list of highest scorers among active footballers, behind Cristiano Ronaldo (112) and Lionel Messi (79).
Despite his innumerable achievements as a top-class striker at both international and club level and his success with the teams he has played for, Chhetri remains as hungry as ever.
"If there's a trophy up for grabs, then I want to win it – it's as simple as that. There's not too many athletes or teams that are content with what's in their trophy cabinet. I'm no different.
"On an individual level, I am not a big fan of statistics, milestones and accolades. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for all that I've got and achieved. But to win with my team -- for country and club, that is everything." As with other sports, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the plans of most football teams and the India and Bengaluru FC striker is glad to be playing the game at the moment.
"Ever since international football restarted after the pandemic we have been utilising every FIFA window. Unluckily, I missed out on the matches against Oman and UAE in March (after testing positive for COVID). Those are the kind of matches which Indian football needs.
"At the same time, I understand that getting good games is tough owing to all the restrictions that pandemic has brought along with it." There will be plenty of activity surrounding women's football in India next year (the country is hosting the AFC Asian Cup and FIFA U-17 World Cup), and Chhetri is delighted that the women have started getting opportunities to show their mettle in the sport.
The day Chhetri scored his 77th international goal, the Indian women's team won their first of the two friendlies in Bahrain in a convincing manner.
"What also pleases me is that the Indian ladies have been travelling on exposure tours in preparation for the forthcoming AFC Women's Asian Cup, and it was only last night they beat Bahrain 5-0.
"Like I always say, we need to keep playing better opponents if we are to improve and measure where we are, and how much more we need to do."
Also Read : Chhetri scores 77th goal as India beat Nepal 1-0, equals great Pele
News Source : PTI
What ails Indian football? Amid underwhelming results, time to shun top-down approach
New Delhi, Oct 11 (Football news) The national team's performance is often a fair reflection of any sport's growth in a country. By that yardstick, it won't be an exaggeration to say that Indian football has regressed in recent times.
The solitary-goal win over Nepal in the ongoing SAFF Championship on Sunday is an aberration in an otherwise hopeless run marked by the team's inability to eke out victories even against nations it had dominated in the past.
In a tournament which the country has won a record seven times, India found itself on the verge of being knocked out after two successive draws against lower-ranked Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The struggle for survival in the regional event tells a lot about which direction the team is headed.
Perhaps, even the win against Nepal wouldn't have come, had it not been for Sunil Chhetri's 82nd minute strike.
It is true that alongside the national team's graph, a solid youth development programme and a vibrant and competitive league structure, is equally important towards developing the sport in a holistic manner.
However, with the men's team hitting the lowest of lows in the SAFF tournament in Maldives, the senior side and its head coach Igor Stimac have come under the scanner.
But before the powers that be of Indian football try their hands at resuscitating it from its present moribund state, they would do well to do two things: shun their top-down approach for a bottom-up approach, and recall former head coach Bob Houghton's scathing observation.
The All India Football Federation's top-down approach, which involved bidding for FIFA events, hosting them amid much fanfare, and basking in their organizational success, appears to have failed miserably in raising the standards of the national team of a country that has been showered with sobriquets such as "sleeping giants" and "passionate giants".
This method, in fact, was never meant to do any good. On the contrary, the national team's performance has dipped since the administrators trained their guns on bidding for, and organizing, big tournaments on a priority basis.
"Youth development and only youth development is the way to go," agrees Shaji Prabhakaran, who has worked for years in the AIFF, besides being involved with FIFA and South Asian football.
"Top-down approach cannot work in isolation, that is helpful only in creating enthusiasm. The priority should be youth development," says Prabhakaran, who currently heads Football Delhi, the sport's governing body in the national capital.
As a head of an affiliated state unit, Prabhakaran urged the AIFF to engage more with all the stakeholders.
Everything is centralised now, and the state units are becoming weaker and weaker.
"Ten years ago that was not the case, states were a part of the whole process. There is no holistic way of looking into the problems (now).
"Without resources we were doing better earlier because they were working as one, now there is no team work, we have never had meetings on football development, there is no dialogue." With far less resources and infrastructure than India, teams across the world have improved by leaps and bounds.
To cite an example, Vietnam is currently playing in the third round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and a few years ago, Syria found itself on the verge of qualifying for the showpiece in Russia.
As far as some other Asian teams are concerned, the likes of South Korea, Japan, Iran and even Iraq have marched ahead, even as India slipped at various stages after competing on even keel against the best in the continent.
Thoughts of reaching the heydays of the 1950s and 60s -- when the country won two Asian Games gold medals besides competing in the Olympics -- seem far-fetched at the moment.
The story was also different some years ago. Under Houghton, the team won three tournaments beating respectable sides such as Syria and Lebanon, besides qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup after a gap of 24 years.
Then there was that record unbeaten run under Stephen Constantine, which also led to an Asian Cup qualification.
And then came the slide.
Constantine's successor, Stimac has come under criticism in recent times for his approach that has not yielded results, but he is neither the problem nor the solution.
While the AIFF will have its say on the matter, simply getting rid of the coach will amount to nothing if the more pressing issues are not addressed.
About two years before his unceremonious exit in 2011, a miffed Houghton had remarked: "You can remove the coach and you can bring Guus Hiddink or Jose Mourinho tomorrow and you will still be (ranked) 140 (then)." More than 12 years ago, Houghton's frustrations were aimed at those in charge of the game in the country.
And while there has no doubt been an improvement in infrastructure and increase in resources, over a decade after the Briton's remark, the senior national team's utter lack of success remains a major cause for concern.
Quick-fix solutions will not take Indian football anywhere and the current dispensation must realise that only hosting big FIFA-sanctioned events would not mask the problems facing the sport.
It's also a matter of great concern that the sport has not found a worthy successor to Chhetri, who at 37, is in the last leg of his glorious career. But ask the experts, and they are certain that there is no dearth of talent in India.
They are not off the mark. For the uninitiated, a glance through the archives of Indian football would be enough to understand why they remain optimistic.
Also Read : Chhetri scores 77th goal as India beat Nepal 1-0, equals great Pele
News Source : PTI
Chhetri scores 77th goal as India beat Nepal 1-0, equals great Pele
Male, Oct 10 (Football news) Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri equalled the legendary Pele with his 77th international goal as his 83rd minute strike helped India beat Nepal 1-0 and saved his side from the verge of elimination in the SAFF Championships here on Sunday.
The 37-year-old Chhetri, playing in his 123rd match for India, struck a late goal to place himself on even keel with the Brazillian great (77 goals from 92 matches).
He is now on joint third with UAE's Ali Mabkhout (77) in the list of highest scorers among active footballers, behind Cristiano Ronaldo (112) and Lionel Messi (79).
Substitute Farukh Chaudhary somehow managed to win a header from a long throw in and directed it towards the centre of the six-yard box where Chhetri found himself at the right place to fire the ball past Nepal gaolkeeper Kiran Limbu late in the match.
Seven-time champions India are now at third spot with five points from three matches in the five-team table, below Maldives (six points from three matches) and Nepal (six points from three matches).
India will still need to win their final round-robin league match on Wednesday against hosts Maldives if they have to make it to the October 16 final.
A draw against Nepal would have put India on the verge of elimination.
The Indian team and its head coach Igor Stimac had been under the pump after drawing against lower-ranked Bangladesh (1-1) and Sri Lanka (0-0) in their previous matches.
Chaudhary had come into the field as substitute of Mohd. Yasir in the 70th minute.
India kept on creating chances in the match and were the dominant team throughout. But they were not able make the finishing touches in a few chances they got.
Chhetri had also missed a big opportunity to score in the first half.
India had drawn against Nepal 0-0 and beat the Himalayan nation 2-0 in the previous encounters this year before Sunday's win.
Also Read : Indian women face Bahrain in international friendly
News Source : PTI
Indian football team hits new low: Chhetri and boys held to goalless draw by 205th ranked Sri Lanka
Male, Oct 7 (Football news) India produced yet another disappointing performance as they were held to a goalless draw by 205th ranked Sri Lanka despite a dominant display in their second SAFF Championships match here on Thursday.
The seven-time champions paid the price of not creating enough chances and wasting those they got against a Sri Lankan side 98 places below them in the FIFA rankings.
Though they have a lion's share of the ball possession, the 107th-ranked Indians were ineffective from the set-pieces and did do not much in open play either against their opponents, who only have five countries ranked below them in a 210-team table.
Igor Stimac's full-strength team is still searching for a win in two matches. They have drawn against 10-man Bangladesh 1-1 in their opening match on Monday, that has put pressure on Stimac.
A loss or a draw against current table toppers Nepal (six points) on Sunday can make India difficult to qualify for the final. The top two teams from the round-robin league qualify for the final to be played on October 16.
India made three changes from the previous match starting eleven with Seriton Fernandes and Mandar Rao Dessai replacing Chinglensana Singh and Pritam Kotal in the defence and Suresh Singh coming in for Manvir Singh upfront.
Stimac's side controlled the match from the very beginning with the Sri Lankans barely any chance at the Indian goal but somehow the forwards, led by captain Sunil Chhetri, could not bulge the opposition net.
Chhetri himself could not do much on the day.
The best chance of the first half came in the 22nd minute but Liston Colaco's free header from a nice cross from the right flank by Udanta Singh sailed over the bar.
India kept on pressing for a goal but failed to put any real pressure on the opposition defence in the remaining period of the first half.
The second half saw Stimac taking off Suresh and bringing in Mohd. Yasir.
In the 60th minute, Dessai flashed a low cross across the face of the Sri Lankan goal and Anirudh Thapa has only to connect to score, but he could not reach to the ball.
With Sri Lanka defending in their own half, the Indians pressed more men upfront for the elusive goal but at the same time their frustration also kept on increasing with passing minute.
Stimac was booked for arguing with the referee as frustration clearly writ large on the face of the Croatian coach.
India missed a golden opportunity to steal a winner two minutes before regulation time. An inswinging Yasir corner was flicked on at the near post by Chhetri and the ball found its way to Subhasish Bose at the far post.
It needed a simple tap-in from Bose but he blazed it over the bar and Sri Lanka escaped to a draw.
Also Read : SAFF Championship: India look to register tournament's first win against Sri Lanka
News Source : PTI
SAFF Championship: India look to register tournament's first win against Sri Lanka
Male, Oct 6 (Football news) A 1-1 draw against 10-man Bangladesh denting their confidence, India will need to quickly get their act together as they take on Sri Lanka in their second SAFF Championship match here on Thursday.
