Delhi Dynamos sign Arshdeep Singh

NEW DELHI: After an excellent performance for Minerva Punjab last season , 22-year-old goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh Saini has signed a three-year contract with the Delhi Dynamos. He made his debut for Minerva Punjab in 2017 and has proven to be very promising for the former I-League champions. The shot stopper has also exhibited great performance in the AFC Cup.

He was recently in the news after a nasty injury with Chennaiyin FC striker CK Vineeth in their AFC Cup match held in Guwahati. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and with multiple fractures, had to undergo surgery. However, he will be up and running before the upcoming season.

Under Spanish custodian Francisco Dorronsoro, Arshdeep will look forward to gather more experience at Delhi Dynamos and enhance his skills in the upcoming campaign. The 22-year old goal-keeper was also included in Derrick Perreira’s U-23 Indian team for the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers earlier this year. 

Abhijit Sarkar joins East Bengal on loan from Chennaiyin

KOLKATA: After Costa Rican Johnny Acosta yet another World Cupper will turn out for East Bengal this season in Calcutta Football League as Chennaiyin FC today announced that 19-year-old attacking midfielder Abhijit Sarkar has joined The Red and Golds on a loan deal for the 2019-20 season.

The versatile midfielder, who has represented India in FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017, signed for Chennaiyin ahead of 2018-19 season from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) developmental side Indian Arrows, spending the subsequent season with them on loan.

Abhijit made six appearances for Indian Arrows last season, scoring once. The AIFF Elite Academy graduate was at Indian Arrows in the 2017-18 campaign as well, where he finished as their I-League top-scorer with four goals.

Meanwhile, Spanish defender Borja Gomez Perez has also joined training today under assistant coach Josep Ferre at Saltlake Stadium training ground.

Photo – Santanu Biswas

Maymol Rocky believes it’s time for her side to take the next step

NEW DELHI: Senior Indian Women’s National Team Head Coach Maymol Rocky believes that it is now time for her side to “take the next step” up the Asian Football ladder, after their good showing in the Olympic Qualifiers last season.

She said, “Now, it’s time for us, as a team, to take things forward from here. We missed out in Round 2 of the Olympic Qualifiers by a whisker, but I feel that our next objective should definitely be the AFC Qualifiers. Qualification for the Asian Championship will be a big step for this team, and that is something that we all need to prepare ourselves for.” 

The Indian Women’s National Team had created history last year, progressing to the AFC Olympic Qualifiers for the first time in the side’s history. They further went on to put out a brilliant performance in the second round of the Olympic Qualifiers, only falling behind home side Myanmar on goal difference.

With the team departing for Spain on Saturday (July 20, 2019) to play in the COTIF Cup, the India Head Coach believes that her team is now much better suited to face the tough teams that the tournament has to offer. 

“We played the COTIF Cup last year as well, but I think we are more prepared this time around. The players have really improved over this last year, and we saw that in the AFC Olympic Qualifiers Round 1 and Round 2,” she stated.

The team has had a three-week-long training camp at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi and Rocky believes that the “new training techniques” that she and the coaching staff have implemented over the course of the camp have put the team in good stead.

 “It’s been a very fruitful few weeks at the camp, where we have implemented some new training techniques. The results are really paying off, as I’ve seen a number of the player make good improvements over this period,” Rocky said.

The camp also saw the introduction of a number of new faces, many of whom had impressed the Head Coach with their performances in the Hero Indian Women’s League, earlier this year. While Rocky believes that these players still have a long road ahead of them, proper work can get them to the levels where they may get the desired results for the Tricolour.

“We brought a number of new faces to the camp, and they have been adjusting to the different training techniques and schedules really well. Of course, they all have a long way to go to reach the levels we are aiming for, but there’s nothing that hard work and dedication can’t achieve,” Rocky concluded.

The fixtures for the tournament are below:

August 1, 2019: India vs Guinea 

August 3, 2019: India vs Bolivia 

August 4, 2019: Mauritiana vs India

August 5, 2019: Spain vs India 

August 8, 2019: Final 

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Linthoingambi Devi, Aditi Chauhan, Sowmiya Narayansamy

Defenders: Sweety Devi, Jabamani Tudu, Ashalata Devi, Michel Castanha, Pakpi Devi

Midfielders: Sangita Basfore, Sanju Yadav, Ratanbala Devi, Manisha, Ritu Rani, Grace Lalrampari, Ranjana Chanu

Forwards: Anushka Samuel, Dangmei Grace, Anju Tamang, Bala Devi, Renu, Roja Devi, Daya Devi

Korea DPR edge Tajikistan to crown Intercontinental Cup champions

AHMEDABAD: DPR Korea were crowned the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 winners as they completed a 1-0 victory over Tajikistan in the final on Friday (July 19, 2019) at the EKA Arena, Ahmedabad. It was a second-half strike from substitute Pak Hyon Il that made the difference on the night and sealed the win for his team.

