Category: Feature

Sandesh should be playing in bigger league says Constantine

 

MUMBAI: As India gear up for the second match in the International tri-series against St Kitts and Nevis to be played at the Mumbai Football Arena on August 24, Coach Stephen Constantine lavished huge praise on the newly-appointed captain Sandesh Jhingan.

“The captain has to reflect the character of the team. He has to set the tone of the team. Sandesh is a fighter like me who loves to lead the side from the front,” Constantine said.

Jhingan, who leads the crop of the new breed of Indian Footballers had made his debut for India against Nepal, which was Constantine’s first match as a Coach in his second stint.

“Sandesh to me a player who should be playing is a bigger league,” Constantine certified.

The defender par excellence, wasn’t too much willing to be over the moon. “Playing for your Country is itself a great honour and here I am, leading my Country,” he stated.

Jhingan has played a stellar role in the Indian back-four along with Anas Etathodika, Pritam Kotal, Narayan Das and Gurpreet Sandhu (in goal) in helping India create a new record for Indian Football in winning nine International matches (including the un-official match against Bhutan).

Constantine further went to say that Sandesh is a one of the ‘leaders for the future.’

“In coming days, at least we can identify Sandesh as a leader once Sunil hangs his boots,” he maintained.

Meanwhile, Chhetri, along with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Udanta Singh will be joining the National Camp after Bengaluru FC’s AFC Cup stint.

India have won two of their two matches in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers against Myanmar (away) and Kyrgyzstan (at home) and will face Macau on September 5 (in Macau).

Its going to be a good test for us: Stephen Constantine

MUMBAI, 18th August 2017: Indian National Team coach Stephen Constantine termed the forthcoming Hero Tri-Nation Football series 2017 as a ‘stage to try new players’ where India are slated to kick-off their campaign against Mauritius at the Mumbai Football Arena on Saturday (August 19, 2017).

 

“We’re playing two games before the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers where I can try out more players. We got one team from the Caribbean region and another from Africa. It’s going to a tough test for us ahead of the Asian Cup qualifier,” he stated during the pre-match press conference ahead of the Hero Tri-Nation Football Series opener against Mauritius.

 

The National Team is on a roll having won 13 of their last 15 matches (including one unofficial friendly match against Bhutan in 2016).

 

“We haven’t played together since June. The ongoing camp and this tournament will help us get into the groove at the right time,” Constantine added.

 

Coach Constantine didn’t forget to mention that the U-23 boys are also contributing at their highest level in the ongoing camp. “We’ve taken 10 boys from the U-23 team and they’re here along with the senior pros. We have to continue the developmental process to qualify for the Asian Cup regularly, eventually, which would lead us to the World Cup,” Constantine mentioned.

 

Sandesh Jhingan who will Captain India against Mauritius felt the process is the “right way for the Indian Football to reach the next level.”

 

“Three years back when I came into the team, I was a young boy. During the course of the time, Borges and many a player debuted for the National Team. Now, 10 boys from the U-23 side are part of the Senior Team Camp. It only shows that we’re heading in the right direction.”

 

The newly-appointed skipper also lavished huge praise for the resilient defence who have clinched 5 clean sheets in last 8 matches, sharing the credit with his colleagues.

 

“Off and on the field, I share a strong bonding with Anas which rightly reflects on the pitch. But it’s not only me or Anas, it’s about Pritam, Narayan and off-course Gurpreet. We have respect for each other and we complement each other. We really enjoy playing together and we’ll do so.”

 

The Mumbai Football Arena has always been a happy hunting ground for India so far. India came back strongly from a one-goal deficit to rout a the-then 114th ranked Puerto Rico in an International Friendly by a whopping 4-1 margin in September 2016 which was followed by another commanding 2-0 victory over Nepal on June 6, 2017.

