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Sabtu, 31 Maret 2012

Bengal retain Shabbir Ali as Santosh Trophy coach

Twice defending champions Bengal will go into the 66th edition of the National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy with Shabbir Ali once more as their coach. The 66th Santosh Trophy will be played from May 11 to 27 across Orissa in Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Sambalpur and Baragarh with Bengal getting a bye into the Quarterfinal League.

"It is really a proud moment for me. I'm excited to coach Bengal for the third season," Shabbir Ali, who had coached Bengal to triumphs in 2010 and 2011, told agency PTI.

Bengal are record champions with 31 titles to their name and the Santosh Trophy has a special place in Bengal football. In 2010 Shabbir Ali and his boys had regained the trophy after 11 long years and now Shabbir Ali and his new team will work to achieve the title hattrick.

Here link for the 66th Santosh Trophy: The Complete Fixtures .

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Kushal Das (AIFF General Secretary)

On the sidelines of the India workshop at the Soccerex European Forum in Manchester on Thursday I had the chance to speak to the All India Football Federation General Secretary Kushal Das about some of the pressing issues.


How important do you see that in a Forum like Soccerex India is given an own panel, India comes with a large delegation and can show what Indian football is all about.

Very important! I think it really demonstrates the interest level which the whole world has for India which is very encouraging to see.


We have all heard here in Manchester a complete confusion about AIFF, IFA, PLS - the structure of Indian football. Is all this disturbing to you or are you rather happy about the international media coverage that Indian football is generating?

No doubt the coverage is good! As Jeff (Slack from IMG-Reliance) very right mentioned in the workshop it actually shows the kind of interest the world has for Indian football. But there are some misconceptions about the fact if the AIFF or IFA is doing the PLS.

You know as good as I do there is the problem of having two federations named AIFF and IFA, which has been in existence for a long time. IFA was set-up more then 40 years before the AIFF (laughs). What can you do? I don't want a civil war by forcing the IFA to change the name but it is causing unnecessary problems.


I agree with you but does his mean the IFA needs to change its name so that in the future there is internationally no confusion about who runs football in India?

I think I will have to discuss this with a larger group, maybe the AIFF executive committee. This is a problem and I would like to discuss this with the IFA too. But then they are our member association, a very old member association, actually older then us. So you have to respect their sentiments. But I realise that this is creating quite a bit of confusion.


India's bid to host the 2017 Under-FIFA World Cup has created a lot of buzz and interest in football circles. Could this be the one-off event which could help Indian football to get especially the necessary infrastructure which will allow the game to flourish in India?

I am quite certain about it! If this happens I think we would get the necessary infrastructure. That would be the best result from this tournament.

But we will also want an competitive Indian team, help us evaluate our development program and you know the program is working well. But most importantly we would get the infrastructure!


It was an open and candid conversation in which Kushal Das said a lot of things, which needs to be picked-up and discussed back home...

FC Schalke's goalkeeper injury jinx

German Bundesliga side FC Schalke 04 are facing a rare goalkeeper injury jinx this season with Timo Hildebrand being their third goalkeeper to be hit by a serious injury. Hildebrand picked-up an elbow injury while conceding the first goal in his clubs 2-4 Europa League defeat against Athletic Bilbao and had to be substituted at half-time.

How long 32 year old Hildebrand will have to sit out is not unknown, but 35 year old Mathias Schober is now the fourth goalkeeper to be in action for the royal blues with one of the Schalke 04 II keepers set to sit on the bench in Sunday's match against Hoffenheim.

Last summer Manuel Neuer had left Schalke with 23 year old Ralf Fährmann, who returned to S04 from Eintracht Frankfurt, being made the clubs new number one. But Fährmann would suffer a crucial ligament injury bringing in 21 year old Lars Unnerstall who himself would suffer a shoulder injury (acromioclavicular blast) and then on Thursday goalkeeper number three Timo Hildebrand followed with the elbow injury.

While the return of Fährmann and Hildebrand is unknown, Unnerstall has returned to first team training and might be back in action in 10 to 14 days which would ease the goalkeeping pressure on the club.

Are PIOs for Team India back on the AIFF Agenda?

One of the topics raised on Thursday at the India workshop at Soccerex's European Forum in Manchester was the issue of Players of Indian Origin representing India in international football. To be precise the topic was raised by London-based players agent Yogesh Joshee in connection with Michael Chopra's interest to represent India.

AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das gave an interesting, but somewhat surprising answer. He said, "We need to look into it. I ask FICCI to take-up the matter with the Government of India!"

Many laughed then they didn't think the answer was serious, but Kushal Das reiterated the point and from an All India Football Federation standpoint it does make sense then the ruling by the Government of India that only Indian nationals can represent India in sports not only affects the AIFF but possibly all other sports.

Here a general body like FICCI (Federation of Industrial Chambers of Commerce and Industry) could intervene with the support and inputs from the sports federations.

In this connection FICCI representative Rajpal Singh make a wrong statement while on stage saying that India does allows PIOs and OCIs to represent the country though he did say that FICCI would take-up the matter internally and then with the government of India.

One hopes that FICCI and the AIFF treat the matter seriously and lobby with the government to change such a ridiculous rule, which only harms Indian sports rather then anybody else.

Jumat, 30 Maret 2012

Soccerex: India Workshop speaks about Opportunities

The Soccerex European Forum 2012 was held in Manchester on Wednesday/Thursday this week with leading figures of European and world football attending. And once more India was on the Soccerex agenda with an 'Emerging Markets' workshop solely focusing on Indian football was held yesterday morning, on the second day of the Forum.

The focus of the India workshop was to highlight the unique business opportunities for football in India and Indian football. The session was moderated by Sukhvinder Singh (MD Libero Sports) with AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das, Vishwajeet Kadam (Secretary of Bharati Vidyapeeth University & AKFDC), Mario De Vivo (Inter Milan CCO), Jefferson Slack (IMG-Reliance, IMG Football Division head) and Rajpal Singh (Additional Director FICCI Sports Committee) on the panel.

AIFF General Secretary started with his three highlights over the recent past which he hoped would guarantee a better future for Indian football. The first point was the participation of India in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, the second point being the landmark 15 year deal between the AIFF and IMG-Reliance to market the game, while the third point was the development plans being put in place by the AIFF with the support from FIFA. He mentioned the four Regional Academies set to open in June/July with four more to open in mid-2013 and the Elite Academy, besides the appointment of Dutchman Rob Baan as Technical Director besides India's bid to host the 2017 Under-17 World Cup.

Vishwajeet Kadam spoke about the general rise of Sports in India. Especially football was seeing an unseen growth with the sport being especially popular amongst the youth with his own organisation Bharati Vidyapeeth in talks with European clubs to have an Academy for Under-10 to U-17 kids combining education and sports.

IMG's Jeff Slack said, "IMG-Reliance are excited about India. This is the reason why we signed a 15 year deal with the AIFF, while we also have a 30 year deal with the Basketball Federation of India."

Jeff Slack spoke about the 16 India Under-15 boys currently training at the IMG Academy in Florida, about their trip to Brazil, where they even impressed coaches over there. He also termed the Indian media market as very competitive, where Indian football would have to fight for its place.

But Jeff Slack summed it up with, "Indians love football! India can play football," and added, "IMG-Reliance has made investments for the future."

But as Kushal Das said, "There are challenges. The biggest one is infrastructure. But if India get to host the 2017 Under-17 World Cup, then hopefully the government reacts to put the necessary infrastructure in place."

The panel did not discuss the current ongoing problems of the I-League though Jeff did mention that the I-League faced structural problems and challenges.

The people present at the workshop were made to understand that Cricket is the biggest sport in India, but there was cricket fatigue in India due to nonstop cricket.

The Premier League Soccer was a hot topic in Manchester (), but the panel seemed to want to avoid this topic until in the Q&A session a question about the PLS was asked. AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das confirmed that the proposed PLS is 'definitely dead' for this season and about its future said, "What is next we do not know."

On the PLS topic Jeff Slack said, "The PLS initially concerned me especially due to the global media interest," but didn't go further into the topic.

Though the workshop was held on an international platform for mainly international listeners it had a definite Indian touch, sometimes going a little offtrack. But the session did show that Indian football has many opportunities though facing a lot of problems and especially the bureaucracy is a massive drawback for development.

VIDEO: Nike Ad - Cristiano Ronaldo vs Rafael Nadal

Nike has brought out a new Ad campaign for its new Mercurial Vapor VIII football shoe. In this ad Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal faces footballer Cristiano Ronaldo for a very special Tennis match and then a revenge football game on a Tennis court.



J&K Bank set to host All-India Gold Cup in the Valley

The Jammu&Kashmir Bank is set to organise the inaugural All-India Invitational Gold Cup Football tournament over the summer with the organisers set to get necessary clearance from the Jammu&Kashmir Football Association and the All India Football Federation.

This would be needed then the tournament would see 10 to 12 teams from across the valley and six top national sides from across India in action. The dates would be finalised once the necessary clearances and slot in the calendar have been received.

"The chairman and chief executive officer of the bank, Mushtaq Ahmad, gave his approval yesterday for conducting the tournament. Following the approval, we shall be working out necessary details, and raising necessary infrastructure for smooth conduct of this historic maiden tournament," the spokesman said.

J&K Bank have been promising football and other sports in the valley. Their football side is one of the top teams in the state and with the tournament they want to give football in Kashmir national exposure with local players showing their talent to clubs from across the country.

VIDEO: AFC U-13 Girls Championships Sri Lanka - Players Feedback

Here a video from the AFC about the AFC Under-13 Girls Championship held in Colombo, Sri Lanka in which the girls speak about playing in the tournament. Impressive stuff!