The Indians go into Thursday's game on the back of a disappointing stalemate with Bangladesh, against whom they should have won considering that they dominated majority of the proceedings and even took the lead courtesy of a Sunil Chhetri strike.
However, that was not to be and India are looking forward to the Sri Lanka game to register their first win in the tournament, which they won a record seven times.
The Blue Tigers head coach Igor Stimac has come under fire for India's failure to win enough matches in the recent past and he will be under the pump on Thursday.
Despite the loss against Bangladesh, India can afford to fancy their chances against the lower ranked Sri Lankans who have struggled throughout the competition, losing both of their games so far while conceding four goals and scoring two.
The islanders will have their task cut out if they are to move up from the bottom of the points table.
Chhetri had put India in the lead, before Bangladesh were reduced to 10 men after Biswanath Ghosh was given the marching orders early in the second half. Yasir Arafat scored for Bangladesh to put his side on level terms later.
The Indian talisman will again look to score and add to his tally. Chhetri is just one goal shy of the iconic Pele in terms of international goals scored and a struggling Sri Lanka will be a great opportunity for him to scale yet another landmark in his illustrious career.
But he will need support from the others if the team is to secure full points from the game.
After the disappointment against plucky Bangladesh, Stimac said "we are ourselves guilty for not winning the match." "We had everything in control, we dominated the game, and had a one-nil advantage, and even had a one-man advantage.
"But despite all of that, for some unknown reasons, we started giving away simple passes, making unnecessary mistakes. And if you boost the confidence of your opponent, that's how it finishes when you give them a chance," Stimac said.
The chief coach is using the tournament as the last opportunity for the players to play international matches before the start of the third round of 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in February next year.
Indian team (from): Dheeraj Singh, Vishal Kaith, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Pritam Kotal, Chinglensana Singh Konsham, Mandar Rao Dessai, Rahul Bheke, Subhasish Bose, Seriton Fernandes, Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Lalengmawia, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Jeakson Singh, Glan Martins, Suresh Singh, Liston Colaco, Yasir Mohammad, Manvir Singh, Rahim Ali, Sunil Chhetri, Farukh Choudhary.
Match Starts at 4.30pm IST.
Also Read : 10-man Bangladesh hold India 1-1 despite Chhetri's 76th international goal
News Source : PTI
10-man Bangladesh hold India 1-1 despite Chhetri's 76th international goal
Male, Oct 4 (Football news) India allowed a 10-man Bangladesh to come back and score a shock goal after talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri's 76th international strike to play out a 1-1 draw in their SAFF Championships opener here on Monday.
The 37-year-old Chhetri, playing in his 121st match for India, struck in the 27th minute to place himself just a goal shy of legendary Brazillian Pele (77 goals from 92 matches).
He is now in the fourth spot in the list of highest scorers among active footballers, behind Cristiano Ronaldo (111), Lionel Messi (79) and Iraq's Ali Mabkhout (77).
India were the better side in the first half and even though they lost possession quite often, they seemed to be cruising. They also had numerical advantage from 54th minute onwards after Bangladesh player Biswanath Ghosh was sent off for committing a foul on Liston Colaco.
But Igor Stimac's men failed to stop the swift counter-attacking Bangladeshis on their tracks and conceded a goal in the 74th minute to share points, much to the dismay of the Indian camp.
Bangladesh have always been a difficult opponent for India who had needed a late equaliser to draw the first leg of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers in Kolkata before winning 2-0 in the second leg. India were in the attacking mode right from the start but a swift counter-attack from Bangladesh almost caught them napping and central defender Chinglensana Singh made a crucial clearance after Ibrahim whipped in a low cross from the left for Motin Mia.
Bangladesh also got a few corners but India were in ascendency after that with Udanta Singh, who returned after missing two Nepal friendlies, managing to outwit his marker and providing crosses from the flank.
Manvir Singh had a feeble head-in from one such cross in the 24th minute but Chhetri was not the one to miss the other one three minutes later. Pritam Kotal released Udanta on the right flank who cut back the ball from near the byline and a perfectly-placed Chhetri smashed it into the roof of the net.
Liston Colaco, who had an impressive outing, had a go at the Bangladesh goal in the 36th minute without any success. Three minutes later, Chhetri had another powerful left-footed strike but goalkeeper Anisur Rahman pulled off a diving save.
India survived a scare in the 40th minute, this time also from a swift counter-attack from the Bangladeshis. But, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a diving save against Biplo Ahmed's shot to keep India's lead intact.
Stimac replaced Anirudh Thapa by bringing Brandon Fernandes in the middle of the park on resumption and India also got a numerical advantage after Biswanath Ghosh was sent off in the 54th minute for bringing down Colaco with only the goalkeeper in front.
Three minutes before that, however, Bangladesh had a chance to equalise but Rakib Hossain shot wide after finding himself free inside the Indian box.
Bangladesh goalkeeper Rahman made a double save in the 61st minute as he blocked shots from Manvir and Udanta.
Stimac substituted Colaco with Lalengmawia and Udanta with Rahim Ali just after the hour mark. But the Bangladeshis, playing under a new coach after the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, pulled one back in the 74th minute despite numerical inferiority.
Yasir Arafat sent a diving header from a swinging corner kick into the Indian goal.
India play Sri Lanka in their second round-robin league match on Thursday.
Also Read : Title favourites India begin SAFF Championships campaign against Bangladesh
News Source : PTI
Title favourites India begin SAFF Championships campaign against Bangladesh
Male, Oct 3 (Football news) Title favourites India begin their SAFF Championships campaign against a plucky Bangladesh on Monday, knowing fully well that they are just "a little bit superior" than their opponents despite the domination in this regional tournament.
India have won the tournament seven times out of the 12 editions but by the own admission of their talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri, every match will be like a "war to fight".
Bangladesh have been a tough customers for India who had needed a late equaliser in the first leg of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers match in Kolkata to draw 1-1. The Blue Tigers had though won the second leg 2-0.
"Bangladesh are very difficult side. In the two matches we played against Bangladesh in the last few months, it has been very tough," Chhetri had said.
"All the matches (of the tournament) will be tough. Despite a little bit of superiority we many have, every game will be like a war to fight. We have to fight to the last minute. We cannot play 90 per cent." The five-team tournament began on Friday with Nepal and Bangladesh beating Maldives and Sri Lanka by identical 1-0 margins respectively.
Head coach Igor Stimac is taking the SAFF Championships, as the last opportunity for the players to play international matches before the start of the third round of 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in February next year.
He has not minced words in declaring that India are the favourites to win the tournament, saying "we will justify ourselves".
"The first game is always the most difficult game. Bangladesh are a known opponent, but we respect them immensely. In fact, we respect each and every team playing out here, and they have an equal chance to win the tournament,” the coach said.
Stimac made no secret that he will be making the most out of the ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC players, having played in Maldives earlier in the AFC Cup.
"We rely on Bengaluru FC and ATKMB players because not only they played here a few weeks back, but they started work with their respective clubs. And they had enough training sessions, and games in their legs. So their engines are good for such a tournament," he said.
"We need to be careful as to how many minutes we give to each player corresponding to what they can do at the moment with regards to endurance capacities." Chhetri said the message from our coaching staff and head coach is very clear that the players have to minimise mistakes.” "It is more and much more about how we play. We have to make sure that in every game no matter what, we give 100 percent. We cannot be complacent," he said.
Chhetri, a veteran of 16 years in international football, said he doesn't want to lose any game for the country.
"When you are young you play for a lot of things. As you get older, a lot of them diminishes. I've played over 100 games for India, I don't have another 100 and I want to make the most of all the games I have left.
"I want to win a game if I am playing for my country. Both the games against Bangladesh have been extremely difficult ones. I don't want to lose any game for my country," he said.
Other than Chhetri and goalkeeper Gupreet Singh Sandhu, Pritam Kotal was also a part of the triumphant squad in 2015.
Also Read : Despite India's 'little bit of superiority', every SAFF C'ships match is 'war to fight': Chhetri
News Source : PTI
Despite India's 'little bit of superiority', every SAFF C'ships match is 'war to fight': Chhetri
Male, Oct 2 (Football news) Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri on Saturday said despite "a little bit of superiority" India enjoy over the South Asian countries, all the opponents in the ongoing SAFF Championships will be tough and his side will play each match like a "war to fight".
India, who have won the regional football tournament seven times out of the 12 editions, open their campaign against Bangladesh on Monday.
The five-team tournament began on Friday with Nepal and Bangladesh beating Maldives and Sri Lanka by identical 1-0 margins respectively.
"All the matches will be tough. Despite a little bit of superiority we many have, every game will be like a war to fight. We have to fight to the last minute. We cannot play 90 per cent," Chhetri said during a virtual press conference.
The captain, however, conceded that his team has not been at its best in the two international friendlies against Nepal in Kathmandu last month. They drew one and won the other.
"If we are talking about the two matches against Nepal, we have areas to improve and the head coach has conveyed that to us about that. We could have done better.
"Bangladesh have changed their coach (after World Cup qualifiers) but they are very difficult side. In the two matches we played against Bangladesh in the last three-four months, it has been very tough. All the teams in the region have improved.
"So, we want to take it one game at a time. We are at the moment thinking about Bangladesh match only, we are not thinking about the final." Head coach Igor Stimac said the SAFF Championships, which ends on October 16, will be the last opportunity for the players to play international matches before the start of the third round of 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in February next year.
"We could not have a proper camp due to the circumstances. The AFC and SAFF have been forced to organise tournaments outside of the FIFA window (due to the pandemic) and we had to have an understanding with the ISL clubs to release players outside the FIFA window as they also want to do well.
"We said our national team will give up November and the ISL clubs to release players in September and October. We are thankful to the ISL clubs (for releasing the players for SAFF Championships)." Stimac said it's an advantage for the team having players from the Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan who had recently played here during the AFC Cup.
"After playing in the AFC Cup, the BFC and ATK MB players also had their pre-season, so it's an advantage while most of the other ISL sides are yet to have pre-season. So, we have to decide how many minutes we have to give to the players during the 90 minutes.
"But we are in the favourite position to win the tournament and we will justify ourselves." Stimac also talked about the danger of players getting injured while training at the artificial pitches in Male, while Chhetri said the grounds were not "free flowing".
"We are here four days before first match. The training grounds are different here -- artificial and natural pitches. Injuries can happen on changing these pitches, we have to be careful. We are at an island and have to come to Male by speedboats and that made it even more difficult." On Udanta coming back in the team after missing matches against Nepal, Stimac said, "We have seen a different Udanta in the AFC Cup for Bengaluru FC, in his natural position where he was not playing in the past. He came back to his best." "That is what we want to see from Udanta, direct striking with full speed, executing chances and making chances. Every player will get chances here.