 

Big names that remained unsold in ISL Draft 2017

MUMBAI: The highly anticipated Indian Players Draft of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2017/18 sprang up some surprises to Indian football lovers as several popular names were over looked by all the franchises. Some of them were big names and it was quite a surprise as to how they found no teams. Lets take look at a few of them:

Dharmaraj Ravanan: The 29-year-old has been a regular feature for FC Pune City in every season of the ISL. He also performed fairly well for Chennai City FC in the 2016/17 I-League as well as Federation Cup. Even though he may not be in the sphere of the most prominent Indian centre-backs as he once was, Ravanan’s experience means that he would have made a valuable asset for any team. Priced at 50 lakhs Ravanan may be a bit overpriced but few would have expected for him to remain unpicked after the draft.

Rana Gharami:  The defender led the Bengal State Team to it’s 32nd Santosh Trophy title in March, but failed to attract franchises for the fourth edition of the ISL. The 25-year-old, who also captains Kolkata giants Mohammedan Sporting Club in the Calcutta Football League, priced at a mere Rs 12 lakhs, given his standard, Gharami would go into any of the teams in the ISL but rather he went unsold as no franchise seemed to be interested in him.

Nallappan Mohanraj: Known for his long throw-in ability, Mohanraj won the ISL in it’s first season with ATK. The Tamil Nadu-native owns a reputation of being a no-nonsense left-back, but he had a disastrous outing in ISL 3 for Chennaiyin FC and eventually lost his place into the side due to the emergence of Jerry Lalrinzuala, which may have played a role in him finding no teams in this year’s draft.

Abhishek Das: The former India Under-23 international who was a prominent member of the Chennaiyin FC side in all past seasons of ISL, did not had an good season last year as the expectations were very high after they won the title in the 2015 edition. Though Das did well for Chennai City FC in 2016/17 I-League but ISL is a different ball game altogether and the 26-year-old could not impress the franchises this time around.

Sandip Nandy: The former India keeper has been a part of the Kerala Blasters side that reached the ISL final twice. However, Nandy was never been the first choice to stand under the bar. The main reason for Nandy remaining unpicked is the fact that most of the sides have retained their first choice goalkeepers going into the draft, and some who didn’t was not interested to spend the cash on a 42-year-old keeper who they might have to release ahead of ISL 5.

Gouramangi Singh: This has to be the most surprising of the lot. The veteran defender has been a part of every ISL season. But the 31-year-old has been plagued by injuries and a dip in form recently. He played only one game for DSK Shivajains in the I-League and this probably went against him. With a price of Rs 35 lakhs, Gouramangi could have been picked. However, the combination of injuries, combined with loss of form probably influenced the teams and that is the reason he went unsold.

Neel Shah: From Colaba Back Garden to ISL draft

MUMBAI: From scoring the winning goal in an MSSA Inter School Football final as a seven-year-old, to making it into the 2017 draft of the Indian Super League, Neel Shah has come a long way. This milestone brings him closer to fulfilling his dream of playing for India.

A product of the Premier India Football Academy (PIFA), Neel showed his passion for football at an early age, he trained at the Colaba back garden for Campion School & PIFA. He represented Maharashtra in the Under-13 and Under-15 AIFF national tournaments.

He was the youngest debutante in the MDFA Elite Division making his debut for the PIFA Colaba men’s team at the age of sixteen, and he went on to play the I-League 2nd Division & U-19 I-League  aged 17.

He was recently awarded an Honours Degree in Football Studies and Business at Southampton, UK while captaining his university football team which competed against other universities having players from English Premier League academies.

He has trained under UEFA “Pro & A” licensed coaches at internationally renowned youth academies – such as the Bobby Charlton, Liverpool FC, Everton FC in UK, Hristo Stoichkov Academy in Barcelona, Spain and AC Milan Academy in Italy.

“This talented, tall young lad has come a long way. Being left footed and quick will make him an asset to any team” – Gary Lewis (Former Head of Youth Development, Liverpool FC & current Philadelphia Union U-14 head coach) had this to say while awarding best skills player to Neel at a summer camp to Liverpool International Academy in 2011.

PIFA Director’s Anjali & Nirvan Shah could not be prouder of their twenty two year old son, Neel, and hopes for the best in his footballing endeavours.