SEPT U-12 Boys Team to play in Dubai

The Under-12 boys team of the Sports & Education Promotion Trust (SEPT, Calicut), is preparing to participate in the 2012 Dubai International Super Cup being held in the United Arab Emirates next month. The 16 players squad accompanied by four officials will leave for Dubai on April 6 and will return to Kerala on April 14. Marcel van Dijk, a coach from the Netherlands, will join the team directly in Dubai. The tour has been made possible by sponsors Shabana & Faizal Foundation, Dubai.

This edition of the Dubai International Super Cup will see teams from England, South Africa, India, Qatar, the UAE and other Gulf countries in action. The SEPT under-12 boys team has been selected from amongst outstanding boys from across the SEPT centers in Kerala.

SEPT has 41 centers in eleven districts of Kerala, with a total of 1,200 children plying football at these centers. SEPT as an organisation imparts training in the grassroot development of football in the state of Kerala.

The Dubai International Super Cup will be the third international tour for an SEPT team - first one was in 2007 to Finland and Sweden, the second one was to Malaysia in 2009.

As preparations for the tournament in Dubai the SEPT U-12 Boys Team is planning to play some friendly matches before leaving for Dubai.

Match results & tour updates will be available on the official SEPT website under www.sept.in .


SEPT UNDER-12 BOYS TEAM

Players
Suresh Sachin (Parappur), Muhammed Shahad (Palayad), Mohammed Ihsal (Edarikode), Josefin (Edathirinji), Anupam Sreejayan (Calicut), Jawad P.P. (Therattammal), Abid Jumail (Kadalundi), Jidhu Roby (Thiruvambadi), Akhil K. (Vazhakkad), Favad K. (Therattammal), Ninin Alan Noushad (Edathirinji), Sanjay (Poyilkavu), Rumais K. (Therattammal), Muhammad Inayath (Mavoor), Nandu K.T. (Thiruvambadi), Emil Benny (Kalpetta)

Officials
Marcel van Dijk (Coach), Manoj Kumar M.C. (Coach), C. Sethumadhavan (Manager), Prof. T.M. Abdurahiman, Arun Kumar Nanu

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: AFC U-13 Girls Championship in Sri Lanka

Here a video from the AFC about the AFC Under-13 Girls Championship held in Colombo, Sri Lanka which the India U-13 Girls won!






Here the link to the report: INDIA Under-13 Girls: Champions return home; girls felicitated .

Kamis, 29 Maret 2012

PLS: Foreign Players & Coaches left in the dark

At the 2012 Soccerex European Forum in Manchester with India being on the agenda, one topic which I and other attendees from India got asked again and again is what is the latest on the Premier League Soccer.

With no one from the Indian Football Association (West Bengal) nor Celebrity Management Group present it was difficult to answer with more and more questions raised about the PLS and its future. Some European journalist have actually written that the PLS will never see the day of light. Tough judgement, but as I would suggest to wait and watch.

These developments has foreign marquee players and coaches worried. Some had actually left good contracts to join the PLS and they are in trouble. In Manchester I bumped into Peter Reid and John Barnes, who both currently not know if they will shift to West Bengal to coach in the PLS.

Former Liverpool star John Barnes actually asked me rather then me him what I think about the current situation then I gathered from our conversation that he is feeling sceptical about the situation though still very much interested to come to India.

"First it was to start in February, then March, then April and now they are saying maybe as late as November," said a worried John Barnes. "I don't know what will happen."

The other thing that both coaches said, which Robbie Fowler had tweeted about is that the foreign coaches and players are not kept updated and informed on what is happening with the PLS, if anything at all.

This all is surely not something the organising IFA and CMG will like to hear, but they need to keep their star attractions better informed or otherwise if the delayed PLS kicks-off might have to play without them.

The media abroad who had written a lot of positive things about the PLS earlier in the year have been alerted about the continued problems and once they start writing about it, the PLS and Indian football has a problem.

Soccerex: International Confusion about Indian football

Day one of the Soccerex European Forum here in Manchester was as always good then one meets old friends in football and makes new contacts. One gets to know what's happening in the industry and the hot topics of the moment. Interestingly everyone seems to be very interested about Indian football - the opportunities and challenges that the 'emerging market' offers.

But there are misunderstandings and misconceptions about India and its football. Many see the Indian economy its healthy growth rate and the rise of the new middle class, a group with leisure money to spend; but often the difficulties and challenges are forgotten.

One of the biggest talking point is the IPL-style Premier League Soccer in West Bengal, which for different people in the industry has different meanings, then the international media has covered it extensively but has not always gotten the key facts right or transported the information needed to understand it properly.

Many think the PLS is a new national league, some a new Indian Pro League, some call it a rebel league others meanwhile know that it is a regional (state) league in the football crazy state of West Bengal. Explaining over and over again what the PLS is, why it has been delayed and what it could mean for Indian football vis-a-vis to the I-League and the development of football in India isn't always easy.

Here my write-up on the upcoming panel this morning about: Soccerex: Emerging Markets Panel on India .

Loads to talk about, more later in the day and over the coming days...

Rabu, 28 Maret 2012

I-League Division 2: It's Decision Time

The second and final-leg of the Final Round of the I-League Division 2 will kick-off tomorrow in Gangtok with the last league match to be played on April 17. Thereafter we will know who has gotten promoted to the first tier of the I-League.

After the first six matches United Sikkim FC are in pole position with 13 points ahead of Mohammedan Sporting Club (12 pts), who occupy the other I-League promotion spot ahead of ONGC (11 pts), Royal Wahingdoh FC (10 pts), Vasco SC (6 pts), Kalighat Milan Sangha (5 pts) and Aizawl FC (1 pt).

Currently it looks like it will be a close contest amongst the top four teams - USFC, Md Sporting, ONGC & RWFC - though Vasco SC and Kalighat MS have a chance in theory if they win all or most of their matches with the top four dropping a number of points.

United Sikkim FC go into the final six matches at home in Gangtok as the big favourites, then they are top of the I-League Division 2 and home advantage should give them a competitive edge over their opponents.

But as most of you will know, football is an unpredictable game; so let the league progress for us to find out who finally does get promoted.

Chelsea's difficult search for a new coach

English Premier League side Chelsea Football Club are once more on the lookout for a long-term manager after 34 year old Portuguese André Villas-Boas was fired a few weeks ago, only eight month's after he had joined the club.

The west London club's Russian owner Roman Abramovich is on the lookout for his eighth manager in as many years. Top of his wish list are Pep Guardiola (FC Barcelona) and Jose Mourinho (Real Madrid) with other coaches like Guus Hiddink (now Anzhi Makhachkala), Juergen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund) and Laurent Blanc (France) have been sounded out, while coaches like Rafael Benitez have shown own interest in the job.

Spaniard Guardiola is currently the most successful club coach with FC Barcelona whom he only joined in 2008 and since then has won everything that a club can win. But news out of Catalunya is that Guardiola is getting tired at Barca and might leave in the summer. If he would take time off or join another side is not known, so Chelsea are trying to find out.

A dream for a lot of Chelsea fans would be the return of the 'Special One' Jose Mourinho, who coached the Blues very successfully from 2004 to 2007. But if the Mourinho would leave Real Madrid for London will have to be seen. Certainly Chelsea has a special place in Mourinho's heart and he has said that his next job after Real Madrid would be in the Premier League. But any return to Stamford Bridge would depend if Mourinho and owner Abramovich can work with each other again.

But there is an option which people aren't consider much at the moment, but maybe one to look at if he continues to be successful. Caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo has done well since taking over and might be named as full-time manager in the weeks to come if wanted candidates turn down the hot seat.

East Bengal Football School of Excellence

Kolkata giants East Bengal Club in partnership with management company R.M. Sportstainment are bringing the first of its kind 'East Bengal Football School of Excellence' project to India.

Indian school students would get the opportunity of being trained, groomed and evaluated by an UEFA PRO License holding coach in Amir Alagic, who is the ex-national coach of Brunei, Head Coach of Nike Academy Los Angeles with experience at German Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. Amir Alagic would head the project as Technical Advisor.

The Indian coaches associated with this project have a rich experience of having worked with top I-League clubs and the Indian national team. These icon players would share their expertise and best practices for designing and implementing the school coaching program.

A proper mix of theoretical and practical classes would ensure that the training parameters and the scientific evaluation processes are adhered to. Psychometric assessment of each student would be done to assess their behavioural traits so that the right kind of behavioural training can be imparted depending on the position they choose to play.

Students would be benefited from the periodical sessions on Sports Science and Nutrition which would stay with them for life even if they are not pursuing a professional football career.

Each student would attend two days of training (Duration- 1 hour per day) in a week.

There would be 3 age groups to provide focussed training based on individual requirements

- 9 - 12 years
- 12 - 15 years
- 15 - 18 years


Each batch would have a maximum number of 50 children, to be trained by five coaches including goalkeeping coach and physical trainer. Further the children would be provided health drink and light refreshments after training session.

Another significant highlight of this project is that the candidate's would train at the historic East Bengal Home Ground on the Kolkata Maidans.

School authorities would arrange for optional international exposure program for the students which would be communicated to them.

Training session would happen on Thursday, Saturday & Sunday.

The Course Fee

- Rs. 1500 per month per candidate
- Total Rs. 18000 per year.
[3 month's salary to be paid in advance during admission. (Non refundable)]


For admission kindly contact the admission office at club tent or call 9830251500, 9836510936.

Candidates can also send E-Mail at : reachrms@gmail.com

Selasa, 27 Maret 2012

Mario Goetze extends Dortmund contract until 2016

Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund has extended the contract of their teenage sensation Mario Goetze by another two years until 2016. Goetze follows coach Jürgen Klopp, Director of Sports Michael Zorc, Management Head Hans-Joachim Watzke besides team mates Sven Bender, Lukasz Piszczek and Ivan Perisic who all had extended their contracts until 2016, while Marco Reus joins the club in the summer from Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Dortmund is trying to secure their long-term future and they see Mario Goetze as a key element of this plan. The 19 year old from Memmingen in southern Germany is happy to remain at Dortmund where he feels at home though having had offers from FC Arsenal and FC Bayern Munich.

