Category Archives: I-league

Second Division League 2016/17 set to kickoff today

Second Division League 2016/17, Football, India, 2nd, division, Fateh Hyderabad, Lonestar, Kashmir, Real Kashmir, Neroca, Pride Sports, Kenkre, Ozone, Sudeva FC, Mohammedan Sporting, Southern Samity, The Second Division League 2016/17 season is set to kickoff today. Twelve teams divided in to three groups will vie for the title. The league kicks off amidst the uncertainty regarding the impending restructuring of Indian football.  So much so that, at this point even the parent body will not be able to assure the winning team a guaranteed place in the top-tier of Indian football, with I-league’s future hanging in a balance.

Probably the only positive aspect about the 2016-17 2nd division league is that the there are two more teams participating in this edition. Teams like Real Kashmir FC (Jammu & Kashmir), Sudeva Moonlight FC (Delhi), Ozone FC Bengaluru (Bengaluru) and Pride Sports (Madhya Pradesh) are debuting in the league this season.

Following are the groups for the 2nd division league 2016-17 :

Group A: Sudeva Moonlight FC, Real Kashmir FC, Lonestar Kashmir FC, Delhi United FC
Group B: Hindustan FC, Southern Samity, Neroca FC, Mohammedan Sporting
Group C: Ozone FC Bengaluru, Pride Sports, Fateh Hyderabad FC, Kenkre Sports

Two clubs from each group will proceed to the National Finals where each Team will play against other on a home-away basis.

Fixtures :

Group A

Date Team A Team B Result
13-02-17 LoneStar Kashmir Football Club vs REAL KASHMIR
0:00:00
8/2/2017 DELHI UNITED vs SUDEVA MOONLIGHT F C
0:00:00
28-01-17 DELHI UNITED vs REAL KASHMIR
0:00:00
30-01-17 SUDEVA MOONLIGHT F C vs LoneStar Kashmir Football Club
0:00:00
2/2/2017 DELHI UNITED vs LoneStar Kashmir Football Club
0:00:00
4/2/2017 SUDEVA MOONLIGHT F C vs REAL KASHMIR
0:00:00
8/2/2017 REAL KASHMIR vs LoneStar Kashmir Football Club
0:00:00
12/2/2017 SUDEVA MOONLIGHT F C vs DELHI UNITED
0:00:00
18-02-17 REAL KASHMIR vs SUDEVA MOONLIGHT F C
0:00:00
19-02-17 LoneStar Kashmir Football Club vs DELHI UNITED
0:00:00
22-02-17 LoneStar Kashmir Football Club vs SUDEVA MOONLIGHT F C
0:00:00
22-02-17 REAL KASHMIR vs DELHI UNITED
0:00:00

Group B

Date Team A Score Team B Match Summary
21-01-17 Mohammedan Sporting Club  vs Southern Samity
16:00:00
22-01-17 HINDUSTAN F C  vs NEROCA FC
19:00:00
27-01-17 Mohammedan Sporting Club  vs NEROCA FC
0:00:00
28-01-17 Southern Samity  vs HINDUSTAN F C
0:00:00
4/2/2017 NEROCA FC  vs Southern Samity
0:00:00
5/2/2017 HINDUSTAN F C  vs Mohammedan Sporting Club
0:00:00
11/2/2017 Southern Samity  vs Mohammedan Sporting Club
0:00:00
12/2/2017 NEROCA FC  vs HINDUSTAN F C
0:00:00
17-02-17 Mohammedan Sporting Club  vs HINDUSTAN F C
0:00:00
18-02-17 Southern Samity  vs NEROCA FC
0:00:00
25-02-17 HINDUSTAN F C  vs Southern Samity
0:00:00
25-02-17 NEROCA FC  vs Mohammedan Sporting Club
0:00:00

Group C

Date Team A Score Team B Match Summary
20-01-17 Fateh Hyderabad AFC  vs PRIDE SPORTS
15:45:00
21-01-17 Ozone FC Bengaluru  vs Kenkre FC
15:00:00
27-01-17 Ozone FC Bengaluru  vs PRIDE SPORTS
0:00:00
27-01-17 Kenkre FC  vs Fateh Hyderabad AFC
0:00:00
4/2/2017 PRIDE SPORTS  vs Kenkre FC
0:00:00
5/2/2017 Fateh Hyderabad AFC  vs Ozone FC Bengaluru
0:00:00
9/2/2017 Fateh Hyderabad AFC  vs Kenkre FC
0:00:00
10/2/2017 PRIDE SPORTS  vs Ozone FC Bengaluru
0:00:00
16-02-17 Ozone FC Bengaluru  vs Fateh Hyderabad AFC
0:00:00
16-02-17 Kenkre FC  vs PRIDE SPORTS
0:00:00
24-02-17 Kenkre FC  vs Ozone FC Bengaluru
0:00:00
24-02-17 PRIDE SPORTS  vs Fateh Hyderabad AFC
0:00:00

