Author: Abhishek Shukla

129th Durand Cup To Kick Off In Kolkata Bigger and Better

KOLKATA: The Durand Cup, World’s third oldest and Asia’s oldest football tournament , returns after a short gap of three years to entertain the football lovers of the Nation. The prestigious tournament was first held in 1888, at Dagshai (Himachal Pradesh) and is named after Mortimer Durand, who was the then Foreign Secretary in charge of India.

The tournament that began as an Army Cup, was a conscious way to maintain health and fitness initially among the British troops but later opened to civilians and currently is one of the leading sporting event. Royal Scouts Fusiliers won the inaugural edition of the Durand Cup way back in 1888. Mohammedan Sporting Club was the first Indian club to win the cup, in 1940, when the tournament shifted to Delhi. Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are the most successful teams in the history of the Durand Cup, winning it on sixteen occasions each. The “Army Greens” are the current defending champions, winning the last tournament played in 2016.

The winning team is presented with three trophies i.e. The President’s Cup (first presented by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India), the Durand Cup (the original challenge prize, which is a rolling trophy) and the Shimla Trophy (first presented by citizens of Shimla in 1904 and since 1965, a rolling trophy).

Under the patronage of the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee and the three service Chiefs from Army, Navy and Air Force, dynamic support of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of West Bengal, Ms Mamta Banerjee and able guidance of Lt Gen MM Naravane, PVSM,AVSM,SM,VSM, GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, the 129th edition of the cup is being organized. Department of Youth Services and Sports, Government of West Bengal under stewardship of Hon’ble Minister Shri Aroop Biswas, AIFF (All India Football Federation) and IFA (West Bengal) are extending extensive support to make this tournament a success.

The tournament has been shifted from its homeland Delhi to Kolkata, the “Mecca of Football”, for this edition. The “City of Joy” will host the three week long tournament, scheduled between 02 to 24 Aug 2019, with matches being played at various venues in and around Kolkata. Sixteen participating teams from across the country, including four teams from the Services, are set to bring out the competitive and true sportsman spirit to win the coveted trophies.

Bengaluru FC sign Spanish forward Manuel Onwu

Bengaluru: Indian Super League champions Bengaluru FC have completed the signing of Spanish striker Manuel Onwu Villafranca ahead of the 2019-20 season, the club announced on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old striker who becomes the 13th Spaniard to sign for the Blues, has put pen to paper on a one-year deal with the club having an option to extend it for another year.

“Having spent a fair bit of time playing in Spain, I was looking for a different experience. However, I wanted to join a strong project where we fight for ambitious goals. That’s the reason I’m very excited to join Bengaluru FC. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the club from many Spanish players in the league, and that helped me make a decision about coming here. I look forward to meeting my new teammates and hope to help the club build on their success from last season,” said Manuel after putting to paper.   

Welcoming him to the Blues fold, Coach Carles Cuadrat said, “Manuel comes in after a long playing career in Spain that includes playing at the very top. He will provide us with some good options in attack and we expect him to settle in easily. Of course, he isn’t a direct replacement for Miku, because we’re talking about two very different types of players. Manuel is a great professional, and his experiences will definitely make him a great addition to our squad.”

Born in Tudela, Manuel had youth spells with Club Atlético Valtierrano and CD Tudelano, making his senior debut with the latter in 2006. In 2007, Onwu signed with Osasuna B and had a couple of loan spells at CD Iruña (2007-08) and UD Alzira (2008) before returning to the reserve team of the La Liga side. While Manuel featured and netted regularly for Osasuna B in the Segunda B Division, he was called up to the first team and made his La Liga debut in March 2012.

Having played three seasons in the Spanish top flight and another one in the Segunda Division for Osasuna, Manuel had a brief spell in Georgia with FC Dinamo Tbilisi where he was part of the side that won the 2015 Georgian Cup. He returned to Spain the following season and featured for Lleida Esportiu (2015-16) and Lorca FC (2016-18) helping the latter to a promotion to Segunda Division in his first season. In January 2018, he moved to UCAM Murcia CF and featured regularly and in fact, was the top-scorer for theUniversitarios with 11 league goals in the 2018-19 season.

At Bengaluru, Manuel becomes the fourth Spaniard in the current squad joining Juanan Gonzalez, Dimas Delgado, and Albert Serran.