Goetze is seen one of Germany's biggest young talent, who is currently recovering from an injury. Goetze hopes to be fit again in about 10 days time after having missed a few weeks of match action.

On the contract extension Goetze said, "Everyone knows how happy I am here in Germany. The team is currently in a developmental stage and I want to continue to be a part of this development."

66th Santosh Trophy: The Complete Fixtures

The 66th edition of the National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy will be played from May 11 to 27 across Orissa in Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Sambalpur and Baragarh. 34 teams are taking part in the inter-state tournament.

The Cluster round matches would be played from May 11 to 16 with the quarterfinal round games scheduled from May 18 to 23. Both the semifinals would be played on May 25, while the final has been slated for May 27.


GROUPINGS & FIXTURES

Preliminary Round - Cluster Stage

Cluster-I
Jharkhand, Delhi, Andaman&Nicobar Island, Gujarat

11-May-2012: Jharkhand - Andaman&Nicobar Island
11-May-2012: Delhi - Gujarat
13-May-2012: Andaman&Nicobar Island - Delhi
13-May-2012: Gujarat - Jharkhand
15-May-2012: Andaman&Nicobar Island - Gujarat
15-May-2012: Jharkhand - Delhi

Cluster-II
Kerala, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh

11-May-2012: Kerala - Tripura
13-May-2012: Tripura - Himachal Pradesh
15-May-2012: Himachal Pradesh - Kerala

Cluster-III
Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Pondicherry

11-May-2012: Chandigarh - Madhya Pradesh
11-May-2012: Meghalaya - Pondicherry
13-May-2012: Madhya Pradesh - Meghalaya
13-May-2012: Pondicherry - Chandigarh
15-May-2012: Madhya Pradesh - Pondicherry
15-May-2012: Meghalaya - Chandigarh

Cluster-IV
Jammu&Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra

11-May-2012: Maharashtra - Arunachal Pradesh
13-May-2012: Arunachal Pradesh - Jammu&Kashmir
15-May-2012: Jammu&Kashmir - Maharashtra

Cluster-V
Karnataka, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland

11-May-2012: Karnataka - Nagaland
11-May-2012: Bihar - Uttar Pradesh
13-May-2012: Nagaland - Bihar
13-May-2012: Uttar Pradesh - Karnataka
15-May-2012: Nagaland - Uttar Pradesh
15-May-2012: Karnataka - Bihar

Cluster-VI
Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Rajasthan

12-May-2012: Uttarakhand - Rajasthan
14-May-2012: Rajasthan - Mizoram
16-May-2012: Mizoram - Uttarakhand

Cluster-VII
Haryana, Sikkim, Assam, Daman&Diu

12-May-2012: Haryana - Daman&Diu
12-May-2012: Assam - Sikkim
14-May-2012: Daman&Diu - Assam
14-May-2012: Sikkim - Haryana
16-May-2012: Daman&Diu - Sikkim
16-May-2012: Haryana - Assam


Quarterfinal League - Group Stage:

Group-A
West Bengal, Punjab, Cluster-II winner, Cluster-IV winner

18-May-2012: West Bengal - Cluster-IV winner
18-May-2012: Punjab - Cluster-II winner
20-May-2012: Cluster-II winner - West Bengal
20-May-2012: Cluster-IV winner - Punjab
22-May-2012: Cluster-IV winner - Cluster-II winner
22-May-2012: West Bengal - Punjab

Group-B
Manipur, Goa, Cluster-III winner, Cluster-V winner

18-May-2012: Manipur - Cluster-III winner
18-May-2012: Goa - Cluster-V winner
20-May-2012: Cluster-III winner - Goa
20-May-2012: Cluster-V winner - Manipur
22-May-2012: Cluster-III winner - Cluster-V winner
22-May-2012: Manipur - Goa

Group-C
Services, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Cluster-VII winner

19-May-2012: Services - Cluster-VII winner
19-May-2012: Orissa - Chhattisgarh
21-May-2012: Cluster-VII winner - Orissa
21-May-2012: Chhattisgarh - Services
23-May-2012: Cluster-VII winner - Chhattisgarh
23-May-2012: Orissa - Services

Group-D
Railways, Tamil Nadu, Cluster-I winner, Cluster-VI winner

19-May-2012: Railways - Cluster-VI winner
19-May-2012: Tamil Nadu - Cluster-I winner
21-May-2012: Cluster-I winner - Railways
21-May-2012: Cluster-VI winner -Tamil Nadu
23-May-2012: Cluster-VI winner - Cluster-I winner
23-May-2012: Railways - Tamil Nadu


Semifinals
25-May-2012: Winner Group A - Winner Group C
25-May-2012: Winner Group B - Winner Group D

Final
27-May-2012: Winner SF 1 - Winner SF 2

Senin, 26 Maret 2012

Team India: Should fans support even in defeat?

Yesterday former India captain Baichung Bhutia said in Mumbai, "I think it is a new team. It's a young team. We need to give them time and support them. After a lot of senior players left, it is bound to be difficult for them."

Is Baichung right or wrong???

I agree with Baichung! Then this young Indian football team, no matter if the selection was right or wrong, needs our support especially in difficult times like these.

But if I see the reactions during and after the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal, then surely it was about having a go against our own team. And this to me is a no-go in whatever the circumstances may be. We can be unhappy about things and show our emotions, but Team India needs 100% support which pushes the team on.

Over the years I have seen many examples where fan support has had positive influence on teams. Take e.g. Team India winning the Nehru Cup twice and the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup. The crowd at the Ambedkar Stadium gave the team a positive push, especially in the finals!

Another Schweinsteiger joins FC Bayern Munich

Next season Bastian Schweinsteiger will no longer be the only Schweinsteiger at FC Bayern Munich then his older brother Tobias Schweinsteiger is joining the FC Bayern Munich II team, the reserve side of the German Bundesliga record champions.

30 year old Tobias Schweinsteiger is a striker and will be one of the three over-23 years players at FCB II next season. The striker leaves 3.Liga (third Division) side SSV Jahn Regensburg to join FCB II, who currently play in the Regionalliga Süd, which is the regional fourth tier of German football.

The brothers won't be playing in the same team but Tobias Schweinsteiger said, "Finally I am playing together with my brother at the same club!"

Then it will be the first time in their careers that Bastian and Tobias Schweinsteiger will be playing at the same club though not in the same team. While Bastian has been an FCB player since his youth days, Tobias has been a journeyman having played for SpVgg Unterhaching, VfB Lübeck, Eintracht Braunschweig, FC Ismaning and twice for SSV Jahn Regensburg.

For Tobias Schweinsteiger it is now about helping younger players at FCB II to make it to the first team and become professional footballers. With FCB II in a restructuring phase the older of the Schweinsteiger brothers could be a key player for the team.

Orissa to host 66th Santosh Trophy

Orissa (now called Odisha) will be the hosts of the 66th edition of the National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy. The inter-state tournament will be played from May 11 to 27 in Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Sambalpur and Baragarh across the state of Orissa.

In total 34 state and institutional sides will be seen in action. 25 of those teams will be playing in the preliminary round cluster stage with only the top team from each of the seven Clusters moving into the quarterfinal league stage. There last years eight quarterfinalists plus hosts Orissa await the seven qualifiers and will be split into four groups of four teams each. Only the group winners qualify for the semifinals.

The Cluster round matches would be played from May 11 to 16 with the quarterfinal round games scheduled from May 18 to 23. Both the semifinals would be played on May 25, while the final has been slated for May 27.

Last time around in May 2011 record champions West Bengal had won their 31st title in Guwahati, Assam with a 2-1 final victory against Manipur.


GROUPINGS

Preliminary Round - Cluster Stage

Cluster-I: Jharkhand, Delhi, Andaman&Nicobar Islands, Gujarat
Cluster-II: Kerala, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh
Cluster-III: Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Pondicherry
Cluster-IV: Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra
Cluster-V: Karnataka, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland
Cluster-VI: Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Rajasthan
Cluster-VII: Haryana, Sikkim, Assam, Daman&Diu

Quarterfinal League - Group Stage:

Group-A: Bengal, Punjab, Cluster-II winner, Cluster-IV winner
Group-B: Manipur, Goa, Cluster-III winner, Cluster-V winner
Group-C: Services, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Cluster-VII winner
Group-D: Railways, Tamil Nadu, Cluster-I winner, Cluster-VI winner

Bundesliga Column - Round 27: The Relegation Battle intensifies

Round 27 of the 2011/12 Bundesliga season saw a number of teams in the relegation zone win, which has put pressure on teams above them then out of the earlier four now eight, maybe even nine clubs could be fighting to stay in the league until the end of the season.

Especially the incredible runs from FC Augsburg and SC Freiburg, who a few weeks ago seemed doomed for relegation has surprised many while other clubs like 1.Kaiserslautern, Hertha BSC Berlin, Hamburger SV and FC Cologne have not been picking-up enough points.

Bulgarian Krassimir Balakov made his debut as the new coach at bottom side 1.FC Kaiserslautern. Balakov happens to be a former Bundesliga star at Stuttgart and knows the league well, but he only joined midweek from Croatian side Hajduk Split. He couldn't do much as Lautern lost 0-2 in Freiburg against an inform side who moved into 13th spot.