Rising India and her rising star Eugeneson Lyngdoh recollects ‘Bitter-Sweet’ feeling

 

NEW DELHI: When Eugeneson Lyngdoh had walked into the dressing room of the Indian National Team in March 2015, India were languishing at 173 in the FIFA Rankings, facing a stern test against Nepal in the FIFA World Cup Preliminary Qualifiers under newly appointed Head Coach Stephen Constantine who had taken over a month earlier (in February 2015).

For India thing looked bleak. It was a start of a process to undergo massive change, gradually crawling back and gaining strides in the FIFA Ladder after slumping to their lowest FIFA Ranking ever in March 2015.

Lyngdoh, in his late 20s had been overlooked till then and made his National Team debut in the first leg of the match against Nepal, which India eventually won 2-0 on aggregate. The process was, hence, underway engineered by Head Coach Stephen Constantine.

Recollecting moments from his debut Eugene says, “It was a bitter-sweet feeling for me. Sweet because I was making my National Team debut and was so proud to represent my country and bitter because there was this fear of Nepal defeating us.”

“When I was lining up on the pitch it was more like nervousness that you have before something big. Those emotions cannot be put into words.”

“We were 173. Nepal was ranked higher than us in that moment so the fear of them (Nepal) upsetting was already there,” he adds.

Thereafter, India’s climb started and so did Eugene’s. Since that 2-0 win against Nepal in early 2015, India have progressed by leaps and bounds. So much so that the Constantine’s men have jumped 78 spots and now are ranked 96 in the FIFA Rankings which were released on July 06, 2017.

As an integral member of the National Team setup under Coach Constantine, one is forced to ask the ‘Midfield Maestro’, was it all envisioned? Eugene laughs and shrugs it away. “It wasn’t but that’s the beauty of Football. We took one match at a time. We focused on our opponents and things started happening.”

“Our rise in the FIFA Ranking is because of the matches we have won. We never really cared if our Ranking was progressing. All that mattered was that we have to win the next match and hence our Ranking also improved.”

“We lost a lot of games by a one goal margin. Games were could have won, but then that is Football. However, the main thing was that we believed in ourselves, in the Coach and believed that good times will also come,” he states.

Lyngdoh was also part of the Indian Team, which won the SAFF Suzuki Championship in 2016 defeating higher ranked Afghanistan in the Finals.

“Our belief became stronger from that moment. We believed that we have the potential to go a long way. It was a surreal feeling (to win the SAFF Championship).”

It has been a year of high for the Indian National Team, breaking into the top 100 of World Football is a herculean feat for a Nation that was languishing at 173 just two years before.

So where does the Indian Team go from here? Perhaps as Eugeneson Lyngdoh said: “We take one match at a time and we believe,” seems to be the formula of India’s success at the moment

Ploughing the roots comes naturally to CK Vineeth

NEW DELHI: Footballers are like gladiators. Hundreds and thousands fill up the stands to watch these warriors display their skills. But unlike Roman times of yore it’s not about bloodthirst but the calmer activity of defending and scoring on way to winning. The field is their amphitheater and their feet the tools.

But what if the playing field is replaced by a field of another kind? Let’s say a paddy field. Your head may be now screaming – ‘You must be joking, right?’

Not really! In an era when many Footballers are all about the bling and flashy things in life, National Team winger CK Vineeth is cut from another cloth.

“As a son, it’s my duty to help out my dad. Whenever I get the time to come home I try and help him on the paddy field. Everyone in the family puts in the work needed,” he stated.

“So with the hectic season having just ended, I felt best to go back to my roots and indulge in farming. It has always been a unique experience. Unwinding couldn’t have better,” added the man from Kannur, the naval port which has been the epicenter of naval strategic importance right from the time of the Portuguese to Dutch to the British and then finally the Indian Navy.

“The field is right in front of our home. My dad retired 4 years back but previously he used to work on the field only during his free time but now he is into farming on a more regular basis,” Vineeth, who was on a scoring spree in the last season informed.

For Vineeth, family comes above everything else and he treasures the time he spends around them. “My brother is an engineer in Bengaluru, and this year we went together to help get the field ready for the planting season.”

Incredible – isn’t it? Apart from being a humble human being, Vineeth has detached himself from his roots — be it toiling the fields or planting saplings he never minds getting his hands dirty.