"We need to organise in a disciplined way and come back quickly after losing the ball." Stimac said the 2022 World Cup qualifiers matches against Oman and Asian champions Qatar were the best matches after he took charge of the team in the middle of 2019.
"In the last two years, we are trying to come to point where we need to start thinking only about ourselves, not to change our game in regards to our opponent."
Also Read : Indian women's football team seeks first win of year in friendly match against UAE
News Source : PTI
Shared best relationship on field with Bhaichung da, Jeje: Chhetri
Male, Sep 30 (Football News) Indian football talisman Sunil Chhetri says he shared the best rapport with former captain Bhaichung Bhutia and striker Jeje Lalpekhlua on the field, thanks to their playing "combination" and "understanding".
The 37-year-old Chhetri is set to appear in his fifth SAFF Championship and before its kick off, he took a walk down the memory lane and picked his favourites from the tournament during a chat with the AIFF.
Asked with whom he has shared the best relationship on and off the field, Chhetri said, "As I have played with so many players, it has kept changing. But I am quite fortunate with whom I have enjoyed my relationship on and off the field. If I stick purely on the pitch, I will pick Bhaichung da (Bhutia) and Jeje (Lalpekhlua), and it has more to do with my combination and understanding with them.
"But if it's a mix, and the proximity which we share then it has to be Eugeneson Lyngdoh. Despite him playing for a very short time, I am extremely fond of him, and we are very close. But then I am close to everyone." It's been 13 years since Chhetri first appeared for India in a SAFF Championship match. Since then, he has been part of the Blue Tigers squad in four editions.
When asked which has been his favourite SAFF Championship so far, he picked the 2015 edition.
"I will pick the one which we won in Kerala in the 2015-16 edition. The rivalry that we had with Afghanistan in the final, and the build-up to it was simply majestic.
"It is also because we had a lot of youngsters in the squad, and won it with just 19 players after Robin Singh got injured in the first match itself. Over 40,000 people turned up to cheer for us in the final. That will always stay with me." Chhetri was also asked about his favourite goal from all the editions he has been part of.
"Jeje's goal in the final against Afghanistan in 2015-16 in Thiruvananthapuram will always be my favourite. It was an extremely tough match, and we were 0-1 down despite having some good chances. The goal was extremely significant, and the manner the superstar flicked it in was sublime.
"Most importantly, it came at the right moment. If we hadn't scored then, maybe we would have panicked and the result could have been different. We eventually went on to win 2-1." India will begin their campaign on October 4 in the upcoming edition starting on Friday.
Asked about the toughest matches he has played so far in the tournament, he said, "There have been quite a few. But if you ask me to pick a specific one, then it has to be the one which we played against Nepal in Kathmandu in the 2013 edition.
"It was a group stage match, and we lost 1-2 in front of a full house. It was noisy, and it has been my toughest match in the Championship so far." He also said Bhutia has been the most "lethal" India player he has played alongside in the tournament.
"That's a really difficult one to answer as there have been many. But I will go for Bhaichung da, and I don't need to explain it. His name itself is self-explanatory."
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News Source: PTI
Stimac names 23 players for SAFF Championship, Udanta returns
New Delhi, Sep 26 (Football news) Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac on Sunday named a 23-member squad for the upcoming SAFF Championship in the Maldives with Bangaluru FC winger Udanta Singh returning to the side.
Udanta, who missed the two international friendly matches against Nepal earlier this month, made the cut for the October 1-16 regional tournament.
Chennaiyin FC's Vishal Kaith was named among the three goalkeepers while Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem was omitted.
Defender Akash Mishra, midfielders Bipin Singh and Pronay Halder were the other players left out of the 25-member team that went to Kathmandu for the two international friendlies.
The players and the support staff will assemble in Bengaluru on Monday and fly out to the Maldives the next day. Stimac, and other members of the technical staff, will join the squad directly in Maldives on the same day.
Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and hosts Maldives are the other teams in the championship. Each team plays each other once with the top two teams qualifying for the final.
"We are all looking forward to the SAFF Championship as the leading football country in this part of Asia," Stimac said.
"These 4-5 games are extremely crucial for us as we won’t have any other chance of getting together before the start of 3rd round AFC Asian Cup qualifiers next season. So these matches should help us to improve a few points in our game." The Blue Tigers have won the SAFF Championship (formerly SAARC Cup) seven times -- 1993 in Lahore, 1997 in Kathmandu, 1999 in Margao, 2005 in Karachi, 2009 (U23 squad) in Dhaka, 2011 in New Delhi), 2015-16 in Thiruvananthapuram.
India begin their campaign against Bangladesh on October 4.
India's fixtures in the group stage: October 4: India vs Bangladesh (4.30pm IST).
October 7: India vs Sri Lanka (4.30pm IST).
October 10: India vs Nepal (8.30pm IST).
October 13: India vs Maldives (8.30pm IST).
The Squad: Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh, Amrinder Singh, Vishal Kaith.
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Seriton Fernandes, Chinglensana Singh, Rahul Bheke, Subhasish Bose, Mandar Rao Dessai.
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Lalengmawia, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Jeakson Singh, Glan Martins, Suresh Singh, Liston Colaco, Yasir Mohammad.
Forwards: Manvir Singh, Rahim Ali, Sunil Chhetri, Farukh Choudhary.
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News Source : PTI
After winning 200m gold in only his 2nd senior level race, Amlan Borgohain wants to just run fast
New Delhi, Sep 21 (Sports News) He has won a gold with the fifth fastest time ever by an Indian in only his second 200m competition at senior level but Assam youngster, Amlan Borgohain, wants to take one step at a time and refuses to harbour lofty ambitions.
The 23-year-old Borgohain, hailing from Meleng village in Assam's Jorhat district, claimed the men's 200m gold on Sunday with a time of 20.75 seconds during the National Open Championships in Warangal, Telengana.
His time was the second fastest on the country's soil and fifth fastest ever by an Indian after national record holder Muhammed Anas Yahia (20.63), Dharambir Singh (20.66), Arokia Rajiv (20.66) and Anil Kumar (20.73).
"It was my first senior level 200m final race since I started taking part at senior level in 2019 and I don't have any international experience," Borgohain told PTI in an interview from Bhubaneswar, where he is training at the Reliance Foundation Odisha Athletics High Performance Centre (HPC) since April last year.
His first senior level 200m race was during the 2019 National Open Championships in Ranchi, where he had clocked 21.99 seconds. He had also won a silver in the 100m dash with a creditable time of 10.34 seconds in Warangal.
Asked what are his targets, he said, "I have just started my career and I want to just run fast.
"Olympics is any athlete's ultimate dream but, at the moment, I am not looking very far. I want to take one step at a time. My coach is there to help me and chalk out my future course of action." Borgohain is under the tutelage of Welshman James Hillier, the head coach at the Reliance Foundation HPC, who has mentored the likes of Rio Olympics 4x400m relay bronze medallist Emily Diamond in the past.
"Of course, there is Asian Games and Commonwealth Games next year but I am not going to put pressure on him by telling him about medals. There is a lot of room for improvement and we are focussing on that.
"He is certainly the best 200m runner in the country at the moment. I am planning to take him to Europe next year to compete on the European circuit and get some more experience competing against quality foreign athletes.
"He has the right attributes to become a top-class athlete. He is always eager to learn, wants to work hard and also very actively participates in anything, not the kind of shy or reticent athlete, he is the leader of any pack." Borgohain also took part in the Federation Cup in March in Patiala where he ran 10.44 seconds in 100m but did not run in 200m due to a hamstring injury. A bout of COVID-19 infection -- he tested positive on his 23rd birthday -- forced him to miss the National Inter-State Championships in June.
A fan of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sunil Chhetri, football was Borgohain's first love but took up athletics once his armyman father was posted in Hyderabad, where they shifted from Assam. His father BC Borgohain retired as Subedar Major in 2009.
"Just like most of northeasterners, my first love was football and I played the game in my childhood and school days. But once our family shifted to Hyderabad, there was little scope for football. So, I shifted to athletics. That was in 2015," he said.
Asked if he had faced financial issues during his formative years in the sport, Borgohain said, "We are not well off but the situation was not that bad. It is not that I will not get things like running shoes with spikes, but it takes some time for my father to gather money to buy the stuff." His first athletics medal came at the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) Nationals in Lucknow in 2015 and podium finishes in the Under-18 and Under-20 categories at state level followed.
Borgohain, whose family has now returned to their native village in Assam, then took part in the Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS) nation-wide athletics competition in 2017.
He clocked 10.84 seconds in 100m and 22.06 seconds in 200m in the 2018 RFYS national finals.
Hillier spotted him at the Khelo India Games in Guwahati in January last year and invited the youngster to appear for an evaluation at the HPC in February. After four weeks of intensive training and assessment, Borgohain was confirmed a spot at the Reliance Foundation High Performance Centre in April last year.
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News Source : PTI
India still has a lot to prove and many points to improve on: Stimac after Nepal win
Kathmandu, Sep 6 (Football news) The Indian football team's head coach Igor Stimac feels the side "has a lot to prove and many points to improve on" despite heading back home unbeaten in the two international friendlies against Nepal.
After a 1-1 draw in the first friendly, India notched up 2-1 win in the second game against Nepal on Sunday thanks to second-half strikes by Farukh Choudhary and skipper Sunil Chhetri.
"We need to congratulate the players on their attitude and their willingness to go and win the game," Stimac said at the post-match press conference.
"I especially need to appreciate my players because they were much more patient, waiting for the first goal, to open up the Nepali defence, and as you know, when that happens, everything is much easier.
"But I think India still has a lot to prove and many points to improve on,” he added.
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Stimac felt that both sides put up better performances in the second match.
"I think it was a good game of football that all the fans could enjoy. This second game was much better than the previous one.
"After we scored the first goal, we started rising with confidence and playing as we need to play. I think overall India were the better of the two sides over the two games, and deservedly are going forward with a win," he quipped.
Commenting on the hosts' performance Stimac said: "Nepal played well, they improved a lot. I can see how much it means to the team when it has two months of preparation."
News source: PTI
Below-par India look to raise the level against Nepal in second international friendly
Kathmandu, Sep 4 (Football news) Held by a lowly Nepal in their last match, the Indian men's football team would settle for nothing less than a victory in the second international friendly against the Himalayan nation here on Sunday.
Worse, Indian football team is not at all happy with the training facilities provided by the host country.