Another inform side Augsburg needed an injury time equaliser against Bremen to continue their unbeaten run, while Hertha BSC scored a crucial win away to Mainz though staying on an automatic relegation spot. But the worry of the league are Hamburg and Cologne who suffered more defeats. While Hamburg has now lost four matches in a row, Cologne were trashed 6-1 by champions Dortmund.

For Dortmund the 6-1 win against Cologne on Sunday was crucial then Bayern Munich had closed the gap to just two points after their hard-earned 2-1 win against Hannover 96. The title race is one as both sides keep the momentum going, while Schalke moved into third spot with a 2-0 win against Leverkusen, while Mönchengladbach lost to Hoffenheim as they did not overcome their midweek German Cup blues.


Round 27 Results

VfL Wolfsburg 2-1 Hamburger SV
1.FSV Mainz 05 1-3 Hertha BSC Berlin
Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-2 1899 Hoffenheim
FC Bayern München 2-1 Hannover 96
SV Werder Bremen 1-1 FC Augsburg
SC Freiburg 2-0 1.FC Kaiserslautern
FC Schalke 04 2-0 Bayer 04 Leverkusen
VfB Stuttgart 1-0 1.FC Nürnberg
1.FC Köln 1-6 Borussia Dortmund

FIFPro Division Asia to meet in Goa

The FIFPro Division Asia will meet for the first time in India for two days on May 10/11 just prior to the fourth annual FPAI Indian Football Awards 2012. The meeting will be held at the Marriot Resort & Spa Hotel in Panjim, Goa which is owned by the V.M. Salgaocar Group of Companies. The Football Players Association of India will be the hosts.

FIFPro (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels) is the International Federation of Professional Footballers, which is a worldwide representative organization for professional football players.

On May 9 the delegates from across Asia will arrive and on May 10 the FIFPro Asia Board and member nations meeting will be held. Various players from across India are expected to attend besides FPAI president Baichung Bhutia, President of the PFA Australia Simon Colosimo, and President of the New Zealand PFA and captain of national team Tim Brown. Indonesian Captain Banbang Pamungkas is also likely to attend depending on his club fixtures.

On the second day, May 11, the afternoon session will be dedicated to interaction between the club owners, Association and Federation heads, players and FIFPro to discuss the on-goings of football in India and the current situation for players in the country. Australian PFA Chairman Brendan Schwab and Japan PFA representative Takuya Yamazaki will provide invaluable opinions on contracts, etc as both of them are on the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber.

All the FIFPro Asia delegates will stay back for the FPAI Indian Football Awards on May 12 that will be held at 19.00 IST at the same hotel, the Marriot Resort & Spa Hotel in Panjim.

rs1.tv VIDEO: FC Remscheid win away to Union Nettetal

My home town team FC Remscheid here in Germany won their away tie in the Landesliga Gruppe 2 (7th German division) with a 3-1 win against SC Union Nettetal to stay in the hunt for promotion. The former 2.Bundesliga club now have 39 points from 20 matches and moved into fifth place.

Here my report for rs1.tv after yesterday's match


Minggu, 25 Maret 2012

I-League: On-field death forces HAL vs Arrows postponement

Due to the on-field death of Venkatesh D. from Bangalore MARS during a Bangalore 'A' division match last Wednesday the Karnataka State Football Association had requested the AIFF and the I-League to postpone the upcoming HAL vs Pailan Arrows match.

There are tensions in Bangalore football circles following the death of Venkatesh D. with the KSFA and especially the Bangalore District Football Association under fire for not providing adequate medical facilities and an ambulance at the match venue.

AIFF vice-president and KSFA president A.R. Khaleel had said to the media, "Following the death of Venkatesh on Wednesday, situation is not conducive at the moment to stage a football match."

Relegation threathened Hindustan Aeronautics Limited SC were supposed to take on the Pailan Arrows on March 31 at the Bangalore Football Stadium, but now it would be held on April 28 as per the revised schedule of the ongoing I-League.

I-League Division 2: United Sikkim lead after first-leg

The first-leg of the Final Round of the I-League Division 2 ended earlier today in Siliguri after 18 of the 36 matches played. The second-leg will kick-off in Sikkim's capital Gangtok on March 29 with the final league match to be played on April 17.

After the first six matches United Sikkim FC are in pole position with 13 points ahead of Mohammedan Sporting Club (12 pts), who occupy the other I-League promotion spot ahead of ONGC (11 pts), Royal Wahingdoh FC (10 pts), Vasco SC (6 pts), Kalighat Milan Sangha (5 pts) and Aizawl FC (1 pt).

Royal Wahingdoh FC could have been at the top of the table along with United Sikkim FC, but a substitution mistake in their 4-1 victory against ONGC by playing a fourth foreigner late in injury time robbed them of the three points. Here the report: http://arunfoot.blogspot.de/2012/03/i-league-division-2-royal-wahingdoh.html
I-League Division 2: Royal Wahingdoh punished, ONGC get points


FIXTURES & RESULTS

Siliguri Phase - 1st-leg
05-Mar-2012: ONGC, Mumbai 5-0 Aizawl FC
05-Mar-2012: United Sikkim FC 3-2 Vasco SC
06-Mar-2012: Mohammedan Sporting Club 1-0 Kalighat Milan Sangha

10-Mar-2012: Mohammedan Sporting Club 0-1 ONGC, Mumbai
08-Mar-2012: Kalighat Milan Sangha 3-0 Aizawl FC
08-Mar-2012: Royal Wahingdoh FC 1-1 Vasco SC

12-Mar-2012: United Sikkim FC 4-2 ONGC, Mumbai
12-Mar-2012: Kalighat Milan Sangha 0-1 Royal Wahingdoh FC
13-Mar-2012: Mohammedan Sporting Club 2-0 Vasco SC

15-Mar-2012: Kalighat Milan Sangha 2-3 United Sikkim FC
15-Mar-2012: Vasco SC 2-1 Aizawl FC
16-Mar-2012: Royal Wahingdoh FC 0-3 ONGC, Mumbai
(4-1 for RWFC, but awarded to ONGC due to 4 foreigners on the field)

18-Mar-2012: Vasco SC 1-1 ONGC, Mumbai
18-Mar-2012: Mohammedan Sporting Club 4-3 Aizawl FC
19-Mar-2012: Royal Wahingdoh FC 0-2 United Sikkim FC

21-Mar-2012: Kalighat Milan Sangha 0-0 ONGC, Mumbai
21-Mar-2012: Mohammedan Sporting Club 1-3 Royal Wahingdoh FC
22-Mar-2012: Aizawl FC 1-1 United Sikkim FC

24-Mar-2012: Mohammedan Sporting Club 2-0 United Sikkim FC
24-Mar-2012: Kalighat Milan Sangha 3-3 Vasco SC
25-Mar-2012: Royal Wahingdoh FC 3-0 Aizawl FC


Gangtok Phase - 2nd-leg
29-Mar-2012: Kalighat Milan Sangha - ONGC, Mumbai
29-Mar-2012: Vasco SC - Mohammedan Sporting Club
30-Mar-2012: United Sikkim FC - Royal Wahingdoh FC

01-Apr-2012: Aizawl FC - Royal Wahingdoh FC
01-Apr-2012: Kalighat Milan Sangha - Mohammedan Sporting Club
02-Apr-2012: United Sikkim FC - Vasco SC

04-Apr-2012: ONGC, Mumbai - Royal Wahingdoh FC
04-Apr-2012: Kalighat Milan Sangha - United Sikkim FC
05-Apr-2012: Aizawl FC - Vasco SC

07-Apr-2012: Royal Wahingdoh FC - Mohammedan Sporting Club
07-Apr-2012: ONGC, Mumbai - Vasco SC
08-Apr-2012: Aizawl FC - Kalighat Milan Sangha

10-Apr-2012: Vasco SC - Royal Wahingdoh FC
10-Apr-2012: Aizawl FC - Mohammedan Sporting Club
11-Apr-2012: United Sikkim FC - ONGC, Mumbai

13-Apr-2012: Kalighat Milan Sangha - Royal Wahingdoh FC
13-Apr-2012: Aizawl FC - United Sikkim FC
14-Apr-2012: Mohammedan Sporting Club - ONGC, Mumbai

16-Apr-2012: Aizawl FC - ONGC, Mumbai
16-Apr-2012: Kalighat Milan Sangha - Vasco SC
17-Apr-2012: United Sikkim FC - Mohammedan Sporting Club

Is India an Emerging Football Market?

India will be on the agenda at the Soccerex European Forum 2012, which will be held in Manchester on March 28/29 next week with leading figures of European and world football attending. The workshop on Indian football is in the category of 'Emerging Markets'.

My question is quiet simple. Is India an Emerging Football Market? If not, what is it then???

There is no simple answer to this. I feel India is surely an emerging market in world football, but on the other side there are so many problems and obstacles which Indian football in itself will have to overcome to be able to not only be an emerging football market, but also become more then having this emerging market tag which has been hanging on Indian football's head for five to seven years now.

The whole discussion on where Indian football stands internationally was started by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who on a visit to India in April 2007 had said that India is 'the sleeping giant' of world football. He mentioned that point at international gatherings again and again following his India visit encouraging to support the development of Indian football, which FIFA themselves has done over the last five years.

Now earlier this month FIFA president Blatter was back in India and said 'the sleeping giant has finally woken-up'. But he didn't go into detail about what he actually meant. Surely FIFA, the Asian Football Confederation, European clubs, marketing agencies and others are keeping a watch on what is happening in India; but many could and would do more if the market was ready.

Another problem is by naming India as an emerging market many see dollar signs in their eyes and hope to earn money from such a market. But I always tell people that if you want to earn money in India, then you need to invest first and maybe in five to seven years you could start earning revenues or get returns on your investments. A lot of people disagree, but those are the real facts...