INDIA DRAWN WITH ASIAN CHAMPIONS QATAR, OMAN, AFGHANISTAN, AND BANGLADESH

NEW DELHI: India were drawn with Asian Champions Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh in Group E in the AFC Draw for the preliminary competition of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 which was held at the AFC Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur earlier today (July 17, 2019). This was also the draw for the preliminary joint qualification Round 2 for the AFC Asian Cup, China 2023.

Moments after the draw, Indian Senior National Team Head Coach Igor Stimac labelled it as “a very tough challenge.”

“It will be an enormous challenge for your young team. We have been drawn into a very tough group,” Stimac stated.

Meanwhile, welcoming all delegates at the draw ceremony, AFC General Secretary, Dato Windsor John said the “focus of World is clearly on Asia.”

“The day marks the beginning of an exciting journey for Asia’s top 40 teams. The top 12 teams qualify automatically for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023, and they will move closer to qualification for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” he said. “It’s fitting that Asia kicked-off this qualification as we will host World Cup finals for only the second time.”

Without singling out any single team, Stimac stated that “we need to respect every opposition.”

“We need to respect everyone – not only just teams from Pot 1, and Pot 2, but even teams from Pot 3, and Pot 4 too,” the Coach explained. “The Hero Intercontinental Cup showed to all how strange a game Football us. The two teams which are playing the final (Tajikistan, and DPR Korea) are the lowest FIFA ranked teams in the tournament. That shows that everyone can beat everyone,” the Coach stated.

“I will teach the team to respect the opposition, but when we step on to the pitch, we will do everything to win. That is the way I am going to prepare my team. We are just at the beginning of our journey. I hope that it will be a long one,” he added.

Classic Group to co-own Manipur Premier League along with AMFA

NEROCA FC’s ex owner-cum-sponsor, Classic Group after parting ways with NEROCA FC is now starting Manipur Premier League along with All Manipur Football Association (AMFA).

Newly formed league will replace ill-fated Manipur State League, which was stopped from 2017 due to a court case.

Winner Club will remain second division and 2 teams will be promoted to MPL and 2 bottom places teams in MPL will be demoted to winners cup.

A total of 16 teams will take part in MPL, all existing teams from Manipur State League and 2 teams each from 2017-18 and 2018-19 Winners Cup will take part in newly formed Manipur Premier League.

Teams participating in MPL

Newly formed league is slated to start from September 2019 and will end in February 2019, making it one of the longest state league in India.

League will be promoted in all possible means by the Classic group and AMFA. League will be live on local Manipur television and live streamed on Facebook.

Keegan Pereira signs for Jamshedpur Football Club

Jamshedpur, April 24, 2019: Jamshedpur FC have completed the signing of Indian defender Keegan Pereira on a one-year deal. Born in Mumbai, Keegan has a pedigree of representing top tier clubs in Indian football.

Keegan primarily a left back, started his footballing journey with Mumbai FC in the I-League and is remembered for his famous winning goal against Salgaocar in Cooperage stadium. He then went on to play for Salgaocar, DSK Shivajians and Bengaluru FC with whom he went on to win the I-League twice 2013-14 and 2015-16 season and the Federation Cup twice in 2014-15 and 2016-17 season.

He started his stint in the Indian Super League with Mumbai City FC (2015) and then went on to win the coveted trophy with ATK in 2016. His last stint was with NorthEast United where he played an important role in their first ever playoffs qualification last season. Keegan has represented the national team 4 times and made his debut against Laos in 2016.

On signing with Jamshedpur FC, Keegan added, “I am looking forward to my new home Jamshedpur FC. I enjoyed playing in front of such a massive crowd at JRD Stadium last season and I hope this upcoming season they will continue to support the team and me so that together we can win silverware for the club. The facilities in Jamshedpur are excellent and I am really looking forward to visiting the city soon.

Personally, have been following Jamshedpur FC since their inception and their progress over the last two seasons have been heartening.” Jamshedpur FC, CEO, Mukul Choudhari added “Keegan is a proven talent and we are very pleased to call him a Jamshedpur FC player. He has been a key individual for all the teams he has represented throughout his career and is well accustomed to Indian Football. We are sure he will be a fantastic signing and will add great value to the team. We welcome him to Jamshedpur FC.”