At 105, India are ranked much above the 171st placed Nepal in the FIFA rankings, but still then the Sunil Chhetri-led side produced a below-par show in the first match to be held to a 1-1 draw on Thursday.
In the last match, substitute Anirudh Thapa came in as saviour for the visitors as found the equaliser in the 60th minute after Nepal grabbed the lead through Anjan Bista in the 36th minute.
But come tomorrow, India will have to raise their game by leaps and bounds to outwit a determined Nepal, who will brimming with confidence following the last match result.
The friendlies are being organised as part of preparations for next month's SAFF Championships in Maldives.
The five-team SAFF Championships will be held from October 3 to October 13 at the National Stadium in Male.
Besides India, the other participating teams are Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, hosts Maldives and Nepal.
India head coach Igor Stimac was not happy with the performance but hoped for a better show from his wards on Sunday.
"The mood is positive and our boys are aware that they can do much better. Of course, we are still short with the energy level because we are just at the end of the second week of preparation, and the legs are still heavy. But, they are looking forward to put in a better performance," he said.
"We are going to change a few things, and see if that can help us in terms of passing with more confidence, and getting forward easier." India custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu too feels that the team needs to raise its bar on Sunday to come out on the positive side of the result.
"The last game was a tough one and Nepal were very organised. We had moments where we could have done better as a team, and there were moments where we did get better.
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"We need to make sure that we have a strong mentality going into the second game. We need to make sure that we use it to prepare for the SAFF Championship in good order," he said.
Thapa, who suffered an injury scare in his ankle in the last match, is fit to play on Sunday.
"I am fine now," assured Thapa.
"I have been working on my short sprints, especially my start. That allowed me to connect the ball ahead of my marker, and even goalkeeper Kiran-bhai (Kiran Limbu)," he explains.
"We were much better in the second half in the first match and wished the match could have continued for some more time for us to find the winner," Thapa concluded.
News source: PTI
How Indian Football can take inspiration from the Indian Hockey team
(Football news) The Indian football team drew 1-1 against Nepal in what was a very unenterprising performance from the Blue Tigers. Igor Stimac’s record over the past two years has not been great as he has managed two wins, seven defeats and seven draws. With Indian football the results don't pay much importance; it's mostly about improvement in quality of football and development of youngsters in India. The most common myth or question that comes with Indian football is ‘why a nation of 1.4 billion people fail to produce 11 good footballers?’
It’s not like the talent doesn’t exist but India is failing to nurture them properly by giving these youngsters proper exposure to International football. If you take the Indian Super League (ISL) for example, the amount of young budding players coming from different regions of the country is quite extraordinary but the very fact of limited game time hampers their growth and development. The league has taken necessary steps to change this by introducing the 3+1 rule where only four foreign players will be allowed to play in the starting eleven, after this rule hopefully more young footballers get the chance to play and get coached by good pedigree foreign coaches.
The other problem with the ISL is that it is a closed league where the same number of teams play without the fear of getting relegated. Even though ISL is the best thing that has happened to Indian football, the sense of competitive football is lacking. A proper road map needs to be laid where the I League should become the second tier league and the top two teams from the I League should be promoted to the ISL and bottom two teams from the ISL will get relegated. This will not only bring the sense of competitiveness back but also follow the European league standards.
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Our Indian football federation should take inspiration from the Hockey team that won a historic bronze medal in this year's Olympics. The Indian Hockey team followed a 10 year plan where the Hockey Federation nurtured and carefully monitored the progression of the junior hockey players who went to represent the country later on. The same needs to be done by the AIFF and follow a plan where they can nurture the U-17 players who represented India in the U17 World Cup by probably sending them to Europe or at least making sure they get regular playing time.
Players like Sunil Chhetri and Sandesh Jhingan should be taken as inspiration for youngsters in India as they define the epitome of success by playing in Europe without much help from the AIFF. Sunil Chhetri at the age of 37 is still going strong and breaking records but the main problem will arrive when he retires as India have no ready-made replacement for him. The very fact that majority of India’s goals in the recent years have been scored by Sunil Chhetri speaks volumes of where Indian football is headed. The only way we can find a replacement is by tracking the process of all the youngsters right from the grassroot levels.
The plan proposed by Kushal Das (Secretary of AIFF) was for India to qualify for the World Cup in 2030 but if the necessary steps aren’t being taken then it looks like a distant dream. In India, the number of football fanatics are crazy as there are a lot of people supporting foreign clubs and countries but every football fan in India hopes to see the tricolour on the biggest stage of all.
India to kick start SAFF C'ship preparation with international friendly against Nepal
Kathmandu, Sep 1 (Football news) The Indian men's football team will kick start its preparations for the next month's SAFF Championships in Maldives with the first of the two international friendly matches against Nepal here on Thursday.
The five-team SAFF Championships will be held from October 3 to October 13 at the National Stadium in Male.
Besides India, the other participating teams are Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, hosts Maldives and Nepal.
"We are happy to be here and happy to be together again. These two international friendlies will help us prepare for the forthcoming SAFF Championship in the Maldives next month.
"I just know these games will be good and we need to learn on the pitch," India's head coach Igor Stimac said in a media release.
The second friendly against Nepal will be played on September 5. Both the matches will be held at the Dashrath Stadium here.
This will be the first time India will feature in an international game since playing Afghanistan in their final group match of the 2018 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup joint-qualifiers in Watar on June 15.
However, with dark clouds hovering in the sky, rain threat looms large over the match. The pitch conditions at the practice ground were already tough because of torrential downpour.
Also read: Nepal are always tough when they play against us: Chhetri
"I hope that we don't suffer heavy rains during the matches so that we can play some exciting football," Stimac said.
"We have analysed Nepal as an opponent and the kind of progress they made in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. They have put on display that they can play quality football and can defend as a team. My colleague has done a good job and there are a lot of young players in the squad." India captain Sunil Chhetri thanked the "ANFA and the Government of Nepal for the hospitality and the invitation to play in Kathmandu during these tough times." "We understand the situation in the world. The hospitality has been wonderful and the opportunity to play international football is soothing for us. "We want to give the best account of ourselves and get a good start for the season. Nepal are a tough opponent and we want to give as much as we can to the coach," Chhetri said.
The talismanic India captain is the crowd favourite. Right from landing at the airport to the team hotel to the practice sessions, locals request him for a click.
"I will admit that I have a soft corner for Nepal. But, it ends the moment I step on the pitch. My mom is from Nepal and whatever sporting culture and discipline has been inculcated is all because of my mom," Chhetri said.
"Nepal has always made it very difficult for us on the football pitch, and we are not expecting anything less. Playing Nepal at home and outside Nepal are two different things, and let's not forget that they are the home team here." Nepal coach Abdullah Almutairi admitted that he has worked a lot on "changing the mentality of his players." "I don't want to make people happy, rather I want to make them proud. We have been training for the last two months and there are a lot of youngsters in the squad. "Our target is to win the SAFF Championship in the Maldives, and eventually qualify for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023. We don't care about FIFA Rankings. It will not be easy for them (India)."
News source: PTI
Nepal are always tough when they play against us: Chhetri
Kathmandu, Aug 31 (Football news): Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri is expecting a tough outing in their two upcoming friendly internationals against Nepal.
India are scheduled to play Nepal on September 2 and September 5 in two away games.
"This is an excellent opportunity for us to improve as a team. Given the current circumstances, it wasn't easy to get a friendly game," Chhetri told the All India Football Federation.
"The Nepal federation and government invited us to play, and we thank them for the opportunity and the gesture.
"Nepal are a very tough side, especially when they play against us, and we are aware of the extreme challenge the two matches present us," he added.
Other than Chhetri, Pritam Kotal and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, none of the players of the current team have been to Nepal with the senior side.
The trio was there in 2015 when India qualified from the play-offs to the Russia 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.
For Chhetri, this is his fourth visit to the Himalayan nation.
Head coach Igor Stimac said, "I just hope that it doesn't rain heavily." Coincidentally, the preparatory camp in Kolkata had also witnessed heavy downpours, but not extreme enough to become a concern.
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News Source: PTI
U17 FIFA WC team member Ali, FC Goa's Fernandes get maiden India call-ups
New Delhi, Aug 27 (Football news) India's 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup member Rahim Ali and FC Goa defender Seriton Fernandes got their maiden call-ups as national football team head coach Igor Stimac on Friday named a 25-member squad for the twin international friendlies against Nepal next month.
India play against Nepal on September 2 and 5 in Kathmandu.
After being a part of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup team, Ali, now 21, played for Indian Arrows for two years and then joined Chennaiyin FC in 2019. He has also been part of the India U20 and U23 sides.
He will now be in the company of talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri upfront along with Manvir Singh and Farukh Choudhary.
Defender Fernandes, 28, was a part of the FC Goa side that played in the AFC Champions League earlier this year. He had a bout COVID-19 in May.
Another defender Mandar Rao Dessai returned to the squad after missing the 2022 World Cup qualification campaign in Qatar in June. Adil Khan also did not figure in the final 25-member squad.
Senior defender Sandesh Jhingan, who has joined Croatian top division side HNK Sibenik, understandably did not make it to the squad.
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Another notable omission is the Bengaluru FC winger Udanta Singh who was dropped from the squad that played friendly matches against the UAE and Oman in March but returned for the subsequent World Cup qualifiers in June.
Rowllin Borges, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Ashique Kuruniyan are the three other players missing from the last World Cup qualifying campaign squad.
The national team probables have been training in Kolkata since August 15.
While the ATK Mohun Bagan players join the camp in Kolkata on Friday, the Bengaluru FC players will join the rest of the squad in New Delhi Sunday. The team leaves for Nepal on Monday.
The Squad: Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Chinglensana Singh Konsham, Mandar Rao Dessai, Akash Mishra, Rahul Bheke, Subhasish Bose, Seriton Fernandes.
Midfielders: Lalengmawia, Bipin Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Yasir Mohammad, Glan Martins, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Jeakson Singh, Pronay Halder.
Forwards: Manvir Singh, Rahim Ali, Sunil Chhetri, Farukh Choudhary.
News source: PTI
Jhingan's India teammates hoping his Croatia move opens up new avenues
Kolkata, Aug 20 (Football news): Inspired by Sandesh Jhingan's move to Croatian top division club HNK Sibenik, India's senior team footballers feel the centre-back will come back from his European sojourn as "an entirely different player" while possibly opening up new avenues.
Jhingan will become the first India international footballer to play in the Croatian top-tier league Prva HNL after completing a move from ATK Mohun Bagan to HNK Sibenik.