Sabtu, 24 Maret 2012

PLS kick-off to be further delayed

The inaugural season of the Premier League Soccer in West Bengal is set for its third postponement with the organising Indian Football Association (West Bengal) and the Celebrity Management Group facing problems with the Government of West Bengal regarding the six venues and as they cannot get hold of these they also cannot carry out necessary up-gradation work to make the stadia ready for the PLS to start.

The original plan had been to start the PLS, the IPL-style football league, in the last week of February, then the third week of March had been envisaged for the start of the new franchise-based league, but then it got further pushed back to April. Now even the start next month has been ruled out by the IFA and CMG as fundamental issues still remain to be cleared.

The organisers have not given a new kick-off date for the PLS, but it is clear that it now will start in the second half of the year. Surely it will not happen in May, June or July due to the summer heat. The earliest start as per statements from the organisers could be late-August once the next international transfer period is ongoing.

But as I stated in the The Hindu - Business Line on Thursday, I personally feel that the PLS can most likely not start before November then in August/September the rainy season is active across Bengal and then comes the festive season with Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Diwali.

How this delay will effect the PLS, the franchises and their foreign players will have to be seen. Maybe a new auction of foreign players and coaches would have to be carried out if those auctioned in January pull out, but first the PLS needs to find suitable dates and freeze those. Otherwise the reputation of the league will go down the drains and the hype around it will be die down with no ball kicked.

VIDEO: Real Madrid Resort Island

Spanish giants Real Madrid are doing a first for a football club. The Los Blancos have partnered the United Arab Emirate 'Ras Al Khaimah' to build the Real Madrid Resort Island on a 1 Billion US-Dollar theme park on a man-made island. The Real Madrid Resort Island will contain 60 luxury bungalows, a 450-room Five-Star hotel, a Marina with a yacht club and a RM Theme Park.

Here the impressive video of the RM resort island set to be opened in January 2015


U-16 Nationals - Final Phase: The Results

The 34th edition of the Sub-Junior Under-16 National Football Championship for the Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy ended yesterday with the final which Assam won 2-0 against Chandigarh. For the Northeastern state it was their first title since 1981, when they had jointly won with Kerala. Now it was the fourth title for Assam.

The Coca Cola sponsored Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy saw more then 40,000 children participate in the district, then state and zonal levels with the best 10 Under-16 state teams playing in the final round in Goa.


FIXTURES & RESULTS

Group A
Goa, Karnataka, Meghalya, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh

08-Mar-2012: Meghalaya 2-4 Karnataka
08-Mar-2012: Goa 1-0 Orissa
10-Mar-2012: Uttar Pradesh 3-3 Karnataka
10-Mar-2012: Orissa 1-0 Meghalaya
12-Mar-2012: Uttar Pradesh 1-0 Goa
12-Mar-2012: Karnataka 0-5 Orissa
14-Mar-2012: Uttar Pradesh 2-1 Meghalaya
14-Mar-2012: Karnataka 1-5 Goa
16-Mar-2012: Orissa 2-1 Uttar Pradesh
16-Mar-2012: Goa 0-1 Meghalaya

Group B
Assam, Chandigarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu

09-Mar-2012: Tamil Nadu 0-1 Madhya Pradesh
09-Mar-2012: Jharkhand 3-1 Assam
11-Mar-2012: Chandigarh 7-1 Madhya Pradesh
11-Mar-2012: Assam 6-1 Tamil Nadu
13-Mar-2012: Chandigarh 4-2 Jharkhand
13-Mar-2012: Madhya Pradesh 2-2 Assam
15-Mar-2012: Chandigarh 8-0 Tamil Nadu
15-Mar-2012: Madhya Pradesh 2-1 Jharkhand
17-Mar-2012: Assam 1-0 Chandigarh
17-Mar-2012: Jharkhand 6-2 Tamil Nadu

Semifinals
19-Mar-2012: Orissa 0-5 Assam
20-Mar-2012: Chandigarh 3-1 Uttar Pradesh

Final
23-Mar-2012: Assam 2-0 Chandigarh

Why was Team India once nicknamed Bhangra Boys?

In the last few days numerous people have asked me why I still use the nickname of Bhangra Boys for the Indian national football team when officially the name has been changed to Blue Tigers. I have called them so for over a decade and I have numerous fond memories about Team India as the Bhangra Boys.

I simply ask who decided to change the nickname? Then just changing a nickname without knowing the background and what something stands for isn't something which one should do, I'd rather have numerous nicknames for a national team like e.g. the Argentinians have who are called La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blue) and Gaúchos which is a term commonly used to describe residents of the South American pampas, Gran Chaco, or Patagonian grasslands, found principally in parts of Southern Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Southern Chile.

But do you know how the nickname of Bhangra Boys actually came into being?

I guess a lot of people do not know the story on how the nickname of Bhangra Boys came into being. It wasn't a PR agency who created the nickname, but the name came about during a match played between then English first division side West Bromwich Albion and India at the Hawthorns in Birmingham on July 26, 2000 during India's historic tour of England.

The match ended 0-0 but India challenged West Brom, who then were a top team in the second tier of English football. Baichung made a flying header which should have gone in, a great game by a then rising Team India. About 13,000 spectators attended the match and 90% of the crowd was Indian or of Indian origin. The atmosphere was the best I have ever seen at an India game with drums and dhools around, people supporting India which altogether created a positive vibe.

That night the term the Bhangra Boys was born! And over those three tours it became India's nickname with which the fans could identify. Especially in 2002 when India took on Jamaica in a tour which was named the Reggae Boyz vs the Bhangra Boys in the JamIn Tour.

Also in those days India used to play in a white jersey with the tricolour around the neck and arm, which simply looked great! And I feel we should return to that jersey's colour scheme as our home jersey. But then the term Blue Tigers simply wouldn't work.

I have great memories about those matches in England in 2000, 2001 and 2002; which in my mind have fixed the nickname of Bhangra Boys. I sadly do not have a connect to Blue Tigers and i'd like to continue to use the term and I hope it is fine with everyone out there...

Jumat, 23 Maret 2012

VIDEO: Team India in 2010 Portugal camp

My friend Nuno Mousinho Esteves posted this classic video of the India training camp in Portugal in the summer of 2010 ahead of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. His company SPUNP had organised the camp and also had this video made, a real classic. Hopefully you enjoy watching it as much as I did!



Under-16 Nationals: Assam champions!

Assam has caused a big surprise by winning the 34th Sub-Junior National Football Championship for the Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy. In the Under-16 National finals played at the Nehru Stadium in Margao, Goa today the Northeastern side defeated Chandigarh 2-0 with a goal in each half.

Assam seized the initiative right from the kick-off. After muffing two easy opportunities in the first ten minutes itself, they were eventually rewarded in the 11th minute when Milan Basumatary slotted home from close range after being fed by Lalzeiram Hmar from the right, a one goal lead which Assam maintained till the interval.

In the second half, Chandigarh came back with more purpose and had it not been for Assam goalkeeper Danswrang Basumatary who kept Samuel Lalmuanpuia's shot at bay in the 50th minute, the story could have been different. Chandigarh pressed hard but were not able to restore parity, the bast chance was Vikram Singh's long ranger hitting the post. At the other end Assam's Robin Chhetri failed to finish it off following his solo burst, but then Zeherui Islam sealed the game for Assam as he chipped the ball over rival goalkeeper Zothanmawia following a Rafel Narzary pass.

The chief guest was AIFF Player-of-the-Year Sunil Chhetri, who distributed the prizes while former India team mates Climax Lawrence and Mahesh Gawli were also present on the occasion along with Goa Football Association president Srinivas Dempo.

2012 AFC Challenge Cup lessons for India

The 2012 AFC Challenge Cup ended in disaster for Team India in neighbouring Nepal as the Bhangra Boys could not score a goal, conceded eight of them and went home as the bottom-placed team in the group with no point to its name behind North Korea, the Philippines and Tajikistan.

There were a lot of expectations and hope from the fans regarding the team going into the tournament, but I honestly was skeptical if India would be able to cross the group stage having been drawn in the tournaments 'Group of Death'. Sadly I was proven right, but now the AIFF especially the National Teams department along with Technical Director Rob Baan need to analyse what went wrong in Kathmandu and avoid similar mistakes or situations in the future.

But what are these points?

Host the tournament
The AIFF under pressure from Bob Houghton put forward its name to host the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup. Accordingly Bob prepared the team, the 2007 Nehru Cup was part of his plans, and the rest as most of you will know is history. The AIFF now needs to plan to qualify for the 2014 edition and then put forward its name as potential hosts, then another fact is that India is a different side when playing at home or abroad. At home we are a potent force, outside the country we haven't won a competitive match in a while.

National Coach needs to be Foreign
If one of looks at the history of Team India coaches over the last decade, then only two of them had long-term stints and they were Englishmen Stephen Constantine (2002-05) and Bob Houghton (2006-2011) with in-between stop-gap coaches in Sukhvinder Singh, Syed Nayeemuddin, Armando Colaco and now if his contract is not renewed Savio Medeira. The AIFF should scout for a suitable foreign coach, who can rebuild Team India after the generation of Baichung's, Renedy's, Mahesh's, Climax's, etc is gone.

Players of Indian Origin
The example of the Philippines shows if a proper search is conducted, the federation does everything to show the players of origin that they are wanted then they bring the results. Other nations do it as well like many countries in Africa, who bring back talent from Europe, even the USA and some Asian sides like our neighbours Pakistan have so strengthened their national team.
But for the AIFF to be able to play Players of Indian Origin in Team India the legislations need to be changed as per Government of India rules only Indian passport holders can represent the country. But that might be a task for AIFF president Praful Patel, who is also a Union Minister, to look into.