The first half began with DPR Korea dominating proceedings and enjoying more possession and chances. However, they could not make them count as both teams entered the break with the scoreline goalless and DPR Korea’s skipper Jong Il Gwan coming closest to finding the net in the 20th minute.

After some fine build-up play down the right, Ri Hyong Jin launched a powerful effort from distance that was spilled by Tajikistan custodian Rustam Yatimov. Gwan latched on to the rebound but his first-time effort went wide of the goal.

The Koreans continued to press for the opener and almost got it in the second minute of added time in the first half. Once again, it was Gwan who connected with a cross from the right but was denied by a last-ditch tackle.

Tajikistan started posing a few threats of their own in the second half, the first of which came through Sheriddin Boboev, whose curling effort from 25 yards out in the 51st minute just went past the post.

Eight minutes later, Komron Tursonov showed some quick thinking to fashion a chance for his side but his shot was turned away past the post by DPR Korea keeper An Tae Song.

It was DPR Korea that continued to look more dangerous and they finally made their dominance count as substitute Pak Hyon Il opened the scoring in the 71st minute. Latching on to a pass inside the box from Gwan, Pak fired in a shot that deflected off a defender and looped over the keeper and into the net.

Five minutes from time, Tajikistan had a golden chance to equalise, but were denied by the woodwork. A free-kick from the right found substitute Tokhir Maladustov’s head but his effort hit the crossbar and went back into play, with the rebound going shot wide.

The Koreans saw out the game and as a result, they were crowned the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 champions – winning a sum of $50,000 for the same. Tajikistan finished in the runners-up spot, which fetched them $25,000. DPR Korea skipper Jong Il Gwan was named the Hero of the Tournament for his three goals in the competition, as well as the match-winning assist in the final. He was awarded a sum of $7,500.

In the post-match press conference, DPR Korea head coach Yun Jong Su hailed the Hero Intercontinental Cup as a “beautiful tournament”. He said, “We are grateful to AIFF for organising this beautiful tournament. The confidence of winning is always so positive. Despite the triumph, we need to work on certain areas. The beauty of the Hero Intercontinental Cup was that we now also know our shortcomings.”

Tajikistan head coach Usman Toshev stated that the result was a “big lesson” for his side ahead of the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers. He said, “We congratulate DPR Korea on the victory. Looking back, I feel we lacked the stamina. However, this was a big lesson for us ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers.”

Kiren Rijiju launches AIFF Golden Baby Leagues Handbook 2019-20

NEW DELHI: Minister of State (Independent Charge) Youth Affairs & Sports, and Minister of State for Minority Affairs Kiren Rijiju, along with Kushal Das, General Secretary, All India Football Federation launched the AIFF Golden Baby Leagues Handbook 2019-20 on the sidelines of the Intercontinental Cup in Ahmedabad.

AIFF Technical Director Isac Doru, and CEO, I-League Sunando Dhar were also present on the occasion. The launch also marked the renaming of the ‘AIFF Baby Leagues’ to ‘AIFF Golden Baby Leagues,’ with emphasis being laid for ages under 6 to under 12 as they form the golden age for learning — both for girls, and boys.

“Baby League sounds very cute to me. The actual scouting has to start from a very young age. I have been explained how it’s planned by the AIFF. I’m really interested to see the result of that. We’ll look to put more emphasis on the Golden Baby League tournament,” Rijiju assured.

The Handbook is a guide to help the stakeholder to organize the Golden Baby League. The Leagues aim is to provide access to football in localities irrespective of gender, religion, economic background, or ethnic origin. The League can be organized by anyone, as long as the Handbook guidelines are met.

The AIFF has invited all stakeholders including state associations, clubs, academies, schools, non-government organizations, parents, coaches, football fans to be a part of this grassroots player development initiative. The Handbook can be downloaded from the ‘Document Library’ of the AIFF website, under ‘About AIFF.’

AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das stated that the Golden Baby Leagues “will help more kids to fall in love with the sport.”

“The formative years of a child have always laid the bedrock for a successful footballing culture. The AIFF is now stressing to popularise the sport among the kids. We aim to have every kid playing football under 6 to under 12. The more they play, the more will Indian Football benefit,” Das said.

Isac felt the “completion system is part of the development” for a kid.

“The Golden Baby Leagues, with his new format, and developments is proposing a platform for the Golden Age period players to self-express themselves, and their individual development,” he explained.