I-league 2017 – Fixtures and broadcast details

ileague, indianfootball, soccer, league, Aizawl FC, Bengaluru FC, Churchill Brothers, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Chennai City FC, Minerva Punjab FC, DSK Shivajians, Lajong FCI-league 2017 will kickoff on January 7. Here is the fixture list for the first nine rounds and the broadcast details. Ten teams from nine cities will participate in the league this season.

Match
No
Date Time Home   Away Round TV
1 7-Jan- 17 7.00 PM BFC LAJ 1 Ten 2
2 7-Jan-17 4.30 PM KEB AFC 1 Ten 2
3 8-Jan-17 MUM DSK 1
4 8-Jan-17 7.00 PM MB CB 1 Ten 2
5 8-Jan-17 4.30 PM CCFC MPFC 1 Ten 2
6 13-Jan- 17 1.30 PM AFC MPFC 2 Ten 2
7 13-Jan- 17 7.00 PM MB LAJ 2 Ten 2
8 14-Jan- 17 DSK KEB 2
9 14-Jan- 17 7.00 PM BFC CCFC 2 Ten 2
10 15-Jan- 17 4.30 PM CB MUM 2
11 17-Jan- 17 1.30 PM AFC LAJ 3 Ten 2
12 17-Jan- 17 4.30 PM MB MPFC 3 Ten 2
13 17-Jan- 17 7.00 PM DSK CCFC 3 Ten 2
14 18-Jan- 17 7.00 PM BFC MUM 3 Ten 2
15 18-Jan- 17 4.30 PM CB KEB 3 Ten 2
16 21-Jan- 17 LAJ MPFC 4
17 21-Jan- 17 7.00 PM CCFC MB 4 Ten 2
18 21-Jan- 17 4.30 PM DSK CB 4 Ten 2
19 22-Jan- 17 MUM AFC 4
20 22-Jan- 17 KEB BFC 4
21 24-Jan- 17 DSK MB 5
22 27-Jan- 17 CB BFC 5
23 28-Jan- 17 CCFC AFC 5
24 28-Jan- 17 LAJ MUM 5
25 29-Jan- 17 MPFC KEB 5
AFC CUP 31-Jan- 17 COL MB PS
ACL 31-Jan- 17 AL WEHDAT BFC PS
26 1-Feb-17 AFC DSK 6
27 31-Jan-17 LAJ CCFC 6
28 MB BFC 6
29 1-Feb-17 KEB MUM 6
30 1-Feb-17 MPFC CB 6
31 4-Feb-17 MB AFC 7
32 5-Feb-17 DSK BFC 7
33 5-Feb- 17 KEB CCFC 7
34 5-Feb- 17 LAJ CB 7
35 4-Feb- 17 MPFC MUM 7
AFC CUP 7-Feb- 17 MOHUN BAGAN COL
36 10-Feb- 17 AFC CB 8
37 11-Feb- 17 CCFC MUM 8
38 11-Feb- 17 LAJ DSK 8
39 11-Feb- 17 BFC MPFC 8
40 12-Feb- 17 KEB MB 8
41 14-Feb- 17 CCFC CB 9
42 15-Feb- 17 AFC BFC 9
43 15-Feb- 17 MUM MB 9
44 15-Feb- 17 KEB LAJ 9
45 15-Feb- 17 MPFC DSK 9

Legend : BFC : Bengaluru FC, MPFC : Minerva Punjab FC, DSK : DSK Shivajians, KEB : Kingfisher East Bengal, MUM : Mumbai FC, LAJ : Shillong Lajong, AFC : Aizawl FC, CCFC : Chennai City FC, CB : Churchill Brothers, MB : Mohun Bagan

The Merger Rant

I-league, ISL, Indian Super League, HeroISL, Merger, One league, Goa, Clubs, Exit, Leave, League, FIFA, AFC

Who wouldn’t get frustrated and who wouldn’t want to rant about the mess that is Indian football. A visibly frustrated Nevin Thomas decided to have a go at it.  You can follow him on Twitter here.

The mess that is Indian football

‘A merged league is good for Indian football’, said a very important All India Football Federation official recently. The Indian football players echoed it (because it’s really not in our culture to voice concerns even if there were any). Foreign stars, with very little idea of how football works in India, were saying the same things too. After all, it was just common sense.