Younger Generation
The younger generation needs time to adopt to the higher levels of international football. That has been clearly visible in the friendlies and the AFC Challenge Cup. Though some have years of experience at the international youth level this has been a big step upwards. Also playing good in the I-League is simply not a criteria then at the international level more will be needed, which the national coach needs to realise and recognise. Also the new team leaders in Sunil Chhetri, Syed Rahim Nabi and Gouramangi Singh also need to show the way.

Preparations
Though Dubai camps worked quite well under Bob Houghton the overall preparations for the AFC Challenge Cup this time around in Nepal was not enough. Further too many players were persisted with who were not fit or who did not regain fitness.
The AFC Challenge Cup is the chance for India to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup, the only real route to the continental championships. And that needs to be planed in such a way that India not only takes part but has a chance to win the tournament to qualify.


Maybe someone in the AIFF is reading this...

Kamis, 22 Maret 2012

Soccerex: Emerging Markets Panel on India

The Soccerex European Forum 2012 will be held on March 28/29 with leading figures of European and world football gathering in Manchester, England. And once more India will be on the agenda with an 'Emerging Markets' workshop solely focusing on Indian football going to be held on the second day of the Forum.

As someone who has been to a number of Soccerex conventions and forums, I know that India has been on the agenda of the Soccerex organisers for many, many years and they have tried to give Indian football a global platform.

This time the India workshop is being hosted by Soccerex in conjunction with the Federation of Industrial Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Libero Sports (official Soccerex representatives in India).

The India workshop will focus on the what the organisers call unique business opportunities in Indian football. The session will be moderated by Sukhvinder Singh (MD Libero Sports) with AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das, Desh Deepak Verma (Director General of the Sports Authority of India), Vishwajeet Kadam (Secretary of Bharati Vidyapeeth University & AKFDC), Mario De Vivo (Inter Milan CCO), a representative from IMG-Reliance and possibly others taking part.

The focus will be on India's strategic vision for football, at both domestic and international level, and the work in development to optimise the country's bid to host the Under-17 World Cup in 2017. The workshop comes weeks after the visit of FIFA President Sepp Blatter to India to see the infrastructure progress in the country first hand. During the visit, Blatter met India's President and Prime Minister besides the football fraternity to update himself on the various developmental works in the country which also include FIFA-sanctioned projects.

AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said ahead of the workshop, "Soccerex is undoubtedly the world's biggest football business event. The India Session at Soccerex would give us an opportunity to talk about the unique business opportunities in Indian football. With India bidding for 2017 U-17 World Cup, Soccerex would provide an excellent platform to showcase our potential to the world."

I will be in Manchester next week to report about the panel and get views on what people in football think about India and its football.

VIDEO: Bangalore Footballer collapses at stadium; no ambulence present

The Bangalore Football Stadium witnessed a tragedy yesterday as 23 year old Venkatesh Narayan collapsed during a Bangalore First Division league match for his team Bangalore MARS. With no medical help or ambulance present his team mates took him in an autorickshaw to a nearby hospital, but he was brought dead on arrival.

Here a report from NDTV


PIO Indy Aujla: Club Coach in Belgium at the age of 24!

Inderjeet Singh Aujla, better known as Indy Aujla, is a 24 old British born footballer of Indian origin who at his current club Royal Racing FC Montegnee, a Belgian fourth division outfit has been named as the head coach until the end of the season. If my information is right then Indy is the youngest coach across Europe at this level.

For Indy the offer initially came as a surprise but after the second manager had to leave the club this season it seemed to be the best solution to see the season out with an internal solution. The RRFC squad is quite international with four Englishmen, two Hungarians and a French national besides a Canadian international player in the squad while the rest of the team coming from Belgium.

Royal Racing FC Montegnee president Peter Johnson, an Englishman based in Panama, spoke highly about his new player-manager, "Indy has shown a renewed desire to succeed in football. At a time when this particular club needed some enthusiasm he was instrumental in providing that and generating what was lacking in team spirit. Those are fundamental requirements, in my opinion, for a coach."

Meanwhile Indy in a detailed answer said, "It was an offer I couldn't turn down. I know all the player's very well and know our strengths and weaknesses. We have lacked the desire in the last third to finish chances. I have opted for a more direct approach as we have two very good winger's and the last match we played 4-4-2 and created many chances. In training I've been working on finishing inside the box, normally the first yard is in the mind and my studies in psychology have paid off as I'm incorporating mental exercises with technical ones. The president is well aware I am looking for a move to play elsewhere next season, but from now until the end of the season i will give my best both on and off the field."

And Johnson knowing that it will be difficult to keep Indy at RRFC said, "Having watched Indy play, and heard comments from visiting English pro Club coaches, he has the talent to become a very influential team member at much higher levels."

Indy now sounds more like a coach then a player and very mature for a 24 year old. Speaking about the job Indy said, "I'm learning a manager's work in never done 24/7 job. It's all good experience for me. I've always believed in my abilities and management is definitely an avenue I'm interested in after I retire from playing."

Peter Johnson added, "He is a very good player and has the respect of his peers and, in time when he finishes actually playing, with the proper coaching courses behind him I think he a good chance of succeeding as a coach."

For Indy coaching at Royal Racing FC Montegnee is a big task, but at 24 his football career is still at an early stage; but the experience he makes now will come good once he finishes playing and turns into a full-time coach.

Rabu, 21 Maret 2012

AFC Cup: Salgaocar draw, East Bengal lose

The two Indian participating clubs - Salgaocar SC and East Bengal Club - in the 2012 AFC Cup remain winless after match day two, but at least Salgaocar SC did cause a surprise by holding favourites FC Neftchi from Uzbekistan to a two-all draw at home while East Bengal were beaten 3-0 away by Kuwaiti side Kazma SC.

Group B: Kazma SC 3-0 (2-0) East Bengal Club
Kolkata giants East Bengal Club flew to Kuwait with the aim of trying to bring something back home to India, but again they came back empty handed. Kazma beat East Bengal 3-0 at the Friendship & Peace Stadium in Kuwait City. After an even game it was Kazma striker Yousef Naser who put the Emir Cup holders ahead in the 38th minute with a powerfully-struck free-kick from 30 metres which sailed past East Bengal goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu into the left corner of the net and a minute from the half-time whistle defender Naser Al Wohaid struck when he turned a cross from the right into the net from close range. The win was sealed in the 58th minute when Gambian defender Abdou Gammeh headed-in a cross from the left.

Group D: Salgaocar SC 2-2 (1-1) FC Neftchi
Salgaocar SC hosted FC Neftchi in their first-ever AFC Cup match at the Nehru Stadium, Margao which ended in a to-all draw. The Uzbeks were the better side, but the Indian champions game them a fight and earned a deserving point in the end. It was Otabek Isroilov who gave Neftchi the lead following a 27th minute free-kick but just before the half-time whistle Japanese midfielder Ryuji Sueoka levelled the score. Again Neftchi attacked Salgaocar's in search of the lead and they earned it through a Aziz Alijonov goal from a counterattack, but eight minutes from time young Gilbert Oliveira struck a great long-ranger perfectly which would give the Goans a point from this match.

4th EK Nayanar Memorial Gold Cup: BNR champions

Calcutta Premier Division side Bengal-Nagpur Railways caused a major upset by winning the 4th E.K. Nayanar Memorial Gold Cup title by beating I-League side Air India 3-2 at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode. The fourth edition of the E.K. Nayanar Memorial Gold Cup was held from March 9 to 21 in Kozhikode with eight teams having taken part in this edition.

The trophy once more travels to Kolkata as BNR replace Prayag United SC as the new champions. The minnows from Kolkata surprised everyone by first making it through the group stage ahead of Kerala XI and MEG, Bangalore and then scoring two upset wins against I-League sides from Mumbai. It is BNR's first major All-India trophy in years.


FIXTURES & RESULTS

Group A
Kerala XI; Air India; MEG, Bangalore; Bengal-Nagpur Railways

09-Mar-2012: Kerala XI 2-2 Air India
11-Mar-2012: Air India 2-1 MEG, Bangalore
11-Mar-2012: Kerala XI 1-1 Bengal-Nagpur Railways
13-Mar-2012: Bengal-Nagpur Railways 1-3 Air India FC
13-Mar-2012: MEG, Bangalore 5-3 Kerala XI
15-Mar-2012: MEG, Bangalore 0-1 Bengal-Nagpur Railways

Group B
Mumbai FC, Shillong Lajong FC, Southern Samity, Army XI

10-Mar-2012: Mumbai FC 2-1 Army XI
12-Mar-2012: Shillong Lajong FC 1-1 Mumbai FC
14-Mar-2012: Shillong Lajong FC 2-0 Army XI
14-Mar-2012: Southern Samity 1-3 Mumbai FC
16-Mar-2012: Southern Samity 1-0 Shillong Lajong FC
17-Mar-2012: Army XI 0-1 Southern Samity

Semifinals
18-Mar-2012: Mumbai FC 2-3 Bengal-Nagpur Railways
19-Mar-2012: Air India 5-1 Southern Samity

Final
21-Mar-2012: Bengal-Nagpur Railways 3-2 Air India

Sesa Cup: Under-20 Tournament in Goa

Sesa Goa Group, owned by Vedanta, will organise the second edition of the Under-20 Sesa Cup from March 24 to April 1. The tournament has not been held for nearly a decade, but the Sesa Group think that such a tournament could be a platform for talented youngsters to show their skills and capabilities as footballers to maybe become professionals.

The eight teams taking part are the hosts Sesa Football Academy, Dempo SC, Salgaocar SC, Churchill Brothers SC, Sporting Clube de Goa, Cavelossim SC, Curtorim Gymkhana and the Goa-based Brasil Futebol Academia.

The opening match will see Sporting Clube de Goa taking on Cavelossim SC at the SFA ground in Sirsaim at 16.00 IST on Saturday, March 24. The quarterfinals will be played from March 24 to 27, the semifinals are slated for March 29 and 30 while the finals would be played on Sunday, April 1.