With one eye on World Cup, junior girls NFC set to get underway in Kolhapur

KOLHAPUR (MAHARASHTRA): A month on from the historic announcement of India hosting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2020, the Hero Junior Girls’ National Football Championship is all set to kick-off on Saturday (April 20, 2019) in Kolhapur, Maharashtra – a city with a rich cultural heritage that dates back to as early as the 17th century.

The tournament, now entering its fifth edition, will serve as a platform for scouting talent for next year’s World Cup and will see a total of 27 teams take part across eight groups, with the winner from each group moving into the quarterfinals. The first three editions were won by Manipur and the previous one, which was held in Cuttack, saw Tamil Nadu lift the trophy.

The defending champions have been drawn against Delhi and Madhya Pradesh in Group B and will be in action on the opening day, which will feature a total of six matches being played across two venues – the Rajarshi Shahu Stadium and Polo Ground.

The fixtures for Day 1 (Saturday) are as follows:

Jharkhand vs Jammu and Kashmir (Group A)Tamil Nadu vs Madhya Pradesh (Group B)Manipur vs Uttarakhand (Group C)Goa vs Tripura (Group C)West Bengal vs Arunachal Pradesh (Group D)Haryana vs Karnataka (Group D)


I-League clubs proposed a new league format

CHENNAI: I-League clubs held a meeting in Chennai in sidelines of Chennai City FC’s crowning event and worked-out a new League structure involving 36 clubs. The restructuring plan is sent to AIFF on 18th March 2019 and 9 I-League clubs wants to meet AIFF president, Praful Patel to discuss I-Leagues future.

In the restructured League 20 clubs will play in the top tier and will pay 2 crore fees instead of 13-18 crores franchisee fees paid by Indian Super League Clubs at present. 2 teams will be relegated and 2 will be promoted from 2nd Division every season.

Concern Areas

I-League clubs have been the backbone of the development of Indian football and is now facing an uncertain future.

All ISL Indian players have their roots in some I-League Club or the other but that fact is being overlooked.

There is no marketing of the league whatsoever.

The question arises why is these new franchises being protected over heritage clubs of the country.

As per the current format, the Franchises of ISL are incurring huge loss every year and there are absolutely no chances or a roadmap to recover the losses in the near future. Hence the sustainability of the League falls under a big Question.

Way Forward

A 20 team professional league i.e. – IFL (Indian Football League)

Duration of the league: 9 Months, September to May.

Cup games to be played between game weeks. (European format)

Providing players with approximately 40 matches which is a minimum requirement for their development.

Marketing of the league to be done centrally.

All matches to be broadcasted live.

Promotion and Relegation to be implemented with no exemptions. (2 teams promoted and 2 teams relegated)

Parachute payment to be made to relegated teams.

Maximum number of 4 foreigners in each team (More focus on domestic players + reduced overall budget.)

Mandatory signing of players from home states. (Developing local talent and maintaining community connect)Strong Youth Development Projects of all teams.

Financial Suggestions

At present ISL clubs are paying franchise fee of INR 13-18 Crores and receiving INR 8-12 Crores from the central pool.

FSDL effectively raised net 150 Crores by marketing the 95 games in the season.

The proposed 20 team revamped League, would have 380 matches. (4X the current number)

We can take a conservative/ practical approach and generate a total net sponsorship revenue to the tune of INR 325 Crores (Slightly more than 2X increase).

This revenue can be divided in the following way:
                           20 teams X 12 crores = 240 Crores
                           Pool amount to AIFF = 50 Crores
                           16 teams of 2nd Division X 2 crores = 32 Crores
                           Parachute payment (2 relegated teams) X 2 crores = 4 Crores 

Investments can be done by the clubs in youth development, Infrastructure development (floodlights, various rooms, etc), fan and community engagement, in-stadia experience enhancements and improve overall home match organisation.

The additional funds available with the clubs would help them to fulfil various AFC club licensing criteria in its true spirit.

Mandatory 10% of team’s budget to be spent on youth development in line with  AFC Club Licensing Criteria.

Each team to pay INR 2 Crore participation money to AIFF / FSDL and no other franchisee / participation fee.

