Early advantage for Indian women as they land in Myanmar

NEW DELHI: Riding on the success of their fifth consecutive SAFF Championship triumph, the Indian Senior Women’s National Team landed in Maldalay, Myanmar today (March 26, 2019) for the forthcoming AFC Olympic Qualifiers Round 2 which kicks-off from April 3, 2019.

The Indian women have been clubbed with hosts Myanmar, Nepal and Indonesia in Group B.

“Arriving 8 days in advance for the Olympic Qualifiers will help us to acclimatize faster. It’s an early advantage which we need to cash upon, Head Coach Maymol Rocky stressed. “If you look at bigger tournaments, teams always arrive early.”

“It usually takes two to three days for a player to fully acclimatize to a new set-up. We are confident that we shall be cent percent ready for the first match, despite the hot, and humid weather,” Maymol maintained.

Maymol added: “The temperatures in Biratnagar during the SAFF Championship served as a warm-up in this regard as well. The girls responded well to the conditions, and I am sure they will adapt in Myanmar too.”

The Indian women are currently unbeaten in the last 23 matches at the SAFF Championship, and have headed to the AFC Qualifiers with an experience of 14 International matches since January 2019.

“In fact, International Football is not just about the weather,” Maymol stated. “Arriving early will help us to get a feel of the training pitches, and also the venues. Along with the physical part, it is important getready mentally. After all, switching to new surroundings can sometimes take time.”

India kick-off their campaign against Indonesia on April 3. The last time the two teams played in Jakarta in January, India had won both the matches.

Indian football growing exponentially, says Subrata Dutta

NEW DELHI: Hosting two FIFA World Cups in under four years, and top-notch performances by National Teams in International competitions have defined Indian Football in the last 5 years.

Speaking on the sidelines of FICCI’s GOAL Summit 2019, AIFF’s Senior Vice President, Mr Subrata Datta said: “Indian Football his growing exponentially. It has grown by leaps and bounds. The holistic development of Indian football over the last few years has been a major achievement, and all associated with it should be proud.”

“Indian football is being talked about in the nook and corner of the world, be it in terms of our National Teams, or the FIFA World Cups that we have hosted, and will host,” he added.

India hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 in 2017 and is slated to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2020. The performances of the Indian National Teams have been noteworthy as well, especially the senior team’s 4-1 win against Thailand in the AFC Asian Cup, the women’s team clinching the 5th successive SAFF title in a row, and the U-16 team reaching the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Finals, before going down by a solitary goal against Korea Republic.

“We have six FIFA approved stadiums, and we plan to add four more to them by 2022. The National Centre of Excellence which is coming up in West Bengal will be a state of the art centre which will help in the training of players, coaches, referees and officials,” the Senior Vice President explained.

“Today we have 60 accredited academies coupled with youth leagues and baby leagues. There are over 650 baby leagues being conducted with over 30,000 kids participating and this number will double over the years.”

India bow out of AFC U-23 Championships qualifiers

TASHKENT: The Indian U-23 National Team ended their AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers campaign with a 2-0 loss to Tajikistan in their second match of the group stage at the Pakhtakor stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan today (March 24, 2019).

Daler Yodgorov’s 30th minute strike and Solehov’s 85th minute goal proved to be the difference between the two sides as India succumbed to their second defeat of the qualifying campaign ending without a point out of a maximum six.

The opponents had mounted a barrage of attacks in the early minutes of the match, trying to unsettle the Indian defence but some astute goalkeeping by Dheeraj Singh kept them at bay. In the 10th minute, the custodian made a fine save to deny the opponents an early breakthrough.

India could have surged ahead into lead in the 12th minute but Sarthak Golui’s header off a Komal Thatal free-kick failed to find the net, leaving the Tajik goalkeeper to scramble to clear his lines; courtesy of an onrushing Anwar Ali in pursuit of the rebound.

After a nervy start, the Indian team found themselves some bright spots and in the 27th minute, Rahim Ali found Komal Thatal inside the box. With defenders closing in, Komal could only launch the ball over the woodwork in an attempt to give India the lead.

India’s attacking momentum was short-lived as Tajikistan took the lead in the 30th minute with Daler finding the back of the India net from inside the box.