There is also prize money to be won by the under-20 teams. The champions would received Rs 75,000, the runners-up Rs 50,00 while there would be individual prizes and 'man of the Match' awards.

PIO Shawn Singh signs for Sporting Kansas City

22 year old Shawn Bijan Singh, a Player of Indian Origin, has been signed by MLS side Sporting Kansas City as a 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft pick. After Sunil Chhetri's stint with the club in 2010 Shawn becomes the second Indian origin player at Sporting KC.

Born in Californian Bakersfield, Shawn Singh had been with the College team of the UCLA Bruins since 2008, playing a total of 56 matches and contributing 10 assists. Singh was also named second-team All-Pac-10 in 2010 and honorable mention All-Pac-12 in 2011.

"I'm very excited to be a part of Sporting Kansas City," Singh said. "I have nothing but the best to say about the entire coaching staff and organization. I enjoy the style of soccer that is played here and I look forward to a great season with the club."

The 175 cms tall Shawn Singh, mainly a left-back who can also play as a right-back, has been training with Sporting KC for a few weeks and played three friendlies for the club before they signed him. If Shawn will make the first team or rather get playing time in the reserve team will have to be seen.


Here some footage of Shaun Singh at UCLA


AFC Cup: Salgaocar host Uzbek side FC Neftchi

I-League champions and Federation Cup winners Salgaocar SC will host their first-ever AFC Cup match later today against FC Neftchi from Uzbekistan. The Group D encounter will kick-off at 17.45 IST at the Nehru Stadium, Margao and it will be the first continental match at the Goan venue under lights in years.

The Uzbeks will be a tough opponent, who go into the tie as favourites but Karim Bencharifa and his men will surely try to upset the plans of FC Neftchi. Except new French signing Maxime Belouet everyone is fit and after their opening day loss at Al-Arouba in Muscat, Oman; Salgaocar's will look to keep the three points in Goa as otherwise qualification from the group would become difficult.

Karim said, "We are well prepared and we are looking forward to a good game, especially because we are playing at home."

"We are banking on good support from the home crowd and the fans will be coming here in big numbers. Ticket sales have picked up and we are expecting a big crowd, so we will use our home advantage to the fullest."

"Neftchi are a good side. We have seen some videos and we are hoping to fight well against them and we are hopeful of a win," Karim added.

Salgaocar are hoping for many fans to turn and support the team. There will be two categories for match ticket. The General category will cost Rs 30 and the VIP has been priced at Rs 100. From today onwards the ticket will be available at the GFA office in Panjim, the Nike showroom (Opp Big G in Margao), Tilak Maidan and Navjivan Medicals (both in Vasco).

Selasa, 20 Maret 2012

I-League Division 2: Royal Wahingdoh punished, ONGC get points

The organising committee of the I-League Division 2 has punished Royal Wahingdoh FC for fielding a fourth foreigner in their 4-1 victory against Mumbai's ONGC on March 16 in a match in Siliguri. ONGC has now been awarded a 3-0 win and all three points.

This decision comes after ONGC had handed in a formal protest to the match commissioner following the match about the fourth player coming onto the pitch late in injury time, which is against the regulations of the league. The regulations allow clubs to sign 3+1 foreigner (3 from anywhere in the world plus one Asian), but only three of the four foreigners can be on the pitch at the same.

For Royal Wahingdoh FC the mistake could prove costly in the promotion race as it changes the points table. After the verdict ONGC are now second with 10 points from five matches, while Royal Wahingdoh FC drop to fourth with only four points from five matches.


Here the original report: I-League Division 2: Did Royal Wahingdoh FC play 4 Foreigners?

4th Assam State Premier League: Oil India champions!

Oil India Limited from Duliajan are the champions of the 4th 'Airtel' Assam State Premier League!

In a closely contested final at Guwahati's Nehru Stadium, Oil India Limited beat Assam Rifles 1-0 through a Jayanta Basumatary goal in the 21st minute. The new champions received a cheque of Rs 100,000 (1 lakh).

But the Assam Football Association will surely not be happy then two teams pulling out of the 10 team Assam State Premier League. Just before the start of the league Gauhati Town Club closed down their senior team, while Food Corporation of India (Guwahati) pulled their team out after two matches due to lack of players.


FIXTURES & RESULTS

Group A - Diphu
Assam Rifles SC (Tezpur), Morning Star FC (Diphu), Assam Police Blues (Guwahati), Public Health & Engineering Recreational Centre SC (Silchar), Gauhati Town Club [pulled out]

06-Mar-2012: Assam Rifles 4-0 PHERC SC
07-Mar-2012: Assam Police Blues 0-0 Morning Star Club, Diphu
09-Mar-2012: Assam Police Blues 2-1 PHERC SC
??-Mar-2012: Assam Rifles - Morning Star Club, Diphu
??-Mar-2012: Morning Star Club, Diphu - PHERC SC
??-Mar-2012: Assam Rifles - Assam Police Blues

Group B - Guwahati
Sports Authority of India (Kokrajhar), Oil India Limited (Duliajan), Assam State Electricity Board (Guwahati), Green Valley SC (Guwahati), Food Corporation of India (Guwahati)

06-Mar-2012: Green Valley SC 4-0 FCI, Guwahati
07-Mar-2012: Oil India Limited 9-0 SAI, Kokrajhar
08-Mar-2012: Assam State Electricity Board 0-0 FCI, Guwahati
09-Mar-2012: Green Valley SC 2-0 SAI, Kokrajhar
10-Mar-2012: Oil India Limited 1-1 Assam State Electricity Board
11-Mar-2012: SAI, Kokrajhar 3-0 FCI, Guwahati (walkover)
12-Mar-2012: Oil India Limited 1-0 Green Valley SC
13-Mar-2012: Assam State Electricity Board 4-0 SAI, Kokrajhar
14-Mar-2012: Oil India Limited 3-0 FCI, Guwahati (walkover)
15-Mar-2012: Green Valley SC 0-0 Assam State Electricity Board

Semifinals
17-Mar-2012: Oil India Limited 1-0 Morning Star Club, Diphu
18-Mar-2012: Assam Rifles 1-1,4-3 Green Valley SC

Final
20-Mar-2012: Oil India Limited 1-0 Assam Rifles

Ballack set for summer North American-MLS switch

Former Germany captain Michael Ballack's career is set to continue in the North American 'Major League Soccer' after his two year contract ends this summer with Bundesliga side Bayer 04 Leverkusen. This was indirectly confirmed by his agent Michael Becker.

Over the last few months it had become clear that the 35 year old will not end his career this summer and staying in Germany or even in Europe was not what the former Bayern Munich and Chelsea star wanted to do. Ballack's has been looking at the MLS with the city of New York his personal preference.

While his move to the MLS seems to be close to be signed, the club for whom Ballack is set to play is unclear. The New York Red Bulls are looking elsewhere with Aston Villa's Stephen Ireland their preference to be signed in the summer instead of Ballack to join Thierry Henry and Rafael Márquez in the Big Apple.

After his unhappy stay at old club Bayer 04 Leverkusen Ballack will hope that the new world will allow him to get more first team action. If Ballack goes to the MLS, then he joins former Germany team mates Thorsten Frings (FC Toronto) and Arne Friedrich (Chicago Fire).

2012 AFC Challenge Cup: A look back & the stats

The 2012 AFC Challenge Cup was held in Kathmandu, Nepal from March 8 to 19, 2012. Defending champions North Korea once more won the title by beating Turkmenistan again in the final like in 2010. The final victory qualifies North Korea for the next 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia.

The 12 day tournament saw eight teams in action with the matches not always going as per script, but in the end the overwhelming favourites North Korea won the AFC Challenge Cup title for a second time.

For Team India the 2012 edition of the AFC Challenge Cup was a complete disaster. Three matches - no goals, eight conceded, no points. The simple stats speak a clear language about a very poor outing.


FIXTURES & RESULTS

Group A
Maldives, Nepal, Palestine, Turkmenistan

08-Mar-2012: Turkmenistan 3-1 Maldives
08-Mar-2012: Nepal 0-2 Palestine
10-Mar-2012: Palestine 0-0 Turkmenistan
10-Mar-2012: Maldives 1-0 Nepal
12-Mar-2012: Nepal 0-3 Turkmenistan
12-Mar-2012: Maldives 0-2 Palestine

Group B
India, North Korea, Philippines, Tajikistan

09-Mar-2012: North Korea 2-0 Philippines
09-Mar-2012: India 0-2 Tajikistan
11-Mar-2012: Tajikistan 0-2 North Korea
11-Mar-2012: Philippines 2-0 India
13-Mar-2012: North Korea 4-0 India
13-Mar-2012: Tajikistan 1-2 Philippines

Semifinals
16-Mar-2012: Turkmenistan 2-1 Philippines
16-Mar-2012: North Korea 2-0 Palestine

3rd Place Playoff
19-Mar-2012: Philippines 4-3 Palestine

Final
19-Mar-2012: Turkmenistan 1-2 North Korea

Senin, 19 Maret 2012

Chelsea's Asian Star Scouting Programme is back!

English Premier League side Chelsea FC will once more organise its Asian Star scouting programme. This year young players aged from Under-9s to Under-12s with British Asian backgrounds will have the opportunity to compete to win a season-long placement at one of Chelsea's Elite Training Centres in London, Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and Essex.

Since its inauguration in 2009, the programme has already identified five potential stars of the future who have gone on to play for professional clubs' academies.

Previous winners of the competition were given the chance to trial for the Chelsea Academy but to ensure aspiring players get the best possible coaching, this year's initiative is offering a year-long placement on one of the Chelsea FC Foundation's Elite Training Centres.