"Big congratulations Sandesh-paaji," quipped midfielder Anirudh Thapa.
"It's a big achievement for Indian football -- all the best. We understand that when you come back you will be an entirely different player, and it will all transpire on to us. Go out and play your game." Wishes poured in from the Blue Tigers as national team as Jhingan was officially announced as an HNK Sibenik player, making him the first Indian defender to sign a professional contract in Europe.
Also read: I would be tested to the limit, always wanted to stay outside comfort zone: Jhingan on Croatia move
Brandon Fernandes, who plays as an attacking midfielder, hoped the move opens up new avenues for India players seeking to play in Europe.
"This is a proud moment not just for Indian Football but the country overall," Brandon said.
"I wish you success and hope you do well. I also hope Sandesh's move opens up a lot of new avenues for aspiring and established Indian footballers." The soft-spoken Mandar Rao Dessai added," "Give your heart out to everything like always when you play.
"You have made all of us very proud." Defender Adil Khan lauded Jhingan for taking a brave decision.
"It's a great decision that you have taken.You inspire us all. The youth all over the country will look up to you, try to imitate you and follow your footsteps," Adil, who has partnered Jhingan as a central defender in the national team, opined.
Jhingan became the fifth Indian footballer (among men) to sign a professional contract in Europe after Bhaichung Bhutia, Subrata Paul, Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. That apart, Chhetri was also contracted with MLS club Kansas City.
Founded on December 1, 1932, HNK Sibenik returned to the premier division last season under a new management.
The club finished sixth in the league, just two positions below qualification to European competitions.
The club is located in Sibenik, the Dalmatian region of Croatia, a city with breath-taking fortresses protecting it for centuries and a beautiful Cathedral of St James, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Blue Tigers are currently camping in Kolkata in preparation for the forthcoming international friendlies against Nepal in September.
News source: PTI
ATK Mohun Bagan beat Bengaluru FC 2-0 in AFC Cup group match
(Football news): ATK Mohun Bagan began their AFC Cup campaign in style with an easy 2-0 win over another Indian club Bengaluru FC in a Group D match here on Wednesday.
Captain Roy Krishna struck in the 39th minute before Subhasish Bose added another goal in the 46th minute to give the Kolkata based side a head start in the continent's second tier club competition.
Bengaluru's better possession did not count much in the end as ATK MB found two goals from the five shots they had on target. BFC, on the other hand, had three shots on target. The result meant that Sunil Chhetri-led Bengaluru FC have not been able to beat familiar rivals ATK Mohun Bagan since 2019 Indian Super League season.
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Chhetri himself could not do much in the match and was substituted in the 68th minute by Leon Augustine.
ATK Mohun Bagan, who qualified for the group stages of the competition by virtue of the erstwhile Mohun Bagan's victorious 2019-20 I-League campaign, will face Maziya Sports & Recreation of Maldives in their second group match on Saturday.
Bengaluru, who made it to the group stage after defeating Club Eagles of Maldives 1-0 in the play-off here on Sunday, Bashundhara Kings of Bangladesh in their next match, also on Saturday.
Only the winners of the four-team group will qualify for the Inter-zone playoff semifinals.
News source: PTI
Bengaluru FC beat Eagles 1-0 in playoff, join ATK Mohun Bagan in Group D
Male, Aug 15 (Football news) Indian club Bengaluru FC began their season on a positive note as they notched up a 1-0 win over Maldives' Club Eagles in the AFC Cup playoff match here on Sunday.
The solitary goal win took Marco Pezzaiuoli's men into Group D of the continental competition, where ATK Mohun Bagan, Bashundhara Kings and Maziya S&RC await.
The Blues will face ATK Mohun Bagan in their opening clash of Group D on Wednesday.
Midfielder Jayesh Rane scored, what turned out to be the game's lone goal, in the 26th minute at the National Stadium.
Both the teams were not at their best in the first 45 minutes but former Indian Super League (ISL) champions BFC managed to hold on to their lead through the game.
Also read: Bengaluru FC and Club Eagles of Maldives face off for group stage slot in AFC Cup
Local outfit Club Eagles looked impressive on the wings with their pace but the Indian club was equal to the task, with Rane putting the visitors ahead before the half an hour mark.
Rane fired in a powerful low shot from inside the box and gave Bengaluru the much-needed lead.
While BFC sought to gain control of the proceedings from the word go, they looked more confident after taking the lead, enjoying more possession while moving the ball around.
However, the visitors nearly conceded an equaliser just before the lemon break, when defender Sarthak Golui almost put the ball into his own net off an Eagles corner before his goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu came to the team's rescue and keep the lead intact.
BFC continued to keep possession at the start of the second half but there was hardly any goalmouth action with the visitors intent on just holding on to the lead and the hosts struggling to draw parity.
In the 65th minute, Bengaluru FC survived a scare as Ali Fasir had a golden opportunity to put Eagles level, but missed the target with just Sandhu to beat inside the box after going past Alan Costa and Sarthak Golui.
In the 83rd minute, there was a chance for Leon Augustine with the Eagles goalkeeper leaving his position, but the midfielder failed to keep the ball on target.
BFC made a final change as Danish Farooq made his debut, replacing Sunil Chhetri just before the added time.
Bengaluru, who made it through the Preliminary Stage Two with a comprehensive 5-0 win against Tribhuvan Army FC, landed in the Maldives earlier this week before beginning preparations for the clash.
News source: PTI
Bengaluru FC and Club Eagles of Maldives face off for group stage slot in AFC Cup
Male, Aug 14 (Football news) Sunil Chhetri-led Bengaluru FC will hope to begin their season on a positive note when they face Club Eagles of Maldives in a play-off match of the AFC Cup here on Sunday.
The winners of the playoff, initially scheduled to be played in May but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will advance to Group D of the 2021 AFC Cup.
Bengaluru had scored an emphatic 5-0 victory over Nepal's Tribhuvan Army in the preliminary round in April while Club Eagles had beaten Bhutan's Thimphu FC 2-0.
Besides mercurial Chhetri leading the charge, Bengaluru head coach Marco Pezzoli can also rely on new signings Rohit Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Bidyashagar Singh, Jayesh Rane, Danish Farooq, and Sarthak Golui.
Also read: FC Goa rope in Spanish striker Airam Cabrera on a one-year deal
Bengaluru, which finished at a lowly seventh in the Indian Super League, have thrived in the AFC Cup, having finished runners-up in 2016 and making the Inter-Zonal final in 2017 and the semi-finals a year later.
Club Eagles will go into the tie without Ahmed Rizwan with head coach Mohamed Shazly confirming to local media that the striker is still recovering from an injury.
The home side, however, won't be lacking in experience with the likes of Ali Ashfaq, Akram Abdul Ghanee, Ali Fasir, Mohamed Arif, Ismail Easa, Ahmed Hassan and Mohamed Faisal available for the match.
The playoff winners will join another Indian side ATK Mohun Bagan, Bashundhara Kings of Bangladesh and Maiziya Sports & Recreation of Maldives in Group D which kicks off in Male on Wednesday.
The winners will play ATK Mohun Bagan in their opening clash with Bashundhara Kings to face Maziya Sports & Recreation.
The Group D winners will advance to the Inter-Zone semi-finals against either FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan or FC Ahal of Turkmenistan from the Central Zone.
News source: PTI
Indian football team's camp to arrive in Kolkata after 15 years
New Delhi, Aug 9(Football news) The national football team's camp will be held in Kolkata after 15 years when initial 23 probables assemble at the 'City of Joy' on August 15 to prepare for next month's international friendlies.
The training sessions will start from August 16, the AIFF said in a statement.
This will be the first time Blue Tigers' camp will be held in Kolkata as they assembled here for training way back in 2006 ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Saudi Arabia.
The camp will be conducted under a secured bio-bubble adhering to the laid-down health parameters in wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic situation. The contingent will also be undergoing regular testing.
National team head coach Igor Stimac has named an initial list of 23 probables, leaving out players from ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC owing to the two club's commitments in the AFC Cup in the Maldives.
Players from both clubs will be joining the squad immediately after finishing their club commitments in the continental tournament.
"I am very happy to meet with my players again and get ready for the upcoming challenges forward together," Stimac said.
"We wish both the Indian clubs good luck and hope they do well in the AFC Cup. Meanwhile, we need to check on the rest of the players who will kick-off the camp with us next week, and choose the best ones until the rest of the players join us," added the Croatian.
Also read: Nivia to be the official kit partner for ISL team Chennaiyin FC
The 23 players who will be joining the camp on August 15 are: GOALKEEPERS: Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, Vishal Kaith.
DEFENDERS: Ashish Rai, Seriton Fernandes, Adil Khan, Chinglensana Singh, Narender, Rahul Bheke, Akash Mishra, Mandar Rao Dessai.
MIDFIELDERS: Lalengmawia, Glan Martins, Jeakson Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes, Sahal Abdul Samad, Halicharan Narzary, Bipin Singh, Yasir Mohammed.
FORWARDS: Rahul KP, Farukh Choudhary, Ishan Pandita, Rahim Ali.
The ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC players who will be joining the camp after their AFC Cup duties are: GOALKEEPERS: Amrinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
DEFENDERS: Pritam Kotal, Ashutosh Mehta, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose.
MIDFIELDERS: Udanta Singh, Pronay Halder, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Ashqiue Kuruniyan.
FORWARDS: Liston Colaco, Manvir Singh, Sunil Chhetri.
News Source: PTI
AIFF says Nepal has offered to play friendlies against India
New Delhi, Aug 6 (Football news) Nepal has offered to play two international friendlies against India during the August 30-September 7 window after the country's apex football body could not get other teams on board due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) will organise a 15-day camp for the senior men's national team starting August 15 in preparation for the two international games the country is likely to play during that FIFA window.
"... the Nepal Football Association has offered AIFF an option of playing two friendlies with the Indian senior men's national team in the above-mentioned window. At the moment, there aren't any quarantine restrictions for Indian citizens visiting Nepal," the AIFF said in a statement.
The AIFF said it had initiated talks with many teams regarding playing friendlies against India but quarantine restrictions in various countries did "not allow such talks to materialise".
"At the moment most countries in Asia have very strict quarantine rules for visitors coming in from other countries, and owing to the current pandemic situation Indian citizens are also not allowed to travel to certain countries.
Also read: FC Barcelona announce shock Lionel Messi exit amid financial crisis
The AIFF had even tossed up the idea of playing international friendlies in Europe with countries from Africa and Asia, but even there the quarantine rules played spoilsport, the federation said.