Attempting to find the equalizer before half-time, Rahim Ali went on a run down the middle and found Anirudh Thapa, whose shot was blocked by the Tajik defence line.

The urgency for the equalizer for India kept them on their toes and soon after the second half re-started, India cajoled an opportunity in the 48th minute. Rahim Ali brought the ball down inside the box and passed it to an onrushing Abdul Sahal, who failed to hit the target from outside the box.

Restricting the opponents in the half for much of the second half, India had a chance in the 60th minute and once again it fell to Sarthak Golui, who this time headed wide from a Vinit Rai free-kick.

India tried to keep Tajikistan on the defence and score the equalizer but could not find the decisive goal. Tajikistan held on to their slender lead and committed bodies in defence. The opponents scored through Solehov in the 85th minute and saw out the match as the full-time scoreline read 2-0 in their favour. 

Indian women’s football team better than men’s, says Sunil Chhetr

NEW DELHI: All India Football Federation General Secretary Mr. Kushal Das congratulated the Indian Senior Women’s National Team in a meet and greet session at the Capital on Saturday evening (March 23, 2019) after the Indian women beat Nepal 3-1 in the final to retain the SAFF Championship for the 5thconsecutive time.

Ms. Swati Kothari, General Manager, AIFF was also present on the occasion.

“Congratulations to all of you. Well done,” Mr. Das said. “There has been a definite improvement in the manner the women’s team has been playing. Good luck for the Olympic qualifiers (round 2). We feel, that you can achieve it, and move to the next round,” he stated.

The girls were also in for a major surprise when Padma Shri Sunil Chhetri was live with them via a video conference.

“Extremely proud of all of you,” Chhetri declared. “I have always maintained that the women’s team is much better than the men,” Chhetri expressed, much to the applause of the entire squad.

“Go there, and give your best in Myanmar. I have been keeping a track of all of you playing. Keep up the good work,” Chhetri, who had scored India’s match-winner against Myanmar in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers in Yangon, wished.

AIFF President Mr. Praful Patel also congratulated the women’s team on the success.

Congratulations to our women’s football team for winning the #SAFF Championship. You have once again proved that you are the true champions. Keep up the good work and add many feathers of success to your crown. Best wishes!’ he tweeted from his personal account @praful_patel.

The girls came back recently from Nepal winning the SAFF Senior Women’s Championship for the fifth consecutive time, and in the process stay unbeaten in 23 matches in the Championship.

“Great job. Extremely proud,” Chhetri gave a thumbs up.

Mr. Das reiterated that “qualifying from Round 2 of the Olympic qualifiers will be a big thing for Indian Football.”

“We are on the right track. The AIFF will continue to support and help. We intend to be a force to reckon with in Asian Football soon. The journey has just started,” Mr. Das expressed.

Head Coach Maymol Rocky thanked all for the “exposure tours.”

“We are heading into the round 2 of the Olympic qualifiers with an experience of 14 International matches. I never doubted the quality and commitment of my players. We are a young team, and all credit goes to the girls,” she stated.

Dalima Chibber who scored off a free-kick in the final, and was adjudged as the ‘Most Valuable Player’ in the SAFF Championship, explained that she has “improved as a player in the last 4 months.”

“I feel everyone in the team will agree that we have improved as players since the time we assembled in December in Odisha. The exposure tour in Turkey helped us immensely,” Dalima informed.

India have been clubbed with hosts Myanmar, Nepal and Indonesia in the round 2 of the Olympic qualifiers which kick-off in Mandalay. The first match against Indonesia is slated for April 3.

Indian womens beat Nepal to clinch fifth straight SAFF title

BIRATNAGAR (NEPAL): India continued its dominance at the SAFF Women’s Championship with the team lifting its fifth straight title on Friday (March 22, 2019) in Biratnagar, Nepal with a 3-1 win over the hosts in the final.

The win extends India’s unbeaten run in the tournament’s history to 23 games as goals from Dalima Chhibber, Grace Dangmei and substitute Anju Tamang saw India lift the trophy in front of a partisan crowd at the Sahid Rangashala Stadium.

The pace of the match was intense from the word go, with both sides pressing hard from the first whistle. Grace Dangmei fashioned a couple of early chances down the right wing for India while Nepal registered a couple of shots from distance, with Manjali Kumar testing Indian custodian Aditi Chauhan in the 14th minute.