Minerva Punjab and seven other I-League Clubs withdraw from Hero Super Cup 2019

Chandigarh: I-League side Minerva Punjab FC have withdrawn from the upcoming Hero Super Cup 2019 tournament citing the unfair treatment dished out to the I-League teams.

Minerva’s withdrawal is in unison win the united withdrawal of all I-league clubs (barring Shillong Lajong, Churchill Brothers, Real Kashmir, and Indian Arrows) from the Super cup due to reasons mentioned in identical letters sent by all clubs to  All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary, Kushal Das today.

The clubs pointed out that the I-League clubs are being neglected by all aspects by the country’s football federation. Eight I-League clubs had written a letter to the AIFF in February this year regarding multiple concerns such as the future of the I-League but they are yet to hear back from the country’s football federation. The clubs also highlighted how the AIFF has not provided any financial assistance to the participating teams despite having a title sponsor for the event. With no AFC competitions also on offer, the clubs felt the competition lacked any incentive.

The Hero Cup is a knockout tournament hosted by the AIFF where I-League teams lock horns against the Indian Super League teams. It is India’s main club knockout tournament and Minerva was scheduled to play the qualifying round against FC Pune City on the 15th of March. The clubs will now wait for a response from the AIFF before taking a decision.

ISL 5: Bengaluru leave it late to send NorthEast United packing

Bengaluru: Bengaluru – the football club and the city – rose to the occasion yet again, as Carles Cuadrat’s men beat NorthEast United and the odds to make it to the final of the Indian Super League for a second successive season. Talismanic striker Miku made amends for a string of missed chances in the first half, with a goal (72nd), before Dimas Delgado got one for himself to turn the aggregate in the Blues’ favour. (87’). Sunil Chhetri (90+2’) then added one for good measure as Bengaluru ran out 3-0 winners on the night, to progress to the final with a 4-2 aggregate scoreline.

In a bid to accommodate Xisco Hernandez in the midfield behind Miku, Cuadrat pulled Harmanjot Khabra from the middle and drafted him at the right-back position, while Rahul Bheke joined Juanan in the centre of defence, ahead of Albert Serran, who dropped to the bench.

NorthEast United, meanwhile, chose to start with striker Juan Mascia and midfielder Fanai Lalrempuia in place of Bartholomew Ogbeche and Rowllin Borges – both of who picked up hamstring injuries in Guwahati. Eelco Schattorie, however, had to deal with a situation minutes from kick-off after his captain and left-back, Robert Lalthlamuana pulled out with an injury during warm-ups. The Dutchman was left with little choice but to replace Lalthlamuana with former Bengaluru man, Keegan Pereira.

Knowing exactly what’s needed of them, and with a clock to beat, the Blues put the NorthEast defence to the sword without allowing the visitors any room to settle. But it was a half where Bengaluru, and Miku in particular, inexplicably failed to stick the ball in the back of the net, not once, but three times. The Venezuelan striker first headed an in-swinging cross from Nishu Kumar wide, then minutes later fired over after Udanta Singh picked him with the perfect cut-back in the box. But it was the third miss that had the Kanteerava gasp in collective disbelief. In what would have been the goal of the season, Miku magically weaved past five red shirts and found himself with only Pawan Kumar to beat, before shooting tamely and straight at the NorthEast ’keeper.

Bengaluru began the second half with as much urgency, pushing the visitors to concede a flurry of corners. If Miku missed what could have been the goal of the season, a blinding save by Pawan denied Nishu his entry to the contest in the 51st minute. Picking up a clearance from the NorthEast box, Nishu smashed the ball that flew like an arrow towards the goal, only for Pawan to tip it over while in full flight.

With a little more than twenty minutes left on the clock, Cuadrat took his first gamble, pulling off Juanan Gonzalez for Luisma Villa and Bengaluru would find the net only moments later. Bringing down a lob over from Dimas, Xisco played the pass back to Udanta, who swung a cross into the area that Miku met with the deftest of touches. Flicking it with the outside of his right ankle, the Venezuelan sent the ball far past the reach of Pawan and shot Bengaluru into the lead. Earlier, NorthEast United were dealt a blow as Uruguayan striker Federico Gallego was stretchered off after his attempt to block Miku’s shot.