"Moreover, with the current stringent restriction of visitors coming to India for government guidelines pertaining to health parameters, no other team can visit India during the time frame without going through quarantine protocols," the AIFF said.
The AIFF thanked the Nepal FA for the offer, and said it is in the process of "finalising the proposal" with head coach, Igor Stimac.
After the friendlies, India will participate in the SAFF tournament in October.
News source: PTI
Opening up to mental health – with Biles and other stars from sports and showbiz
New Delhi, Aug 4 (Sports news) The world watched from their homes as American artistic gymnast Simone Biles faltered on her vault landing at the Tokyo Olympics and decided to pull out of the all-around competition, an event she hadn’t lost once since 2013.
What may have been the end of an era started a conversation instead. From the Olympics arena to millions of homes, the issue of mental health, skulking around the corners of high-wired professions such as sports and showbiz and a lived issue for countless others balancing everyday stresses, was back at the centrestage of discussion.
This attention is more than welcome, said psychologists and other mental health experts as well as those battling the demons of depression and anxiety.
"For anyone saying I quit. I didn't quit... my mind & body are simply not in sync," Biles had written on Instagram.
"I don't think you realize how dangerous this is on hard/competition surface," she added. "Nor do I have to explain why I put my health first. Physical health is mental health." When influential people such as Biles, one of the world’s biggest sports stars, talk with such candidness, it validates the existence of mental health as an issue in the general public, said Delhi-based development sector consultant Bhawna Khattar.
"Where it helps is to generate conversations, for instance, when Sushant's case happened or when a Deepika Padukone talks about it,” Khattar, who has been taking professional help for her mental health issues for the last two years, told PTI.
While actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found hanging in his Mumbai home last year, Padukone, among India’s biggest stars, has spoken in public about her depression.
Both sports and films are professions with high visibility that demand steep thresholds of unrelenting stress and dedication.
As important as it is for athletes to prepare themselves to perfection, mental health professionals believe the true form of a sportsperson lies not just in pushing a little bit more but also in knowing when it is ok to quit.
“Awareness is really important, and knowing when to stop is the most important thing. Many don’t know when to stop, and many feel it is not right to stop. It takes awareness and courage to quit at a highly competitive level,” sports and exercise psychologist Keerthana Swaminathan told PTI.
In her view, the taboo around mental health hinders a conversation from happening in India.
“You’ll find foreign players talking about mental health care. In India they use words as stress because people are not taught that these things exist. In the US, they welcomed her (Biles) decision to quit mid-way, they said it’s fine. With us, it’s always about ‘what would people say’ (if you quit). The taboo around mental health is very much there in our society,” Swaminathan said.
Biles, who has frequently championed the cause of mental health during her career, adds to the small yet strong lineup of sportspersons who have talked about the pressure of a sporting arena.
Earlier this year, Japanese tennis sensation Naomi Osaka pulled out of the French Open after refusing to attend press conferences as she gets “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to the media.
American former swimming superstar Michael Phelps too spoke of the “weight of gold” in his documentary of the same name. The most successful Olympian of all time has 28 Olympic medals, including 23 gold, to his name.
Closer home, shooter Abhinav Bindra has also talked about encountering mental health issues right after winning the 10m air rifle gold medal at the Beijing Games in 2008.
"It's ironic my biggest mental crisis in life came when I actually succeeded. A lot of people talked about dealing with failure, but for me, dealing with success was probably the hardest time in my life,” Bindra had said.
Shuttler PV Sindhu, cricketers Virat Kohli and Harmanpreet Kaur, footballers Gourmangi Singh and Sunil Chhetri are among the other Indian sportspersons who have frequently addressed mental health issues. According to sports and performance psychologist Nanaki J Chadha, there has been a “paradigm shift” when it comes to the awareness of mental health importance in sports.
“...Like any physical injury, athletes are realising that mental health concerns can also be crippling for their performance,” Chadha said.
“In India, we do not give equal importance to sport psychology, as we do to other performance domains such as the physical, technical, and tactical aspects. There is a stark disparity,” she said.
While the recent incidents have yet again opened up conversations on and around mental wellness, they are far from enough in the Indian context as the stigma persists.
The ramifications of ignored mental health have manifested themselves in another high-stress profession, the film industry, too often to be ignored.
The likes of actor-director Guru Dutt, actor Jiah Khan, Sushant Rajput, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, and comedian-actor Robin Williams gave up on life working in an industry known to be harsh and demanding. The list is as varied as it is long. Equally, several who battled their spectrum of mental health problems came out worn but victorious.
Among those who braved mental health illnesses are Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Manisha Koirala, Randeep Hooda and Shaheen Bhatt.
After Padukone first opened up about her depression in 2015, she formed The Live Love Laugh Foundation, an NGO that deals with mental health issues. Ever since, the “Padmaavat” actress has taken every public opportunity to speak about mental health issues.
Swaminathan feels that such conversation and “coming out” of influential figures inspire others at every level to speak up.
“When one person comes out and says ‘hey, I am having this issue’, the other person doesn’t feel embarrassed about sharing their stories too. All of us are going through these issues, anxiety and everything. And when they speak about it, it makes it easier for us to talk about it,” she added.
In a welcome move, and a pointer that the issue may finally be on its way to getting the importance it needs, the Delhi High Court on Monday sought a response from the Delhi government and the Institute Of Human Behaviour & Allied Sciences on a petition concerning the mental health of students in schools and colleges.
Also read: Cricketer Amelia Kerr withdraws from New Zealand women's tour of England to focus on mental health
In her petition, 17-year-old student Devina Singh has pressed for the implementation of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 at educational institutions.
Relying on the National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, Singh has contended that children and adolescents are vulnerable to mental disorders as the healthcare system does not prioritise mental health.
Singh has claimed that stress, anxiety, fear, panic, depression, insomnia, isolation, disconnectedness, loneliness, trauma, lack of self-confidence, positivity and resilience etc are issues that are widely prevalent in students but are left unattended.
News source: PTI
Football Delhi celebrates Chhetri's birthday by launching '37-plus League'
New Delhi, Aug 3 (Football news) Football Delhi on Tuesday celebrated India captain Sunil Chhetri's birthday by launching a league for players above the age of 37 years.
The '37-Plus League' was inaugurated by Chhetri's father K B Chhetri.
Since 2018, Football Delhi has been celebrating Delhi Football Day on the birthday of Chhetri.
In a video message, Chhetri congratulated Football Delhi for launching the '37-Plus League'.
"Keeping fit is important and it is good that retired players getting this opportunity to be part of a league," he said.
Also read: Chennaiyin FC signs Kyrgyz forward Mirlan Murzaev
Football Delhi president Shaji Prabhakaran said, "We are greatly honoured to launch this League in honour of Sunil Chhetri. We want football activities for all age group, from 4 to 70-plus." The inaugural match was played between Old Stars and Vikas Puri Football Club at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Complex.
News source: PTI
India rejoices as women's hockey team makes maiden entry into Olympic semifinals
New Delhi, Aug 2 (Olympics news) "A dream moment", said the country's sports fraternity in unison as it celebrated the resurgence of Indian hockey at the Olympics after the women's team advanced to its first ever semifinal at the Games in Tokyo on Monday.
A day after the Indian men's team entered the Olympic semifinals following a 49-year gap, the world no. 9 women's side also produced a phenomenally gritty performance against the world no 2 Australia in an intense quarterfinals here.
It triggered an outpouring of emotions as people from all walks of life, including former and current sportspersons and politicians, congratulated the team.
Describing it as "a dream moment", former India hockey captain Viren Rasquinha said: "Impressed with the way the Indians defended post the goal. They didn't just defend the lead, they almost attacked the lead. They were not afraid to go up and press the Australians.
"The men's game made us much more uncomfortable yesterday than the Australian women. Credit to the Indian women's team.
"One biggest improvement in the team is the sheer physical presence, the fitness, endurance levels. In today's modern format unless the fitness level isn't at the highest level it is hard to survive." Drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur rose to the occasion and converted India's lone penalty corner in the 22nd minute to surprise the Australians.
"To score a goal against one of the best teams in hockey is amazing. She hasn't been in best form, it took a bit of luck, as it took two deflection but who cares, what matters it was a goal for India," Rasquinha said.
India will next take on Argentina in the semifinals on Wednesday.
Congratulating the team, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur wrote on his twitter handle: "Splendid Performance!!! Women's Hockey #TeamIndia is scripting history with every move at #Tokyo2020 ! We’re into the semi-finals of the Olympics for the 1st time beating Australia." Wishes also came in former sports minister Kiren Rijiju.
"India's dream is coming to reality! Our Women's Hockey Team has defeated Australia! India's Men's and Women's teams have reached semi-finals at #Tokyo2020 Olympics! I have no words to express my excitement and happiness!," he tweeted.
Odisha chief miniter Naveen Patnaik, who has been at the forefront in supporting the hockey teams through sponsorship as well, said glory awaits.
" Congratulate Indian Women’s #Hockey Team on registering a thumping victory in the quarter-final against Australia at #Tokyo2020. May the team continue its winning streak & bring glory to the country. Wish the team all the best," he said.
India's first ever individual silver at the Olympics, shooter Col Rajyavardhan Rathore, who was also the sports minister in the past, wrote: "Congratulations to the Flag of India Women’s Hockey Team for entering the #Olympic semi-finals. You've made India proud! Best wishes for the next match." The country's lone individual Olympic gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra too sent his best wishes.
"Incredible Morning. So proud of our women’s hockey team. Nothing unites us the way sport does !!!," he wrote.
Also read: Indian superwomen hand Australian giants their first defeat of the tournament
Rio bronze medallist wrestler Sakshi Malik tweeted: "THESE GIRLS HAVE DONE IT! THEY HAVE DONE THE UNTHINKABLE! The #IND women's #hockey team are into the SEMI-FINALS after beating #AUS 1-0." Multiple-time world champion cueist Pankaj Advani also took to the social networking site to wish the Rani Rampal-led side.
"Chak De India! Indian hockey has been been super impressive at the #OlympicGames Imagine if both men and women came back with Gold medals First place medalFirst place medal #Cheer4India," India football team skipper Sunil Chhetri wrote: "If you thought Sunday was good then our women have just gone and made Monday exceptional with a performance for the ages! First semifinal appearance in an Olympic Games and that's how you do it - with a big, solid fight. Had us glued throughout. #TeamIndia #Tokyo2020." Former batsman VVS Laxman too congratulated the team.