Just three minutes later, after some excellent build-up play down the right, Sandhiya laid off a ball for Sanju to shoot from the top of the box. The winger’s effort was a powerful one but was saved by the opposition keeper. On the other end, Sabitra Bhandari posed a threat for India inside the penalty area but her curling effort was off target.

In the semifinal against Bangladesh, it was Dalima who opened the scoring for India and this time around too, it was the right-back who gave India the advantage. In the 26th minute, she smashed the ball the past the keeper from a free-kick from 30 yards with a powerful drive and put the defending champions into a 1-0 lead.

Ratanbala Devi could have added a second goal six minutes later but her shot from distance from saved by the Nepal goalie. In the 34th minute though, Sabitra equalized for the hosts as she rose high above her marker and headed the ball into the back of the net.

The break saw both sides go locked at a goal apiece but it could have easily been either team with the lead. Grace failed to connect well with a cross from Sanju down the left in the 41st minute and Aditi made a brilliant double save to deny Sabitra in first half stoppage time.

The second half began with India creating the majority of the opportunities, with Sanju and Ratanbala putting their respective efforts just over the bar. Nepal were under the cosh and India’s pressure paid off in the 63th minute after Sanju put Grace through on goal with a delightful through ball.

The winger swiftly broke through and showing great composure, she rounded the goalkeeper and slotted the ball home to restore India’s advantage. It proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back as the away side continued to keep the Nepal side at bay and almost added another as Ratanbala’s shot wasspilled by the keeper.

Coach Maymol Rocky brought on Anju Tamang in place of Sandhiya midway through the second half at the top of the pitch and in the 78th minute, the move paid rich dividends as she slammed the ball on the volley for India’s third after a crafty first-time assist from Indumathi Kathiresan.

Towards the end, Nepal threw the kitchen sink at the Indian defence but they refused to bow down and stood firm. Sabitra and Renuka Nagarkote threatened to halve the deficit but could not get past Aditi in goal as India romped to a fifth SAFF trophy in a row. 

India Starting XI: Aditi Chauhan (GK); Jabamani Tudu, Sweety Devi (Ranjana Chanu 90′), Ashalata Devi, Dalima Chhibber; Indumathi Kathiresan, Sangita Basfore, Ratanbala Devi; Sanju, Dangmei Grace, Sandhiya Ranganathan (Anju Tamang 64′).

2nd Division League: Philip Adjah’s hat-trick goes in vain as final round berth continues to elude Mohammedan

JAMSHEDPUR: Skipper Philip Adjah Tetteh’s hat-trick went in vain as Mohammedan Sporting Club failed to qualify for the Final Round of 2018/19 Hero 2nd Division League despite winning their last Preliminary Round match 4-2 against Jamshedpur FC Reserves on Friday at the JRD Tata Sports Complex in Jamshedpur. 

Going into the match, Mohammedan SC knew they had to win at any cost while at the same time hoping that TRAU FC and Rainbow AC drop points. Though ATK Reserves did them a favour by beating Rainbow AC 2-1, but Princewill Emeka’s late goal shattered Mohammedan SC’s dreams as TRAU edged past Chhinga Veng FC 3-2 to take the second spot in Group C.

Mohammedan SC finish the Preliminary Round campaign on third spot in Group C with 16 points from 10 matches, one shy of TRAU who book their place in the Final Round alongside Chhinga Veng FC (20 points).

Desmos Arthur Kouassi (13′) opened the scoring for Mohammedan SC before Adjah (17′, 28′ & 52′) single-handedly dismantled Jamshedpur. Nonetheless, the hosts did not go down without a fight as they pulled a couple of goals back though Sohrab Akhtar (15′) and Subhankar Sana (58′).

Mohammedan SC were expecting a tough encounter when they hosted Jamshedpur in Kalyani last month and that’s precisely what they got in a high-scoring affair.

Kouassi started it all with a good finish after 13 minutes, Jamshedpur keeper Amrit Gope trying but unable to keep the Ivorian’s strike out. That lead lasted just eight minutes though as Sohrab launched a thunderous long-range shot that had the beating of Mohammedan SC goalkeeper Priyant Singh.