The earthiness in him also reflects in his passion for photography. “Right now I click whatever I like. It’s a learning process right now. But I’m mostly passionate about wildlife. I love clicking nature and hopefully I’ll get better at it,” he echoes. “I love to travel and have been planning a trip to somewhere filled with nature and wildlife for a couple of years now. The prospect of doing that is very exciting to me.”

It’s monsoon time in Kerala and the prolific winger is just itching to be back every day on the field once again – the paddy field.

Aizawl FC – a football fairytale that touches all

MUMBAI: Can they do it? Will they do it? I-League fans all over the country just can not stop talking about the phenomenal success Aizawl FC are enjoying in the current season.

With just one round of action remaining in I-League, people are just curious to know whether the side that had been relegated in it’s debut in 2016 and were reinstated only after a remarkable show in Federation Cup by reaching finals can write one of the most romantic tale in the history of Indian football.

No one in their wildest of dreams, ever imagined that Aizawl FC who written off as relegation candidates at the start of the league will be top of the table after 17 rounds. They lead the standings three points ahead of Mohun Bagan and need to play only a draw with Shillong Lajong FC in their last match if they are to be crowned champions.

It was never thought possible for a team to be bottom of the league in April 2016 and top in April 2017. Sure, the heavyweights have stagnated or regressed. But Aizawl FC have not simply capitalized on the weakness of others. Aizawl FC’s success this season has been based on coach Khalid Jamil’s tactics. The counter attacking football they play is one of the finest in the league and can embarrass even the wealthiest clubs of Kolkata.

Since it’s inception in 1996 as National Football League only eight teams have managed to win the title and throughout the I-League era, the title race has been mostly dominated by the Goan clubs before Bengaluru FC’s invincibles left a major landmark during past few seasons but Aizawl FC found a way to outperform all other teams that have big names, high profile coaches and spent much more on their squad.

Therefor, if Aizawl FC can hold their nerve and pull off the unthinkable, then it would certainly be a joy to see the underdog win in this age of big money corporate clubs.

I-League lead scorer Dicka targets strong season finish for Lajong

 

SHILLONG: Ending the season in fourth position would be a good result for Shillong Lajong FC, but star striker Aser Dipanda Dicka wants to push for even more as the 2016-17 season of the I-League draws to a close.

With just five matches left, Lajong have 20 points in their kitty from 13 outings and are in fourth place. Some of the toughest fixtures are yet to come for the Reds, however, with Lajong first playing away at DSK Shivajians on 8th April before hosting Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC and league leaders Aizawl FC.

Speaking before the team left for Pune, Dicka, who has scored nine of Lajong’s 18 goals this season and is the tournament’s lead scorer, said, “All the matches we have played have not been easy. We have worked very hard in all the games and we have earned points from many matches. I think the remaining games will be tougher and our only wish is to win them all. We need to end the season on a good note and good position.”

Before coming to India, the Cameroonian played much of his professional football in Spain. He joined Shivajians for the 2015-16 season and was the club’s top scorer that year with seven goals, a feat he has already surpassed at Lajong, though his opening few matches with the Reds were far from plain sailing.

“I was not fully fit in the first three matches. I finally got my scoring rhythm in the games we played at home and then I started to score in almost every match,” he explained. “There are five matches left and I want to score as many goals possible and for that I am going to give my best. It’s not just about being the top scorer. What matters the most is we finish the league in a good position,” he added.

The 28-year-old’s bubbly personality, positive energy and never-say-die attitude quickly made him a favourite among the Lajong Faithfuls, who have clamoured to see more of that Dicka magic that has earned the footballer four man-of-the-match awards with the Reds so far.

Despite that personal success, he is the first to admit that it would not have been possible on his own.

“Credit has to go to my team mates and the fans. They have given me a lot of motivation to do better,” Dicka, who is one of seven Reds this season to have registered more than 1,000 minutes on the pitch, said.

Speaking more about his younger team mates, he added, “I believe that the Shillong Lajong Academy is one of the best in India and they promote many young talents in the first team. Currently we have around seven to eight U-22 players featuring in the Starting XI and it is very good to see these youngsters getting the opportunity to play in the top league in the country.”