The scouting programme is quite popular amongst British Asians, whose kids want to try and make football their career. Parents and coaches of talented youngsters are encouraged to apply.

The Asian Star 2012 registration form and further details can be found on the official Chelsea FC website

2012 AFC Challenge Cup: North Korea retain title!

In football sometimes history does repeat itself and it happened this afternoon at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu. Defending champions North Korea retained the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup title with a 2-1 victory against last time runners-up Turkmenistan to qualify as the first team for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia.

In the earlier third-place playoff match surprise package the Philippines beat Palestine in a seven goal thriller 4-3 to finish third, a huge success for the Southeast Asian nation.


Final: Turkmenistan 1-2 (1-1) North Korea

The final got of to a great start for Turkmenistan, who took a 2nd minute lead when captain Berdy Shamuradov burst through on goal and smashed an unstoppable drive past North Korea goalkeeper Myong-Suk Ri. Interestingly Shamuradov had also scored Turkmenistan's first goal in the 2010 finals.

The North Koreans had more from the match, but the Turkmen defence often held their ground in the first session though conceding the equaliser in the 35th minute when Nam-Chol Pak's cross from the right met an unmarked Il-Gwan Jong, whose header went in past Turkmen keeper Rahmanberdi Alyhanov into the net.

Substitute Arslanmyrat Ammanov rattled the North Korean crossbar with a powerful 67th minute free-kick, but the climax was still to come. Turkmenistan was handed the golden opportunity to win the match in the 83rd minute then Ammanov was brought down in the box by Song-Hyok Jang, but Shamuradov would go on to miss the penalty; while at the other end only a couple of minutes later David Sakisov brought down Kwang-Ryong Park. This time Song-Hyok Jang, who had committed the earlier foul at the other, would step-up and score for North Korea.

It ended 2-1 for North Korea. Once more penalties decided the fate of a final between these two side, once more the East Asians would lift the title and qualify for the AFC Asian Cup.

AIFF's 2012 AGM: The Decisions

The All India Football Federation held its Annual General Body meeting at Football House in Dwarka, New Delhi today. AIFF president Praful Patel chaired the meeting in the presence of AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das plus the Vice-Presidents Subrata Dutta, Ankur Datta, A.R. Khaleel and Venod Sharma.

The Executive Committee members of the AIFF and members from all the Member State Associations (except Arunachal Pradesh) and other stakeholders were also present as was Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran, FIFA Regional Developmental Officer for South and Central Asia; representatives from AIFF's Marketing partners and invitees from sponsors.

In his address, Praful Patel stressed on laying a solid foundation which would take Indian football to the next level. "We need to have a comprehensive Youth Development Programme which would guide us in the right direction," the AIFF president said.

"The Regional and the Elite Academies are going as per schedule," he added. "Coach Education stays an integral part of the Curriculum."

"2011 was an eventful year for Indian football. Besides India winning the SAFF Championship, the U-16 boys made it to the final phase of the AFC U-16 in Tashkent, which is commendable indeed. I also congratulate the U-13 girls for winning the AFC U-13 Football Tournament in Colombo recently," Mr. Patel added.

AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das announced that a new U-19/20 National Level tournament would be held every season from now on.

Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran made a presentation titled 'Performance' which stressed on Professional Football Management.

A minute's silence was observed prior to the start of the meeting in memory of former Indian internationals and administrators - Sailendra Nath Manna, K.V. Varadraj, A.S. Firoze, M.A. Sattar, Bobby Hamilton, Arjun Bikram Shah and Ejaz Hussain, all of whom passed away.

Bundesliga Column - Round 26: Dortmund & Bayern Munich march on

Round 26 of the 2011/12 Bundesliga season saw wins for the top four teams and many of the teams in the bottom half of the table gained valuable pointswith the relegation battle being expanded to teams, who had thought that they were already out of trouble and save. The big loser of the weekend where Hertha BSC Berlin and their veteran coach Otto Rehhagel, who now find themselves in the relegation zone.

Borussia Dortmund returned to winning ways after last weeks goalless draw against FC Augsburg with a 1-0 win against Werder Bremen. Dortmund could have won by a bigger margin against a young Bremen side, but their finishing wasn't as sharp as in recent weeks. The yellow-blacks now are on a 20 match unbeaten run, a new all-time club record. The golden goal was scored by Japanese birthday boy Shinji Kagawa as early as the eighth minute.

But Bayern Munich stay in the title race with their first away win in 2012, an emphatic 6-0 against relegation threatened Hertha BSC Berlin. Bayern continued where they had left off against Hoffenheim and Basel having scored seven goals in both these matches. Within 19 minutes Bayern were 3-0 ahead, the victory sealed and thereafter it seemed a race against time to score seven goals in the third match in a row. It ended with six, but after this crucial away win and that once more in such fashion Dortmund now know that the Bavarians will try and snatch the title from them.

Third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach returned to winning ways with a late winner from Igor de Camargo two minutes from time in a 2-1 away win at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, who themselves are now on a three match losing streak. For Gladbach the win was vital as they now have a 11 point led over fifth-placed Leverkusen in the race for the Champions league places. A loss would have closed the gap to only five points, which now means for Leverkusen to play again in next seasons Champions League looks very unlikely.

While in Kaiserslautern the lights seem to be going off after their 1-4 defeat against Schalke on Sunday and Hertha BSC dropping to 17th following their trashing by Bayern Munich, FC Augsburg and SC Freiburg continued their recent good run with further victories, while FC Cologne and Hamburger SV with losses moved closer to the drop zone.

Round 26 Results

1899 Hoffenheim 1-2 VfB Stuttgart
1.FC Nürnberg 1-3 VfL Wolfsburg
FC Augsburg 2-1 1.FSV Mainz 05
Hamburger SV 1-3 SC Freiburg
Bayer 04 Leverkusen 1-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Borussia Dortmund 1-0 SV Werder Bremen
Hertha BSC Berlin 0-6 FC Bayern München
1.FC Kaiserslautern 1-4 FC Schalke 04
Hannover 96 4-1 1.FC Köln

Minggu, 18 Maret 2012

Interview with Dhruv Ratra (Anglian Holdings), Shillong Lajong FC

I had the chance to catch-up with Dhruv Ratra, the CEO of Sports and Marketing at Anglian Holdings, the company which only a few weeks ago acquired a 25% stake in I-League side Shillong Lajong FC. Through the interview I wanted to find out more about what Anglian Holdings stands for, their aims and ambitions in football, especially Indian football.


Please tell the readers a little about Anglian Holding and your yourself?

Anglian Holdings is an NRI-owned (Non-Resident Indian) diverse multi-national company that has established a variety of businesses and partnerships across India, the US and Europe, such as steel manufacturing, commodities trading, green energy, real estate, luxury retirement homes, leisure resorts, beauty and lifestyle, business incubation, sports, etc. Our goal is to create and sustain successful businesses based upon Indian entrepreneurship and ingenuity. For more details, please visit www.anglianholdings.com . My personal involvement with the company is in the capacity of CEO of Sports and Marketing.

I left India more than 25 years ago to pursue further studies at the University of Chicago and then MIT, after which I experienced success as a serial entrepreneur based out of Silicon Valley. More than anything else, I have been playing football (soccer) from a very early age and in 1982 even attempted to get a scholarship to play in West Germany (which did not happen, for obvious reasons). While playing competitively in the US, I was fortunate to be associated with some of the first US football players who went over to play at the highest levels in Europe during the late 80s / early 90s, and was directly exposed to their experiences.


Anglian first invested in Danish second tier club FC Vestsjælland. When was it and why?

Once we had formulated our strategy towards raising the standard of football in India, we decided that it would be best to partner with a team that was heading in the right direction and which was under experienced, professional management. Furthermore, FCV was already training a couple of lads from North Korea, and were excited to scout emerging countries in Asia such as India for new talent. Finally, we believe that in order for Indian players to reach their potential, they need to showcase their talents at the right level. As a result, we went decided to partner with and invest in FC Vestsjælland in Spring/Summer of 2011.


Now comes the investment in Shillong Lajong FC. Why Lajong?

Anglian Holdings has always been interested in partnering with 'businesses' that have a good management team and a strong foundation. In the case of a football club, this translates to an established club that has close ties with its fan base and community, and is an extension of them. After our deal with FC Vestsjælland in Denmark during Spring/Summer of 2011, we began to look at and meet with a number of clubs all over India. Finally, towards the end of the year, and after numerous meetings between the two parties, it became clear that both Shillong Lajong and Anglian Holdings had very similar objectives for the future and an alliance was agreed to.


What inputs can Anglian give to Lajong to improve the club?

We won't be providing any tactical on-the-field inputs. Our expertise is operational in nature. We will assist in the training and exchange or players and coaching staff. We will also help build a world-class academy as well as help them develop closer ties with their fans and sponsors.


What opportunities of cooperation do you see between SLFC and FCV?

We feel that both sides can cooperate and share their knowledge and expertise at a number of levels. For starters, Lajong is planning to send some lads for evaluation and training to FCV hopefully as early as this summer. Once the initial visit takes place we will be in better position to evaluate other avenues of cooperation.


What are Anglian's long-term aims in Indian football?

I believe that football in India is at an inflection point. In recent years, India and Indians have experienced tremendous success globally in business, cricket, individual sports and now the time has come for football. However, as one can observe from the experiences of the US, Korea and Japan, we do not expect things to change overnight - it will be a long and gradual process, one that starts from the ground up. It is Anglian's objective to participate in this change no matter how long it takes. Not only do we aspire to raise the standard of the sport and coaching within India, we are also looking at new ways to help teams better connect with fans, journalists and bloggers, all of whom play an extremely important role that will help shape the next Messi or Maradona.