With the scoreline enough to send Bengaluru through to the final, Cuadrat sent on Serran to replace Xisco, adding reinforcements at the back. But the Blues refused to sit back and added another just 15 minutes later through Dimas. Set free on the counter, Udanta turned on his turbos to skip past Keegan and then send a cross that Pawan could only tip onto his bar. With the ball bouncing back into play, Dimas arrived to place his shot past Pawan and double the Blues’ advantage.

With six minutes of time added on, NorthEast looked to score a goal to take the tie into extra time, and the Blues took advantage of the visitors’ high line once again. Chhetri, regaining possession in midfield, played a quick give-and-go with Miku to beat the offside trap and run through on goal. Up against Pawan and with time on his hands, Chhetri feinted once and pushed the ball past the advancing NorthEast custodian, and then slotted home to make it 3-0 on the night and send Bengaluru through to the final.

Bengaluru will face one of Mumbai City FC or FC Goa in the showpiece event, set to take place at the Mumbai Football Arena, on March 17th.

ISL 5: Stage set for a fightback at the Fortress

Stage set for a fightback at the Fortress

Bengaluru FC Confident Of Overturning 2-1 Deficit As NorthEast United Stand Between Cuadrat’s Boys And A Spot In The ISL Final

Bengaluru: In what is now a familiar script, it all comes down to a Monday night at the Fortress where Bengaluru FC have their task cut out against NorthEast United, who stand in the way of the Blues and a second successive appearance in the final of the Indian Super League. A 2-1 defeat away from home means Eelco Schattorie-coached NorthEast United come to the Fortress with an advantage, but it’s one that Carles Cuadrat believes his Blues can negate with the whole city backing them.

The late goal in Guwahati might have given the visitors an edge, but the tie is far from over and comes down to three straight equations. The simplest result the Blues will need to make the final is a 1-0 win, thanks to Xisco Hernandez’s goal away from home. Should the Blues win 2-1, extra time and then penalties – if needed – will decide the game. Finally, should NorthEast United score two goals or more, the Blues will need to win the tie by a two-goal margin to book a ticket to the showpiece event in Mumbai.

“We’re ready for the big game. The mood in the dressing room is good and the feeling all around is that we can give the fans one of those famous nights at the Kanteerava, like we have done in the past. We did it against JDT in the AFC Cup and then against FC Pune City in last year’s semifinal. We believe that with the help of the city, we can deliver another special night that won’t be forgotten soon,” said Cuadrat, while addressing the media on Sunday.

The Blues will bank on their experience of being involved in two-legged knock-out fixtures in the past. Bengaluru famously beat Malaysian side Johor 3-1 at home after drawing 1-1 in the away leg, and became the first Indian side to make the AFC Cup final. Pitted against FC Pune City in the semifinal of the ISL last season, the Blues played out a goalless draw in Pune, before quelling the visitors’ challenge with a 3-1 result at home. Cuadrat will hope that the familiarity of the situation will give his team the confidence needed to get the job done once again.

Bengaluru will also bank on their flawless form at home, where they haven’t lost a game this season. The Kanteerava has been a Fortress in every sense of the term where the Blues have won six games and drawn three in the league stages of the competition. In another encouraging statistic, Bengaluru have always found the back of the net at the Kanteerava this season, and there won’t be a better time than Monday night, to extend that record.

On the possibility of the game going into extra time, Cuadrat said he was confident that his team would pull through if the equation came down to that. “I cannot predict what will unfold tomorrow, but what I certain of is that we will be competitive throughout. If circumstances take the game to extra time, I have a feeling we can get the job done,” he said.

NorthEast suffered a double blow on Thursday when their talismanic striker Bartholomew Ogbeche and influential midfielder Rowllin Borges suffered hamstring injuries in the first leg in Guwahati. Barring a medical miracle, the duo look certain to miss the second leg in Bengaluru. Ogbeche has been NorthEast’s star, scoring twelve times this season, while Borges has commanded the midfield with confidence. Schattorie brought on Juan Mascia and Nikhil Kadam to replace Ogbeche and Borges respectively, and it needs to be seen if the Dutchman chooses to start with them in the reverse fixture.

The game kicks off at 7.30 pm and will be telecast live on the STAR Sports Network, Colors Kannada TV, Hotstar and JioTV.