Nonetheless, Mohammedan SC regained their lead in the 17th minute when Adjah picked his spot and fired home from the edge of the penalty area.

It was 3-1 in the 28th minute when Kouassi was hauled down in the box and Adjah converted the penalty to start a period in which Mohammedan SC had Jamshedpur under severe pressure, however, poor decision-making let them down in the final third which saw Raghu Nandy’s charges went into the breather leading 3-1.

Mohammedan SC virtually finished off the game seven minutes after restart as Adjah showed excellent persistence to ride a tackle from a Jamshedpur defender and scuffed his shot into the back of the net for his tenth goal of the campaign.

Nonetheless, Jamshedpur did not lose hope and attacked with pace. The hosts were rewarded for their efforts in 58th minute through Subhankar, but it only served to lessen the margin as Mohammedan SC held for a well-deserved 4-2 win.

India lose to Uzbekistan in AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers opener

TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN: India suffered a 0-3 loss at the hands of defending champions Uzbekistan in the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Friday, March 22. 

Uzbek captain Islomjon Kobilov put the home team in front via a first-half penalty, before second-halfsubstitute Bobir Abdixolikov netted twice in the last 10 minutes to take the game away from the Blue Tigers. 

India started creating chances early on, as Rahul KP was played through on the flank by Anwar Ali. The Keralite attacker put in a cross, but Daniel could not connect with it in time. 

However, Uzbekistan started pressing high up the pitch after the initial exchanges, and they got a good chance around the half-hour mark when Alijanov Ilkhomjon was played through inside the six-yard-box by Amonov Azizbek, but Vinit Rai stepped in with the crucial block. 

Uzbekistan laid the proverbial siege on the Indian third ahead of the half time break, but the Indian defence held on for dear life, with Anwar Ali making some brave interceptions deep inside the penalty area. 

Their efforts finally paid off in injury time of the first half, when Uzbekistan were awarded a penalty. Uzbek captain Islomjon Kobilov made no mistake, as he slotted it into the bottom corner to put the home side in the lead. 

That game wind in the Uzbek sails and the home side came out with more attacking intent in the second half. Chances were at a premium for India, and Daniel had another opportunity to score, when substitute Komal Thatal, who had come on for Rahul KP, crossed it towards him. However, Daniel could not get onto the end of the cross, and the chance went begging. 

India centreback Gaurav Bora dug out a couple of important interceptions in the second half, helping out goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh, who was caught off his line, but Bobir Abdixolikov eventually doubled the lead with a little over 10 minutes of regulation time left. 

Five minutes later, Abdixolikov made it 3-0 for the home side, ending Indian hopes of a comeback. KomalThatal lit up the eyes of the Indian fans with a jinking run from the left wing, as he cut inside and let one rip, but his shot thudded off the woodwork. 

India are set to play their final qualifier against Tajikistan on Sunday, March 24.

2nd Division League: Chase for the final round spot goes down to the wire in Group C

KOLKATA: Mohammedan Sporting Club have a chance to qualify for the final round of 2018/19 Hero 2nd Division League on the final match-day of preliminary round Group C but they will be up against an tricky Jamshedpur FC Reserves on Friday at the JRD Tata Sports Complex in Jamshedpur, kick-off 3 pm.

With Chhinga Veng FC (20 points) already booked their place in the final round, three teams in Group C are separated by just one point and Mohammedan SC with 13 points from 9 matches are ranked fourth, owing to an inferior head-to-head record with local-rivals Rainbow AC, who also have the same number of points. TRAU FC are a point above the both Kolkata outfits given they have amassed 14 points in their 9 games so far.

A week ago, the Black Panthers were odds on favourite to make it to the final round following three successive victories. They have scored 13 goals in those three matches and conceded none, however, they faced a massive set back in their previous match when they were beaten 0-2 by Rainbow AC and now have to depend on others to reach the final round.

The Black Panthers will qualify for the final round if and only if they leave the ground with all three points in their last match and other results go their way. Nonetheless, TRAU FC or Rainbow AC’s win will anyway leave the Black Panthers empty-handed irrespective of the result in the Steel City.

If TRAU and Rainbow drop points in their last matches which will be against Chhinga Veng and ATK Reserves respectively, the Black Panthers will be able to seal the final round berth for the first time since 2015/16 season with a win over Jamshedpur.

Should both Mohammedan SC and Rainbow win their games and TRAU lose or draw theirs then Rainbow will go though as they boast a better head to head record over Mohammedan SC.

Meanwhile, TRAU are the only team amongst the three who are not dependent on any other outcome to reach the final round if they secure all three points against Chhinga Veng. They can also get the job done with a draw or even worse given that other two outcomes in Jamshedpur and Kolkata go accordingly.

Nonetheless, should all three teams end their campaign with same points; still Rainbow would make it merry thanks to their better head-to-head records taking all three teams into consideration.

“It will be a tough match. Jamshedpur are a very good side,” claimed Raghunath Nandy, the technical director of Mohammedan SC. “I always tell the players to focus on the match but not on the league table. We prefer to go match by match and it will be same tomorrow. I am not doing any calculation; this is the last game so we have to get three points. Let’s see what happens next. I am only thinking what is under my control.”

FIFA President congratulates Chennai City on maiden I-League title

NEW DELHI: FIFA President Gianni Infantino congratulated Chennai City FC for winning their maiden Hero I-League title, in a letter addressed to the All India Football Federation.

“I was delighted to hear that Chennai City FC have been crowned 2018/19 I-League Champions. It gives me great pleasure to congratulate them for their first ever championship title,” wrote Infantino.

“This is, no doubt, the result of effort and hard work, and everybody involved can be proud of this great achievement. I encourage them to continue working with determination and motivation,” he further stated. “On behalf of the entire football community, I take this opportunity to thank Chennai City FC and your federation for helping spread the positive message of football and foster the practice of this beautiful game that unites us all.”

Chennai City FC won their maiden Hero I-League title earlier this month, after a thrilling final-day finish, that saw them end the league with 43 points, just a point above Kolkata Giants East Bengal. 

Chennai City FC dominate I-League awards

Chennai March 20, 2019: Newly-crowned champions of India, Chennai City FC, were awarded the Hero I-League trophy in a ceremony in Chennai, on Wednesday.

Chennai, who had wowed the fans with their exciting brand of football, pipped Kolkata giants Quess East Bengal by just one point, in yet another race to the finish that lasted till the final day of the season.

“We have put Tamil Nadu football in the map with this win, and I’m very happy that the state is getting the recognition. Also, I’m delighted that more and more local players have come through and won the Hero I-League medal,” said Chennai City co-owner Rohith Ramesh.

The Hero I-League trophy was handed over to the Coimbatore-based club by All India Football Federation General Secretary Kushal Das and I-League CEO Sunando Dhar.

Mr. Das stressed on the importance of strategic planning that got the club to the title. He said, “Chennai City FC’s triumph this season has been a true testament of their planning, strategising and execution. I, on the behalf of the AIFF, would like to congratulate Rohith Ramesh and the entire Chennai City FC for their achievement, that too only in their third year in the top flight of Indian Football.”

Mr. Dhar marvelled at the fact that a club that was formed a little over three years back, has been able to topple the traditional giants of the game and gone on to win the prestigious title.

“It’s a stupendous achievement by the club, to win the Hero I-League trophy within just three-and-a-half years of its existence. I would like to send my heartiest congratulations to the owners, club management, and the players for this brilliant win,” he said.

Along with the Hero I-League trophy, the individual and the club awards for the season was also announced.

List of awards for Hero I-League 2018-19

Hero I-League Fair Play Award: Shillong Lajong

Highest Scorer of Hero I-League: Willis Plaza (Churchill Brothers) & Pedro Manzi (Chennai City FC)

Hero MotoCorp Best Goalkeeper: Bilal Khan (Real Kashmir FC)

Jamail Singh Best Defender Award: Roberto Eslava (Chennai City FC)

Hero I-League Best Half (Midfielder) Award: Nestor Jesus Gordillo (Chennai City FC)

Hero I-League Best Forward Award: Pedro Manzi (Chennai City FC)

Syed Abdul Rahim Best Coach Award: Akbar Nawas (Chennai City FC)

Hero of the League: Pedro Manzi (Chennai City FC)

Best Home Match Organisers: Quess East Bengal