"Our girls have created history. Beaten #AUS in the quarter-final match of women’s #hockey by 1-0 to seal their spot in SEMI-FINAL for the first time ever! Best wishes for the semis. #Tokyo2020," he tweeted.
In his tweet, BCCI secretary Jay Shah said: "What a start to the day! It’s a historic moment in Indian Hockey with our women’s team reaching the semis after beating Australia in the quarterfinal 1-0. #GoForGold #Cheer4India #Hockey."
News source: PTI
Football Delhi to Launch '37 Plus League' on Delhi Football Day
New Delhi, Jul 5 (Football news) Football Delhi has decided to launch '37 Plus League' involving retired players from August 3, which is celebrated as Delhi Football Day to mark Indian captain Sunil Chhetri's birthday.
The decision was taken during Football Delhi's executive committee meeting on Sunday.
As the Delhi-based Chhetri is turning 37 this year, Football Delhi named the league '37 Plus League' in his honour. The league will be played on Saturdays and Sundays, lasting 8-10 weeks with 8-10 teams.
Football Delhi president, Shaji Prabhakaran, said, "37 Plus League is yet another initiative of Football Delhi to actively promote football in Delhi and with the start of this league retired players in Delhi will have a platform to come together and express their love, passion, experience, and continue to be active with the game." "Further, it is our honour and privilege to celebrate the Football Delhi Day on 3rd August, the birthday of captain fantastic Sunil Chhetri and celebrating his achievements," he added.
Also read: AFC decides to reschedule qualifiers of 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup in India
The executive committee also decided to start the qualifying competition for interested senior division league clubs from July 20 to nominate two teams from Delhi in the 2nd division I-League competition to be held in Bengaluru.
Further, the committee approved the organisation of the second season of Futsal League in Delhi from first week of September and the winning team will be nominated to play in the National Futsal Championship.
News source: PTI
Football players Sunil Chhetri nominated for Khel Ratna, Bala Devi for Arjuna
New Delhi, Jun 30 (Football news) Talismanic India captain Sunil Chhetri has been recommended for this year's Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the country's highest sporting honour, by the All India Football Federation.
National women's football team striker Bala Devi, who is currently playing for Rangers in the Scottish Women's Premier League, has been recommended for the coveted Arjuna Award.
"We have recommended Sunil Chhetri for the Khel Ratna and Bala Devi for Arjuna Award," an official source told PTI on condition of anonymity.
"We have also recommended Gabriel Joseph for Dronacharya Award," the source added.
The 36-year-old Chhetri has been in tremendous form for the country and for his club Bengaluru FC in the last few years. He has played 118 international matches, scoring 74 goals, both Indian records.
He scored twice against Bangladesh in the recent World Cup Qualifiers in Qatar to become the second highest international goal scorer among active footballers, ahead of Argentine maestro Lionel Messi.
He is, however, currently in the fourth spot with United Arab Emirates' Ali Mabkhout (76) and Messi (75) having overtaken him.
Chhetri is a recipient of Padma Shri (2019), the country's fourth highest civilian honour, and the Arjuna Award (2011).
Since making debut in 2005, Chhetri has been part of Indian team that won the AFC Challenge Cup (2008), SAFF Championships (2011, 2015), Nehru Cup (2007, 2009, 2012), Intercontinental Cup (2017, 2018). He also played in the 2011 and 2019 Asian Cup.
The 31-year-old Devi, on the other hand, became the first Indian woman footballer to play for a top-flight PROFESSIONAL league in Europe when she joined Rangers of Glasgow in January last year.
She has played more than 50 matches for the country since 2010 and will play an important role in the national team during the AFC Women's Asian Cup to be hosted by the country next year. News Source: PTI
Was about to sign for Churchill in 2013 but went with 'gut feeling' and joined BFC: Sunil Chhetri
New Delhi, Jun 22 India football captain Sunil Chhetri was all set to sign a deal with Goan club Churchill Brothers in 2013 but his "gut feeling" prompted him to join Bengaluru FC, where he won eight trophies in the last eight years.
The 36-year-old Chhetri said the lure of playing in the AFC Cup and advice from his family and friends to join Churchill was tempting but ultimately he didn't join the Goan club.
Churchill Brothers won the 2012-13 I-League title and played in the AFC Cup, the continent's second tier club competition.
"Everything told me to sign for Churchill Brothers (in 2013). I-League champions, renowned name, going to play in AFC Cup. On the other hand, (Bengaluru FC) new club and don't know who are going to be signed, may or may not work, so it was a gamble I took," Chhetri said.
"My family said sign for Churchill and be sorted. AFC Cup was a big motivation. But I went with my gut feeling. Sometimes in life your gut feeling gets it right, sometimes not. But here I got it right," said Chhetri in a video uploaded by Bengaluru FC on its twitter page.
Chhetri has extended his contract with Bengaluru FC for another two years and will be with the Indian Super League side till 2023.
Since 2013, Bengaluru FC have won eight trophies, including two I-League titles (2013-14 and 2015-16) and one Indian Super League triumph (2018-19). BFC also finished runners-up in the 2015-16 AFC Cup.
"I have not spent a lot of time in one club, even at clubs where I had great rapport and great time. Three years in Mohun Bagan was amazing and three years in JCT. But there is no guarantee you will stay in a club for a long time," said Chhetri who is currently the third highest international goal scorer among active players.
"May be there were chances of me going from here and people are interested, so obviously there was obvious noise. If everything goes well I will stay here." Chhetri, who has scored 74 goals from 118 matches for India, said he now feels BFC and the city as "just like home".
"This club always looks for progression and improvement and that is very important at my age, paramount. That motivates me." Chhetri has made 203 appearances for the club, scoring 101 goals in eight seasons. He has led the club since its inception in 2013 and has topped the goal-scoring charts in each of his eight seasons with the Blues. News source PTI
Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri extends contract with Bengaluru FC for another two years
Bengaluru, Jun 21 India captain Sunil Chhetri has extended his contract with Bengaluru FC for another two years and will be with the Indian Super League side till 2023.
The new deal will enable Chhetri, who joined 'the Blues' in 2013, to extend his stay with the club into the 10th season.
Chhetri has made 203 appearances for the club, scoring 101 goals in eight seasons. The 36-year-old has led the club since its inception in 2013 and has topped the goal-scoring charts in each of his eight seasons with the Blues.
"I'm really happy to have signed on for two more years at Bengaluru FC. The city is home now, and the people at this club are like family to me. It feels like just yesterday that I signed for the first time here, and I have to say the journey has been nothing short of special," Chhetri said.
"I love this club, the supporters and the city, all three of which I have a strong bond with, and I'm looking forward to being part of many more great moments with them," said the talismanic skipper.
Chhetri, a six-time AIFF Player of the Year, led the Blues to their first I-League title in 2013, and has since won five more trophies with the club, including the Federation Cup (2015, 2017), Indian Super League (2018-19) and Super Cup (2018).
In addition to several other individual awards, Chhetri was named the Asian Football Confederation’s Asian Icon in 2018 and the following year, he was conferred the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour.
Chhetri has played 118 matches for India with 74 international goals to his names, the third highest among active players. Ali Mabkhout (76 goals) of United Arab Emirates has taken the second spot from Chhetri during the World Cup Qualifiers in Qatar earlier this month.
Bengaluru FC will face Eagles FC of Maldives in a 2021 AFC Cup Play-off stage clash in August. News source: PTI
National team not a factory to produce players: India head coach Igor Stimac
Kolkata, Jun 18 India head coach Igor Stimac on Friday expressed concern at the lack of quality footballers at the national level and urged the top tier Indian Super League and I-League to play proactive roles to produce players like Sunil Chhetri.
Lack of a quality striker was once again evident in India's recent World Cup qualifiers in Qatar as India relied heavily on the ageing Chhetri who struck a brace in their 2-0 win over Bangladesh, the lone win of the campaign.
In a virtual media conference after India made it to the final qualifying round of the 2023 Asian Cup, the 53-year-old Croat took questions on the range of issues, ranging from his future to the drawbacks of the Indian Super League.
Stimac was asked about the next Chhetri and he shot back: "Who do you see in India who can replace Chhetri? Do you see anyone in a striking position to play as centre forward? "The national team should exploit players coming out from the clubs. National team is not an academy, we are not a factory to produce players." He said the national team suffered from "all the weakness that is apparent in the country’s top league, the ISL".
"We can just use what we get from ISL and I-League or other lower leagues in India. National team door is open to everyone. But where to find someone like that (like Chhetri)?" Stimac asked.
"To be honest there are not many players with the technical ability.
"Most of foreign players occupy the most important positions in the team. So our base for selection of the players is very small. And it's not easy. This definitely limits the choice when we go to select the Indian players," he said.
Stimac, whose term as head coach was recently extended till September, also criticised the lack of relegation system in the ISL so far.
"Don't get me wrong but the ISL is not bringing pressure, there is no relegation. It's far different from playing top level International football." Stressing that the latest rule of allowing just four foreigners in the ISL will help the Indian players, he said: "Once we open the positions for Indian players, the time will come for us to go forward as the national team." He said while implementing the four-foreigner rule, the clubs should use Indian players as a backup to the players from abroad.
"Teams should not have two players of the same kind. Another foreigner should not replace an offensive foreign player; teams should open the doors for Indian players.
"If they are properly chosen they can bring quality. Foreigners are needed because if they are properly chosen they bring quality to our side. The clubs also need them for AFC competitions." He also suggested that the I-League -- the second tier of Indian domestic football structure -- should be played without any foreign strikers.
"We can also think about starting I-League without foreign players because that will open doors for Indian strikers, midfielders and centre back that will help national team enormously in three-four years time, believe me." Asked about his future beyond September, he said: "I am honoured to be working with AIFF. I appreciate the support given. We have a good platform for the future.
"It is now on the AIFF technical committee, AIFF, and President to decide my future. If they are not happy with my performance I am ready to accept that." Talking about the coming months, the head coach wants to start the national camp in August and make them play some friendly games till the ISL begins.
“We have to exploit the FIFA calendar and start the camp in August. We would like to play two friendlies in September and if the ISL starts late we can continue playing friendlies in October and November," he said.
"Once the ISL starts, the players will have enough competitive matches before the February qualifiers." Stimac said the team's mission was accomplished with India's qualification for the Asian Cup final qualifying round.
"It's mission accomplished in a few words," Stimac said in his opening remark.