“I want to take this opportunity to ask the parents, coaches, and the organizers of the League to understand that the main objectives of playing those games. We need to create a competitive environment in which the players are developing their creativity, self-expression, passion of the game and discovering the value of friendship throughout the team,” the Technical Director said.

“I would also like to encourage the parents or anyone to feel free to contact us for any case of age-fraud activities, and we will act strongly against the offenders.”

Mr. Dhar maintained that the Golden Baby Leagues will further aid the holistic development of Indian Football’s ecosystem.

“The transition of these kids under 6 to under 12 to the U-13 League will now be even smoother. The entire purpose is to present a seamless pathway to the kids and their parents who dream to make it big,” Dhar opined.

Sports Ministry will provide extra financial help for Indian football’s growth: Kiren Rijiju

AHMEDABAD: Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Youth Affairs & Sports, and Minister of State for Minority Affairs, affirmed the Ministry of Sports “will provide extra financial help wherever it’s possible” to help Indian Football propel to the next level.

“We have seen certain improvements in our men’s as well as women’s football in recent times. From the sports ministry, we will provide extra financial help wherever it’s possible to scout, and nurture young talents as well as for the professional training, and other events,” Rijiju said in an exclusive interview with AIFF.

Rijiju was speaking on the sidelines of the Intercontinental Cup 2019 in Ahmedabad where he came to cheer for the Blue Tigers.

The 47-year-old minister also didn’t hide his affinity towards football, and declared the Ministry of Sports will put more attention to “better training, coaching, facilities and other requirements.”

“The ministry of sports will provide whatever is required for better training, coaching, facilities, and other demands and requirements whichever will be placed by the AIFF. We’ll always be there. I’m very enthusiastic about supporting any kind of sport in India, and football is very special for me,” Rijiju maintained.

The minister also praised the Indian Senior Women’s Team for their recent rise in the FIFA rankings which were released on July 12, 2019.

“I must compliment the women’s team for rising to 57 in the FIFA Rankings recently. That’s a huge jump. I’m very confident that the standard of the women’s team will rise further”, he declared.

“Football is the biggest game in terms of popularity, reach, size. We also have to put a lot of effort to improve our football.  Be it a village or a city, football is a game which can be played anywhere. I’m very hopeful that the standard of Indian Football will rise in the years to come.”

Tickets for Durand Cup to cost Rs 20

Kolkata: The tickets of Durand Cup, which is making a comeback after three years, are priced between Rs 20 and Rs 100 and are available for Kolkata and Siliguri matches.

“Tickets for the 2019 edition of The Durand Cup matches are priced between INR 20-100 and will be available exclusively across BookMyShow’s web and mobile platforms. Fans can book their tickets to the games in Kolkata and Kalyani starting Thursday,” a media statement said.

Mohun Bagan will take on Mohammedan Sporting to kick off the competition on August 2 at the Saltlake Stadium, which will also host the semifinals (August 20) and final (August 24).

Asia’s oldest cup competition will see 16 teams, including six each from I-League and Indian Super League, battle it out across six venues — Saltlake Stadium, Mohun Bagan Ground, East Bengal Ground, Kalyani and Siliguri.

Army Green are the defending champions, having won their maiden title beating NEROCA FC on penalties in the last edition in 2016.

Durand Cup started in 1888 as an Army Cup but was later opened for other clubs as Mohammedan Sporting were the first team from Kolkata to win the title in 1940.

The Big Two of the Maidan, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, are the most successful teams of the competition, winning 16 times each.

Gokulam Kerala appoint Fernando Santiago Varela as head coach

Kozhikode, July 18: Spanish coach Fernando Santiago Varela has returned back to Gokulam Kerala FC as the head coach of the team for the upcoming season. The Spaniard had a brief stint with the Malabarians a year ago but had to return back to his home country due to personal reasons before the I-League started.

“It is a great honour to be back home. I had some unavoidable circumstances in Spain and had to leave before the I-League started. Now I am back,” said Fernando Santiago Varela upon his arrival.

Settled in Barcelona, Fernando Varela has previously coached Catalalan club CF Gava before joining Gokulam Kerala FC last year. The gaffer has also written a book ‘Futbol Inteligente’ on football training.

“We will be vying for top honours this season. Already the players have started fitness sessions and now I will oversee the training sessions. We have to prepare well for the Durand Cup. It is great to be back here and now I have got a historic tournament as my first assignment,” said Fernando Varela.

 “Gokulam will aim high this season with the foreign coach and his expertise in football will surely help us to aim for glory this year. The coach came late because there was some delay in getting the visa. He is now ready. It is great to see him back with Gokulam and we expect a good start this season,” said VC Praveen, Gokulam Kerala FC president. 

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.