Being one of the senior figures in the Lajong squad has not diminished Dicka’s ability to gel with the youngsters and the rest of his team mates with the No. 10 creating lasting friendships here in Shillong.

“I enjoy playing with them a lot and they are very good on and off the field. We are like a happy family who have bonded and gotten along so well. We work hard together, combine and understand each other on the pitch and together produce brilliant results,” he said.

The Pine City has also found a place in Dicka’s heart, despite the cold weather he was greeted with when he joined Lajong at the start of the year. “After some time I got used to the cold and I love it out here. Shillong, Meghalaya, is stunning. It is so beautiful and I have fallen madly in love with this place. I also love the people here, they are all very kind and humble,” the Cameroonian opined.

Looking ahead, Dicka knows that the encounter with his former club this Saturday is going to be no walk in the park. Lajong have not beaten Shivajians in three I-League encounters so far and last lost 2-1 at home in February.

“We will have to fight hard until the final whistle. Our target is to collect three points from this game and come back home ready to face two big opponents in Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru,” Dicka signed off.

Five Man Army banks on Morale and Unity

YANGON: Has Indian Football changed in the last four years? How much?

Five stays the magic number! The present Indian squad in Yangon has just five players who were here last time when India went down to Myanmar by a solitary goal in the 2013 AFC Challenge Cup (Qualifiers) decider played on March 6, 2013 at the Yangon Training Centre.

The Five Man Army — Subrata Paul, Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua, CK Vineeth and Robin Singh – isn’t much willing to talk about the past. ‘It will never come back,’ they say in unison. ‘Every day is different.’

“There is some similarity between the two matches,” maintains Chhetri, the highest Indian goalscorer in International Football. “Even then we were playing to qualify for the Asian Cup and even now we are playing for the same cause,” he says at the Hotel lobby.

“The only difference as I see it is that this time the fate is still in our hands. We did not play very well in that game (in 2013) but this time we have six games to lay our claim for a berth in 2019,” he continues. “There are a lot many new Players, we have a new Coach and the morale is high.”

“Myanmar are a very good side at home. In my career I have learnt that you need to be at your best on that specific day and we need to do that.”

‘Spiderman’ Subrata Paul, stresses on the fact that the “faces have changed.”

“We have youth on our side. We have been getting results. We have trained hard for this match. We cannot afford any slip ups. I won’t say the faces have changed, I feel the face has changed,” Paul says in one breath.

Will the crowd be a factor? “That’s the beauty of home and away matches. You play in front of a hostile crowd as much as you play in front of your own fans. Personally, I have always been inspired while playing in front of a hostile crowd. Against Cambodia, we played in front of a 70,000 partisan crowd. It was a great experience for all,” he adds.

Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, feels the “unity in the Team is its strength.”

“Unity is our biggest strength. There are so many new players who are young and they gel well. At the same time, we have seniors like Sunil-bhai (Chhetri) and Subrata-bhai (Paul) to guide us,” Lalpekhlua, the third-most ‘Senior’ in International Football in the current side after Paul and Chhetri informed.

“The crowd will be loud and they will get a vociferous support. But we need to focus more on ourselves,” he pronounced.

Sitting in a corner of the ‘Verandah’ in the Team Hotel, Striker Robin Singh opines that the “Team badly needs a good start” in the Asian Cup Qualifiers.

“We are improving with every day. We need to get off to a good start and we are focussing on that,” Singh who had scored his first International goal in Yangon in 2013 feels.

“They will be at home and it’s understandable they will have all the support. But we won’t be there alone on the field. Our job is to work hard and support each other on the field. If we are to overcome the obstacle, there is no other way,” he quips. “We need to put our best foot forward.”

Winger CK Vineeth recollects the 2013 AFC Challenge Cup (Qualifiers) as his first International tour with the Senior National Team.

“I am much experienced as a player at present. At that time (in 2013), I was a newcomer settling down into International Football. The experience of playing in Myanmar last time has helped me evolve tougher as a player,” he admits. “There is no reason why we can’t. We need to stick together and never lose our self-belief.”