"It was difficult, we lost 500 days with the pandemic around us. But we accomplished the aim. Is that good enough? We are not happy. We expected more points from the group. But we need to be happy where we got and improve on the platform." 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
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
Our preparation far from being ideal, expected lot more from Qatar association: Indian football team coach Igor Stimac
Kolkata, May 28 Livid with the strict quarantine arrangements in Qatar, Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac on Friday said their preparation is "far from being ideal" for the upcoming World Cup and Asian Cup Qualifiers.
Already out of contention for a World Cup berth, India will face Asian champions Qatar on June 3 before taking on Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15) in their remaining group E matches, with an aim to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
The Sunil Chhetri-led Blue Tigers, who were originally slated to reach Qatar on May 30, advanced their arrival to May 19. As per the strict quarantine, they are not allowed to train in gym, use the meeting hall or even eat together.
"If I knew that everything will be like it is today, I would never accept to be honest. We could organise such games in such way in India also. At the end we lost possibility of playing two home games," Stimac told reporters during a virtual interaction.
"Here we are now, not in great conditions. This is far away from a proper preparation for the World Cup qualifiers, but it is what it is. This is not a proper football work which needs to be obtained before the World Cup qualifiers." Frustrated with the arrangements, Stimac continued: "I'm well aware that Qatar is future host of the World Cup, and we all know about the great facilities for football teams.
"But, as a coach, personally I expected a lot more from this organisation. I know that we changed all our plans due to the pandemic. I say a big thank you to Qatar government for allowing us to come over here." Under the current circumstances, the Indian players are forced to practice on the corridor, in front of their respective rooms, the 53-year-old Croatian World Cupper said.
"I didn't expect this. I expected as a coach that we're going to have a possibility of using the gym.
"We are doing our morning sessions in the hall in front of our rooms, and our players are eating delivery food, which is left in front of our rooms.
"That's not proper preparation for a football players, I'm quite sure that the Qatari team is not in the same position." Stimac said they are forced to go through all this despite being tested COVID-19 negative three times.
"We were tested three times already, all the tests are negative. Why we don't have a proper meeting hall, so we can discuss and analyse our opponents, why we don't have a possibility of spending more time together, eating together.
"Instead of that we have one chance going out in the evenings for the training session, that's all." With India reeling under a second wave of the pandemic, most of the players, barring the ones from Bengaluru FC and FC Goa who were involved in the AFC club tournaments, have not played any match since the ISL got over earlier this year.
But Stimac is hopeful that they would make the Asian Cup. Currently placed third with three points, India still have a bright chance to make the continental showpiece even if they finish last in their group.
"I'm very confident that at the end of this journey, we will be in the AFC Cup. I know that our actual situation at the moment is far from ideal. The Qatar team is fully prepared.
"The Bangladesh side was playing in their league until recently. They will be much better prepared. 23 out of 28 players in the Afghanistan side are playing in Europe or in the United States, so they will be in full swing.
"On the other hand, you know the situation of our team. But what I can promise to all of you we're going to give everything we have at the moment, playing these games.
"Our players will leave each atom of energy on the field, will do everything to get as many points as possible in these matches to qualify for the for the AFC Asian Cup. We can judge ourselves after that." Stimac said they are eying a third-place finish in the group to make the cut.
"We will try everything to finish third but if it's not possible, from whichever position we start further, we're going to do everything and qualify for the AFC cup." The Indian team is bolstered by the return of their talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri who missed the two international friendlies in March due to COVID-19.
"Having Sunil Chhetri back is great for all of us. But we also need to be clever here, because there are three games in few days, so I need to be careful in where I use him." The former Croatian coach's contract is up for renewal having served a two-year tenure already.
"I'm not thinking about that (renewal). I'm fully concentrated on the job I need to do here. Everybody knows that in last 12 months we didn't have any action." 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
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
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
Becker like header on overlap is now on India shot-stopper Gurpreet's bucket-list
New Delhi, May 17 Pulling off a 'Allison Becker' like header is firmly on Gurpreet Singh's to-do list but till it happens, the lanky India goalkeeper would leave the job to his more skilled skipper Sunil Chhetri.
Liverpool's Brazilian goalkeeper Becker's inch perfect angular header off a flag kick in the stoppage time led his team a stunning 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion.
It is rare for goalkeepers to go on overlaps during dying moments and one of the pioneers was Paraguayan custodian Jose Luis Chilavert, who had scored eight goals in international football.
"I just can't stop watching his (Becker) header again, and again. Maybe it just happened – the ball fell in place and out of pure commitment he glided the ball – and what a header. But if he is doing that regularly in practice, then we have to admit that he is extra special," Gurpreet told aiff.com.
Gurpreet has at times gone up leaving his post unmanned to help his team in attack. While he is not desperate but would like to grab it if an opportunity come his way.
"Not that I am desperate to do it, and I hope that I don't have to do it ever. Obviously, there have been quite a few times that I have gone up for my club Bengaluru FC, and also during my stint with previous clubs," Gurpreet said.
"But if the team requires it as per the situation, who knows? But I would rather leave it to Sunil Chhetri. He is much better at it than me," he said in jest.
"I have to work on me attacking the ball, and on my heading. But I don't mind it," he smiles again.
It's not just good hands, the modern day goalkeeper needs to be good on feet which is Gurpreet's endeavour.
"Gone are the days when a goalkeeper was just a shot-stopper," Gurpreet, an Arjuna Awardee, adds.
"Personally, it was an exciting challenge to undergo the transition phase. When I started professionally, the trend was more to save shots.
"The first instructions which I received were to kick the ball back to where it came from. But it's changed now," the first Indian player to feature in a Europa League (for Norwegian side Stabaek FK) match said.
For Germany, Manuel Neuer, who made the role of a sweeper-keeper fashionable and the giant Indian wants to help in building attacks.
"The goalkeeper needs to initiate the attack, help the team build up on the possession. His distribution has to be impeccable. However, I am still a student of the game and working on the same. There is a long way to go," he expressed.
"And now I know, a goalkeeper needs to head it perfectly too," he laughs again. News Source : PTI
Fight against COVID-19: Sunil Chhetri hands over Twitter account to 'real-life captains'
New Delhi, Apr 30 Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri has given access of his Twitter account to "real-life captains" in order to share critical information of COVID-19 patients.
In a video message, the talismanic footballer said, "There are some real-life captains who are doing some extraordinary and phenomenal work (in the battle against COVID-19). They give me hope and a lot of motivation, and I want to join them.
"I want to give the access of my Twitter account to a few of these captains, so that important information can be amplified and reach as many people as possible. I am on your team." Chhetri, who had himself tested positive for COVID last month, also urged fellow Indians to contribute and help those in need in whichever way possible.
"Our country is going through difficult times. The pain, suffering and loss all around us are depressing and tragic. Amidst all of this, there are so many of us who have helped -- helped each other and helped complete strangers." "We all need to participate. No matter who you are, help in whichever way you can," Chhetri, who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2019, stated.
Chhetri, international football's second highest scorer among active players, began the initiative on Thursday, sharing vital information on resources in the badly-affected Karnataka, including state capital Bengaluru, on his Twitter account, which has 1.6 million followers.
"Hey, everyone. As promised, I'll be handing my Twitter account to some of the real-life heroes over the coming weeks, to try and help them get their messages of support and relief to a wider audience," Chhetri tweeted on Friday.
Scores of people across the country are dying in the wake of the second wave of the pandemic. India has reported over 3.86 lakh fresh COVID cases since Thursday. News Source : PTI
Sunil Chhetri to lead Bengaluru FC in AFC Cup match after recovering from COVID-19
Stimac expresses his desire to include overseas citizens in Indian football team
Continuous supply of talent defines Indian football: Jhingan
I cried after seeing footage of our loss to Oman in World Cup Qualifiers: Stimac
India seek to play fearless football against Oman in first international after COVID-19 lockdown
Three teams in running for I-League crown, three front runners for top scorer
Hope we give good account of ourselves in upcoming friendlies, says disappointed Chhetri
Stimac names 35 probables for matches against Oman and UAE, to prune list to 28 later
Chhetri, Cleiton star as Bengaluru FC beat Mumbai City 4-2
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10-man East Bengal hold Chennaiyin to draw
Former India striker Abhishek Yadav appointed as AIFFs first deputy general secretary
New Delhi, Jan 5 (PTI) Former India striker Abhishek Yadav has been appointed as the first deputy general secretary of All India Football Federation (AIFF) after the sports body decided to create a new post in its hierarchy.
It is one of the rare instances when a former Indian team player has been appointed to a high-ranking position in the sport's national federation.
The 40-year-old former international, who has played with the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, Mahesh Gawli and Climax Lawrence, has been serving as national team's director since January 2018.
"Abhishek has done a commendable job so far and I have personally observed him grow in stature as an administrator," said AIFF president Praful Patel.
Yadav, who is respected among his contemporaries and also served as the captain of the Indian team, has been involved with the AIFF in various capacities for a while now, working closely with general secretary Kushal Das.
"AIFF general secretary Kushal Das has guided and given me valuable inputs throughout the time I have been involved in the AIFF set-up. I must thank him for helping me as playing and administration are totally different," Yadav said.
"I also have to thank the president for supporting me in various football development initiatives after I got the opportunity to work for the betterment of Indian football," he added.
Yadav took the initiative to start the AIFF's scouting programme, both in India and abroad, before taking up the role of the director of India's national teams.
Giving Yadav a key administrative role is a reward for his "impressive work" with the national teams.
The federation is certain that bringing into its fold a well-known former player, with knowledge of the football ecosystem, could benefit the federation.
Das had high praise for Yadav's work with the AIFF and backed him to excel in his new role.
"Abhishek has really impressed in the time he has been with the AIFF, working with our scouting program and national teams.
"He has risen through the system with his hard work and we feel that he is well suited to such a role and has all the tools to succeed in it," Das told PTI.
According to the federation top bosses, Yadav's work with AIFF's developmental side Indian Arrows and the U-17 national team for the 2017 FIFA World Cup at home was "commendable".
He developed the AIFF's international scouting project in cooperation with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), helping create opportunities for Indian passport holders, who were based abroad.
Yadav was also the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of India's U-17 World Cup team.
He also played a key role in chalking out a plan for the revival of Indian Arrows, which included picking the best of talent from the India U-16 and U-17 teams.
Yadav has had a long and successful career in Indian football, representing the likes of Mahindra United, Churchill Brothers and Mumbai FC.
Notably, he scored the decisive goal in India's LG Cup triumph in 2002, coming off the bench to net the winner on debut in the final against Vietnam.
That strike, nearly two decades ago, helped India win their first major trophy on foreign soil after a lean run of 28 years.
He was also part of the Indian team that participated in the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar.