Bhutia congratulates Sunil Chetri for ebcoming most-capped Indian footballer

NEW DELHI: Legendary National Team striker Bhaichung Bhutia congratulated Sunil Chhetri on overtaking his record, and becoming India’s most capped International player at 108 matches. Chhetri on Wednesday (June 5, 2019) overtook his mentor Bhutia’s record of 107 matches when he captained India in the King’s Cup opener against Curacao.

“I am extremely proud of him. Big congratulations to you Sunil,” Bhaichung said. “He has been a great leader, and a great player for India. I hope he continues to perform in the manner he has been doing,” Bhutia added. “You could always see the kind of committed player he was since we first met in Kolkata. His hunger to succeed always made him special,” Bhutia opined.

“There’s no reason why he can’t continue for long. He is a thorough professional. He is most hard working senior player in the circuit. In fact, even if you compare him to younger players, Sunil stands out,” Bhutia stated. “He is always at the gym doing that extra bit. The manner he has maintained his fitness is exemplary. He is a very sincere soul,” Bhutia expressed.

Chhetri did justice to his potential converting India’s sole goal from the spot, and came close to scoring in the second half, but his header bounced off the post.

Meanwhile, former defender par excellence Mahesh Gawli complemented Bhutia’s views. “I’ve known Sunil since he was a kid back in Mohun Bagan. His dedication should be an inspiration for all; and it shows as today he is India’s most capped International player. This is a great achievement for him, as well as for Indian Football. I hope that he keeps doing greater things in the future,” Gawli opined.

Former Indian midfielder Renedy Singh clarified “no player ever plays for records.”

“Sunil has been a regular in the India starting XI for more than a decade now. No player thinks of breaking records when they are on the pitch. But this is a great testament to the way he has kept himself motivated all these years. Congratulations. Keep it up,” Renedy expressed.

Sunil’s striking partner in the AFC Asian Cup Doha 2011 Abhishek Yadav praised Sunil for being at the pinnacle of his fitness.

“The fact that he has kept himself in peak fitness for so many years is an inspiring story. He is such a crucial player in the team, and it is a testament to his dedication to the game,” Yadav, the current Director of National Teams reflected. “I have enjoyed playing with him in the National Team, and it’s wonderful to watch him grow not only as a player, but also as an individual.”

Six newly-capped Blue Tigers recall ‘unforgettable and emotional’ debut

BURIRAM (THAILAND): There are some moments in life that stay with you till the end of your life. And for an athlete, after years of toil and unwavering perseverance, one such moment is representing your country at the senior level for the very first time.

Six players graduated Blue Tigers during India’s opener in the King’s Cup against Curacao on Wednesday when they took their respective senior team debuts in what was also Head Coach Igor Stimac’s first game in-charge.

“I had tears in my eyes singing the national anthem,” recounted 24-year-old Brandon Fernandes, who had to wait a lot for this opportunity. He said, “My first match for the country as a senior player. It’s a special moment in my life about which I’ve been dreaming forever.”

The midfielder for Goa was named in the starting XI by coach Stimac and after the match, he spoke about what the feat means to him, and his family. “There were a lot of times when things were difficult,” he said, before adding: “But when I finally got the news, I was delighted along with my parents and entire family. They stuck with me all these years and supported me through thick and thin. They were praying for me back home. I thank them for all they have done.”

Defender Rahul Bheke was another new face in the starting line-up and he expressed his delight at finally “getting to the day he was working for.”

He stated: “Walking out onto the pitch with the team is the best feeling and I enjoyed every moment of it. This was the day I had been working for all these years. I’m glad my wish finally came true.”

“Now that I have got the chance, I want to keep improving and moving towards becoming the kind of player the coach wants me to,” he expressed.

Making your debut is also about going down memory lane and looking back at the moments and people you hold dear. Midfielder Reynier Fernandes, who came on at half-time against Curacao, paid tribute to his late father after his senior debut.

“I want to dedicate this moment to my dad. He’s not there anymore and this was the only thing that was left for him to see. I was thinking about him when I was out on the pitch and played for him,” an emotional Raynier expressed.

Talking about the taste of International football, he continued: “The feeling is amazing. The opponent was tough, and while the result was not good enough, the experience we had was amazing. We just have to look forward and keep working hard and improve. We have a number of quality opponents lined up in front of us next month as well and we have to match them.”

Another standout feature of India’s play in the match was their style of play, especially in the second half, where they looked to keep the ball and build from the back. Two players who played a key role in the display were midfielders Sahal Abdul Samad and Amarjit Singh Kiyam.

Sahal said: “Playing under this coach has been really great. We’re playing a variety of styles now — keeping the ball and passing. We look to play forward now too and build moves.”

Talking about the feeling of taking his India cap, the 22-year old said that “this is just the beginning.”

“There were a few nerves at the start. It was certainly a proud moment. I feel this is just the beginning and from here, I want to keep playing for the National Team and keep improving.”

Amarjit Singh, who captained the Indian side at the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, also a crucial member for the Indian Arrows in the last two seasons of the Hero I-League, expressed his delight at the kind of football the national team is aiming to play.

Talking about the moment he stated that he had “butterflies in his stomach.”

He said: “As I was coming in, I was really excited. There were butterflies in my stomach. It has always been a dream to play for the Senior team and I am very happy.”

Former Chennai City FC and Jamshedpur FC man Michael Soosairaj who also made his Senior team debut revealed that playing for India was a dream he shared with his brother Michael Regin.

“I want to thank my brother. I remember he used to keep telling me that you will play for India one day. I’m glad I could make our dream come true,” he maintained.

“I remember the coach suddenly asking me to warm up, go in and play aggressively. I was calm. In the first half, things did not go as planned but in the second, we were much better. The changes worked and we made attacks and had our chances.”

John Kenneth Raj named Head of Bengaluru FC Soccer Schools and Grassroots Development

Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC announced on Monday that Academy Coach John Kenneth Raj would be assuming a new role as Head of BFC Soccer Schools and Grassroots Development. Certified in the Asian Football Confederation’s AFC ‘A’ License and well versed in Grassroots Coaching Education, John Kenneth Raj is among India’s most qualified Youth Coaches.

Having completed a course in Physical Education from the University of Cambridge, John has scouted for the Indian National Team at various age groups in the past, before moving to Germany where he was the coach of the U16 U Dream Football Academy, which was under the affiliation of Bundesliga club TSG Hoffenheim, and assisted in the administration and coaching of the football program encompassing over 20 players.

“John is a very qualified coach and has been a part of our residential program since the very beginning. Moving him into a more technical role would help us educate our Soccer Schools coaches in the right manner, while also focusing on scouting more local talent from the younger age groups like the U7s, U9s and U11s. We are in the process of having an elite batch of BFC Soccer Schools players, who will be scouted and overlooked by Kenneth Raj and our Head of Youth Development, Naushad Moosa. This will also enable us to create a clear pathway between our BFC Soccer Schools program and our Youth Academy,” said club CTO, Mandar Tamhane.

Kenneth Raj joined Bengaluru FC as Head Coach of the U18 team in 2016, and was in charge of both U16 and U18 age groups during their initial AIFF Youth League campaigns.

“I’m very excited to take up this new position because I believe that there is a lot of potential in our BFC Soccer Schools program. To ensure the coaches are in the right track to improve in their field, while also making sure that children who have the talent are nurtured is my primary focus, and hopefully we can find some really good players who can be promoted to the club’s youth academies soon,” said John Kenneth Raj.

We were very much like the weather, says Igor Stimac

NEW DELHI: Minutes after India’s 1-3 loss to Curacao in the opener of the King’s Cup in Buriram, Thailand, Indian National Team coach Igor Stimac mentioned “we were today very much like the weather.”

“I think, today we were very much like the weather. At one time the sun was shining, while in the second half there was a storm. After we changed few things in the half-time we started playing better,” he stated. “We were controlling much better – the passion, and the movements, and especially closing down the midfield. That’s what we did with two young players, both debutants coming off the bench,” he maintained.

Stimac was speaking at the official post-match press conference at the Chang Arena.

“Raynier Fernandes, and 18-year old Amarjit Singh – both of whom came on as substitutions in the 2nd half made an impact. Their covering was good. They were coming in front of the big strikers who were creating problems for us. They did not surrender. We did not put our heads down and kept creating chances,” the Coach reflected.

“I think we had 5-6 good situations in the second half to score our second goal and come back, and put some pressure on them in the last 10 minutes. But the decision making was not good in the final third,” he stressed. “For example, where we were supposed to shoot the ball, we were passing; and when we were supposed to pass the ball, we were shooting. There is a long way for us to keep learning — the learning process will be long,” he declared.

“I’m proud of the team achievement especially the manner we played in the 2nd half. The young players who came on showed great character, and had no fear to come on the pitch and playing football. That’s what I like. We have a good future.”

“Congratulations to Curacao. I had mentioned in the pre-match PC that they were the favourites and displayed in the first 45 minutes that they are of a different class. They have 6-7 top quality players. The match is a good blessing for our players. They could feel the touch of European Academy players among the Curacao players – you can feel in their movements, you can feel in their self-confidence,” Stimac explained.

India will now be playing the 3rd place play-off against either Thailand or Vietnam on June 8.

“We go into another phase now in two weeks’ time, get together and prepare for the Hero Intercontinental Cup. We are missing 5-6 players who are very important part of the National teams set-up. As and when they would be back, we would be better.”

India lose first match under Stimac

NEW DELHI: It was new coach Igor Stimac’s first match since his appointment. It was the day where he handed International debuts to 6 players, including an 18-year old Amarjit Singh, India’s U-17 World Cup Captain. It was also the day when Sunil Chhetri played his 108th international match, thus becoming India’s highest capped International player, breaking Bhaichung Bhutia’s record. Not surprisingly, he even scored, converting from the spot, his 68thInternational goal.

In what was a game of two halves, the Blue Tigers learnt from the mistakes of the first half, and despite being the better side in the 2nd half ended losing 1-3 to a strong Curacao in their opening match of the King’s Cup at the Chang Arena in Buriram, Thailand.

Courtesy the victory, Curacao advanced to the final of the tournament, while India will play either Thailand, or Vietnam in the third place play-off on June 8 (Saturday).

Stimac started with a new-look Indian side, as three players – Rahul Bheke, Brandon Fernandes, and Abdul Sahal — made their International debut in starting XI. Raynier Fernandes, and Amarjit came in as substitutes from the start of the second-half, while Michael Soosairaj came in midway in the second.

The positive intent of the young squad was on display. Trailing 1-3 at the interval, Raynier and Amarjit’s inclusion added to the quick passing and effective blocking in the midfield. The Indians weren’t willing to go into a defensive shell. Rather, they looked the more purposeful side in the 2nd half, and had their chances.

The Blue Tigers in fact, had also begun with much purpose. In the 7th minute, Lallianzuala Chhangte mistimed a sublime cross from debutant Abdul Sahal.

The Curacao midfield, then tried to gain control slowing it down at times, stretching to the flanks, and playing quick one-twos. In the process, Bonavacia and Hooi scored within two minutes to make it 2-0 by the 18th minute.

But India hit back. Sahal, who impressed with his turns, touches, and never say die attitude earned a penalty for the Blue Tigers in the 31st minute. – Chhetri gleefully converting from the spot.

But hardly had the celebrations died down, Bacuna made full use of the gap between Subhasish and Gurpreet to score the third goal for the CONCACAF side.

But the Indians kept pressing. Two minutes to the end of the first half, Sahal collected it from the heart of the midfield, and passed it onto an onrushing Udanta. But the latter miscued it as both teams headed to the interval with Curacao leading 3-1.

Changing over, Stimac made two crucial changes – bringing in Raynier and Amarjit in place of Pronay Halder, and Changte. The introduction of the youngsters in the middle of the park helped. India looked composed, showing more urgency in the opponent half in the second half.

Raynier and Sahal combined brilliantly in the 71st minute but the Curacao defender saw off the danger till the end.

Indians earned back-to-back corners in the 73rd minute but Bheke miscued Udanta’s corner, and then Sunil headed over Pritam’s inch-perfect cross.

The talismanic striker came close to scoring another in the 86th minute but his effort bounced off the post.

In the second minute of added time, Chhetri put in a curling corner kick which could have found the back of the net off the head of a Curacao defender, but the ball rolled wide of the goal.

INDIA: Gurpreet Singh; Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Rahul Bheke(International debut for India), Subhasish Bose; Udanta Singh, Pronay Halder (Raynier Fernandes 46′ — International debut for India), Brandon Fernandes (International debut for India) (Soosairaj Michael 67′ — International debut for India), Lallianzuala Chhangte (Amarjit Singh 46′ — International debut for India), Abdul Sahal (International debut for India), Sunil Chhetri (C).

I am sure the training in Blackburn Rovers’ Academy will help Aniket Jadhav says Tony Mowbray

PUNE: Blackburn Rovers Head Coach Tony Mowbray hopes Aniket Jadhav’s time with the club will have provided him with the ‘building blocks’ for a future career. However, in saying so he even opined that there are some qualities that the players lacks.

The 18-year-old Kolhapur-born lad, who plays for Jamshedpur FC, is the first professional Indian player to train in England, having arrived at Rovers’ Academy for a three-month spell in early March.

To aid his development, Aniket was invited to join in with a first team training session ahead of the season finale against Swansea and Mowbray believes the talented teenager will have benefited greatly from the experience.

“He came up and trained one afternoon and I think that would benefit him – playing with experienced professional footballers at Championship level,” said the manager cum head coach.

“He’s only a young boy, but he showed that he had good basics to his game and he was able to join in with the session. He was enthusiastic, he worked hard with the group and hopefully he enjoyed it.

“I’m sure the daily training at the Academy will have helped him. When he came up to train with us, I’m sure the messages I was giving him was something he was getting every day down at the Academy.

“I would hope that the professional level of coaching he got at an elite level Academy will stand him in good stead for the future and create habits that will hopefully become rooted and become part of the foundation of his career.

“The fine detail of football is what matters. The ability to receive the ball on the half-turn or the weight of your pass. I call them the building blocks of your career. Basic football skills that the best players you don’t even notice they do it, but they all do it naturally.

Mowbray also opined that there are some qualities which the Indian footballer lacks.

“His habits to play at the top level, the little things that he doesn’t quite do naturally are quite obvious to me. He doesn’t have this peripheral vision, you should be knowing what your (teammates) are doing without really turning around to look. He has to develop these things, these things come from repetition every single day, maybe for years for some people,” he said.

“I played football professionally for 18-20 years. I learned my trade as a 4-10-year-old boy every day with the ball in the garden. I don’t see those natural instincts that top players at his age might have developed from doing what I did – practising without practising,” Mowbray added.

IWL 2019 Final: Sabitra Bhandari scores brace as Sethu FC crowned champions

LUDHIANA: Sethu FC turned around a first-half deficit to beat Manipur Police SC 3-1 and win their first ever Hero Indian Women’s League trophy in the process, at the Guru Nanak Stadium, here on Wednesday (May 22, 2019).

Radharani Devi had put Manipur Police in the lead towards the end of the first half, but an own goal by Umapati Devi put Sethu back in the game, before their Nepal international Sabitra Bhandari turned up the heat to score two goals and win it for the Madurai-based side.

Sethu got off with the more chances in the first half, as they kept the Manipur attackers in check and built on their swift counter-attacks to move the ball up the pitch quickly. Their left winger Sandhiya looked lively in the opening exchanges, as she bombed down the left flank to give a lot of trouble to the Manipur defence.

The India international had the first clear chance a little after 10 minutes, when she received the ball just inside the box and pulled the trigger. However, she scuffed her instep shot and it lacked any sting.

The winger had another good chance when she received the ball from a melee inside the Manipur box, but her shot rolled inches wide of the post.

Manipur’s Bala Devi was tightly marked, and she often had to drop to the midfield or to the right wing, in order to make some space for herself. Bala increasingly began to cut a rather frustrated figure, and was starting to resort to long-range efforts.

Manipur’s goal came at just the right time, with a little over a minute of regulation time left for the first half, as Radharani leaped above the rest to nod in a corner from the left.

Sethu came out with more vigour in the second half, and got the goal that they were looking for, when Dangmei Grace broke down the right and sent in a low cross as captain Indumathi Kathiresan pulled the trigger. However, it took a deflection off Manipur Police defender Umapati Devi, who was unfortunately awarded the own goal.

It took the Madurai-based side around another five minutes to take the lead for the first time this game, as their mercurial Nepalese striker Sabitra Bhandari was set through on goal. the Sethu number nine rounded off the keeper, before slotting it into the net from an angle.

Sabitra, who was relatively quiet for most of the first half, came into her own after this goal that gave her the confidence. She scored her second of the evening, when Sandhiya broke swiftly down the left and played her in through the channel between the left back and the left centre-back. The Nepal international opened up her right foot and slotted it into the bottom corner to give Sethu the two-goal cushion.

From then on, it was a matter of seeing out the Manipur attacks, a responsibility that the likes of Sethu defenders Ashalata Devi and Sweety Devi, and midfielders Sumithra, Ratanbala and Indumathi carried out perfectly.

Hero IWL 2018-19 Individual Awards:

Highest Scorer: Bala Devi, Manipur Police

Best Goalkeeper: Linthoi, Gokulam Kerala FC

Emerging Player of the Tournament: Ratanbala Devi, Sethu FC

Most Valuable Player of the Tournament: Sandhiya, Sethu FC

RFYC lift Sub-Junior title with a convincing 3-0 victory over Bengaluru

MARGAO: Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) were crowned the Hero Sub-Junior League 2018-19 champions at the Don Bosco College Ground in Margao, Goa on Wednesday when they defeated Bengaluru FC 3-0 in the final.

Prantik Saha and Supratim Das scored in the first half for the Mumbai-based side, while Harsh Vaghela added a third in the 57th minute to secure the win.

The first half began with RFYC starting off on the brighter note as Bengaluru FC goalkeeper Priyansh Dubey was forced to make a couple of quick saves in the first ten minutes. He was forced into action once again in the 21st minute by Karthick Thirumalai, who cut in from the left to shoot, but Priyansh was alert and collected the effort.

Five minutes later though, he had no chance as RFYC took the lead thanks to a brilliant shot from left-winger Prantik Saha. Collecting a cross from the right, Prantik beat his marker and curled in a shot into the far corner to put his side into the lead.

Bengaluru responded through Ishaan Raghunanda minutes after conceding but the youngster’s shot from the right side went into the side netting.

In the 31st minute, RFYC doubled their lead through midfielder Supratim Das. A cross from the right was punched out by the Bengaluru keeper but Supratim showed supreme awareness and from 25 yards, he lobbed over the goalie to ensure his team went into the break with a 2-0 lead.

The first attack of the second half saw RFYC’s Harsh Vaghela race past the defence, rounding the keeper and tap the ball home, but the effort was ruled out for offside by the referee.

 

Bengaluru then regrouped and tried to make their way back into the match but were unlucky to have not scored their first goal of the game in the 39th minute. Bengaluru skipper Gautam Rajesh struck a powerful free-kick from the edge of the penalty area, but it came back off the underside of the crossbar.

 

Midway through the second half, Bengaluru had another chance to score through Chandan Biju but the winger’s header from a set-piece opportunity fell straight to the RFYC keeper Aniket Ghosh. 

 

The Blues continued to press to halve the deficit and were caught on the break by RFYC in the 57th minute as Harsh registered the third goal for his team. The speedy forward made his way past the two Bengaluru defenders and made no mistake in the one-on-one situation as he slammed the ball home powerfully and secured the victory for RFYC.

Stimac can do great things for Indian football, Brandon, Bheke say in unison

NEW DELHI: The Indian National Team had their first practice session under newly-appointed Croatian Head Coach Igor Stimac at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi today (May 21, 2019).

The squad has assembled to prepare for the forthcoming Kings’ Cup in Buriram, Thailand. The King’s Cup is slated for be held in Buriram on June 5, when the Blue Tigers take on Curacao in their first match.

The former Croatia national team manager wasted little time in formalities and got right into the thick of action aiming to lead the Blue Tigers on an upward surge after inspiring performances in the AFC Asian Cup earlier this year.

Speaking on the side-lines of the practice session, Rahul Bheke who got his National Team call-up said: “The coach greeted everyone with a Namaste and shared his plans about Indian Football.”

He further explained: “As a team, the coach wants us to play together as a unit and if we have to be one of the best teams in Asia, we have to think big and follow our dreams.”

“He is very much positive about the growth of Indian Football and wants to take us further into being one of the best team in Asia,” he added.

Stimac took the squad to some fitness tests on the opening day.

Besides Bheke, Brandon Fernandes, who got a call-up to the National Camp for the first time since 2015 stated: “I was training a bit in the offseason. But now I am here and I want to give my cent percent in every session.”

Lauding the experience of Stimac, who was part of the Croatia team in the 1998 World Cup where they finished third, Brandon said: “He is a very experienced coach and can do great things for this country. His plans and goal is to improve us and I feel that it was a good choice to appoint him.”

“I will be taking it day by day. My first target is to get into the final list for the King’s Cup. So right now I am focussing on that,” Brandon maintained.

Bheke signed off: “This is a chance which I can’t afford to blow up. I will give my best in the camp.” Brandon nodded

IWL 2019 Final: Sethu FC take on Manipur Police SC in the clash of titans

LUDHIANA: The summit clash of the 2018-19 Hero Indian Women’s League is upon us, and it’s a re-match of a Group II game – Manipur Police SC vs Sethu FC. The two clubs have undoubtedly been arguably the best sides in the tournament so far, and have made it so far on the back of some magnificent wins.

While Sethu have upheld a perfect record in the tournament so far, Manipur Police have suffered but one glitch, a 4-6 loss against Sethu during the group stage. However, that match will be long forgotten, as the two sides will look to renew their rivalries for the Hero IWL Final.

MANIPUR POLICE SC

41 goals from six matches. Let that figure sink in.

Manipur Police have been on hot form, having earned two massive 10-0 victories against SAI-STC Cuttack and Bangalore United. The side from the North-east has the mercurial Bala Devi in its attack. The 29-year-old has scored a whopping 26 goals from six matches, firmly perching her at the top of the scorers’ charts.

Supporting Bala up front is Daya Devi, who has proved to be a versatile player for Head Coach Surmala Devi. The India U-19 international has operated both on the wings and alongside striker Bala, to give Manipur a diversity in the way they approach different matches.

However, Manipur Police have been prone to conceding goals, something that their attack has made up for well. They have let in 10 goals from six matches in the tournament so far.

“In our last match against Sethu, we did not have much of an opportunity to practice together. We had all come together in the last three-four days,” said Chanu. “But that will not happen now. We have played well since then, and we will try to strengthen both our attack and our defence, in order to tackle the Sethu challenge.”

What would be more troubling for Coach Surmala Chanu is the fact that their first choice centreback Romi Devi is suspended from the final, after she was sent off in the semifinal against Gokulam for a hand ball on the goalline.

SETHU FC

If Manipur have scored 41 goals, Sethu have gone one better in their six matches so far.

What has made the Tamil Nadu side so strong is the fact that they do not really have any one constant source of goals. Their front three have fired on all cylinders – while their Nepal international striker Sabitra Bhandari has pumped in 13 goals from six games, India international wingers Dangmei Grace and Sandhiya have scored eight and seven goals apiece.

Their defence has also looked relatively strong, having conceded only five in six games so far. The likes of Sweety Devi and Ashalata Devi have kept a strong central backline for Sethu, giving the midfielders a base upon which they could launch their attacks.

However, four of these five goals were conceded against Manipur Police in their Group Stage game. However, Sethu FC Head Coach Amrutha Aravind is not too worried about the previous encounter.

“Manipur are a good side. They have scored a lot of goals so far. But that does not mean that we will sit back. We also believe in an attacking game,” said Amrutha. “We have worked on our transition from defence to attack. Let’s see how that works out tomorrow.”

One player who has been crucial for Sethu has been India international midfielder Ratanbala Devi. The 24-year-old has been the engine in the middle of the park for the Maduria-based side, helping them convert a defensive manoeuvre into attack in the blink of an eye. Her box-to-box play has helped Ratanbala score eight goals from midfield.

With two attacking sides raring to have a go at each other, we are sure to have an absolute cracker of a Final on the cards. As to who will take away the coveted trophy at the end of the day, we will have to wait and watch.