“Look at our side right now,” he responds almost immediately. “It is about the blend I find unique. We are here for a cause and we will give our best.”

Post dinner, the squad get together to celebrate Md. Rafique’s birthday. The wishes stay genuine but the players, don’t give into to temptation. The Chocolate cake, sinfully rich in calories, isn’t to be consumed by the players. They felt it better to offer it to the support staff after applying it on Rafique’s cheeks.

AIFF Media Team

5 Indian Footballers Who Hung On Too Long

It’s not easy to walk away from the game. Even when all the signs tell you to. Players have so much rooted in their careers that realizing it’s over is a hard pill to swallow. Some footballers simply hang around the game too long hurting their reputation in the process.

Arguably, this list contains some of the best Indian footballers in recent time but sadly they also come in as footballers who are playing well past their prime. Instead of stopping when they started to decline, they continue to play and a small part of their legacy suffering because of it. This list prove that just because you are great at what you do does not mean you can do it forever.

5. Sangram Mukherjee: Sangram Mukherjee will always be regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers in modern day Indian football. After a successful stint at East Bengal, he spent six seasons with Mohun Bagan, winning two Federation Cup and three Calcutta Football League titles, he also captained The Mariners and has been capped 22 times for Indian national team. Still, it wasn’t enough for the legendary goalie, who signed with United Sports Club in 2013 after Mohun Bagan decided not to bring him back for the 2013/14 season. His tenure in United SC was a rather forgotabble one, as once CFL winning captain was part of the team that got relegated from CFL Premier Division in 2016. It’s safe to say we are not the only ones who wish this never happened.

4. Deepak Mondal: Deepak Mondal is one of the greatest centre backs in Indian football during the first decade of the new millennium. Mondal established himself as a top-notch central defender in helping East Bengal win three National Football League, two Durand Cup, and four Calcutta Football League titles. Although his career was starting to finally dwindle by the time he returned to East Bengal in 2015 after ten-long years which certainly did not help his legacy as he made only three I-League appearances for the club before being released in the next season and joined I-League 2nd Division club Southern Samity subsequently.

3. Clifford Miranda: A product of Tata Football Academy, Clifford Miranda made his debut for Dempo SC as a teenager in 2000 starting a 15-year long association with the club. He helped Dempo to lift the I-League title five times and Federation Cup in 2004. He was also a part of the team that played the 2008 AFC Cup semi-finals and made over 40 appearances for national team. When Dempo relegated from I-League in 2015, Miranda joined Minerva Punjab FC in 2016 but his tenure in Minerva lasted for just two games. However, later Miranda managed to secure a contract with an I-League club in Churchill Brothers, but so far he has only made two appearances for the Goan club out of 14 games in 2016/17 I-League, and in other 12 games he was not even included into the 18-man squad. We really hope it’s worth it.

2. Shylo Malsawmtluanga: Shylo Malsawmtluanga, has been widely regarded as the “Godfather” of Mizoram football, is one of the greatest wingers of the 2000s but of course the 2000s were a decade ago, and Shylo is still playing. Shylo has enjoyed most his success in club football while playing for East Bengal during his first spell with the club from 2002 to 2007. However, when he returned for a second stint in 2013 he was just a mere shell of his former self. Although he did deliver some noteworthy performances but he was nowhere near his best. Now Shylo plying his trade in Southern Samity where he sit out for most of the games.

1. Alvito D’Cunha: Alvito D’Cunha is a man who came all the way from Goa in 2002 and made Kolkata his home. During his 14-year long stint at East Bengal he seen it all, done it all. The Brand Ambassador of East Bengal won two National Football League, Four Ferderation Cup and multiple Calcutta Football League titles with the club. However, the age-related performance decline started for the Goanese in the early 2010s, the former India international was unable to match with the younger talents in the side but D’Cunha couldn’t just retire, instead he decided to hung on untill 2014 before taking up the managerial role in the club. However, it was enough to tarnish his legacy as once adored by the fans D’Cunha faced some strong criticism during his last few days as a player.