BECAUSE:

  1. Longer league means stability for players. They don’t have to keep jumping clubs every three months.
  2. Proper rest. They aren’t playing 3 games (2 of which went all the way to penalties) in 7 days.

READ: Steve Coppell’s take on ISL finals

  1. Going in sync with international leagues will allow smooth transfers of players (IN and OUT).
  2. We wouldn’t have to call it 2016-17 I-League when it’s actually held only in 2017 (OCD nightmares, you see).

The list, I’m sure, goes on and on. And as for the cons, I can’t think of anything apart from a few marquees (oldies) turning down ISL due to the longer duration of the league. Ok, so a few T-shirts won’t be sold. Who cares?

What is actually bewildering is how the AIFF has thought about all these ONLY after kick-starting a league. See, there was this football league, which in 2007 was rebranded as ‘I-League’, running in the country. Why didn’t AIFF try improving the league instead of starting a new one? Ok, it wasn’t doing so well, with teams pulling out faster than Sunil Chhetri could score goals. But, to be fair to them, they had valid reasons. How do you survive (financially) in a league that gets ZERO promotion? Blimey, I can’t for the life of me remember the last time when I saw ISL-like efforts being put in for what is still India’s gateway to the Asian club championships.

Which is why it was quite exciting (regardless of the ‘seize the means of production’ T-shirts I wear) to see money-minded IMG-Reliance (International Management Group-Reliance Industries Limited) buying out AIFF’s commercial rights in 2010.

But things didn’t exactly as some of us had hoped. The new-comer continued the trend of not giving a duck about I-League and then launched a completely different league — a shorter, IPL-style (thankfully, with no cheerleader nonsense) Indian Super League.

I know it has been three seasons now, but I am yet to figure out why there was a need to split Indian football into two, when there was already an existing league that complied to all the AFC rules.  If you had the money and the PR machinery to start a new league with a BANG, why wasn’t it utilised to boost the existing model?

So I decided to ask around through a poll on Twitter and here are some of the reasons I got:

1) Better packaging: A lot of people said the ISL made football in India way more ‘watchable’. In other words, it was better packaged for the Indian audience. 7 pm kick-off was ideal for office-goers as compared to the 4pm matches of I-League. Star Sports was doing a better job than Ten Sports in broadcast – better commentary, better camera angles, better pundits… basically better everything.

2) I-League’s failure: Years of lacklustre performances and mismanagement had given I-League such a bad name that it made more sense to start something fresh. If I was a sponsor, I would want to invest in something new (especially with the financial backing of IMG-Reliance) than a stale I-Leauge.

3) Moving away from family set-up: Indian football clubs have been traditionally run by wealthy families. With no self-sustaining mechanism in place for these clubs, AIFF thought it was better to encourage more corporate-sponsored teams. In short, ISL was an attempt to kill the likes of Salgaocar FC and encourage more Bengaluru FCs.

Barring point number two, all the other reasons I was told on my poll in Twitter, did not involve the need to start a new league though. Add eight new corporate sponsored (with solid financial backing) clubs to I-League and the pressure would have pushed family-run clubs to either pull out OR up their game, right? And, how difficult would it have been to have late kick-offs to make I-League more TV friendly?

We surely have enough stadiums.

READ Joy Battacharjya’s piece on stadium utilisation

And I’m sure TV guys would have been more than OK with broadcasting the game at 7 pm instead of 4 pm.

ESPN senior assistant editor Debayan Sen’s tweet sums the Indian football scenes the best up. IMG-Reliance wanted something completely in its control and AIFF happily gave a thumbs-up signal. Which would have been OK, had all stakeholders been consulted.  But were they?

 

Ever since the takeover, though, the agenda of AIFF seems to be somehow move away from the existing football big-guns. More corporate backed teams, less family-run clubs. The idea, as told to me by AIFF VP Subrata Dutta in an interview, is to ensure all clubs have a sustainable model for revenue generation. The baffling fact is how AIFF decided that family-run clubs cannot find a model but corporate-run teams can. Apart from BFC, no corporate-run club has scaled the zenith of Indian football. It is fair to say, ISL was a big nail in the coffin for all the I-League clubs which were already in scarcity of funds. The sponsors had something better to invest in and the likes of Royal Wahingdoh (exciting team from Shillong), and the Goan clubs, including Dempo SC (one of the most successful team in history of Indian football league), cut their ties with the I-League. Another theory is that a new league was always in the plans for IMG-R but Bengaluru FC’s phenomenal success caused the sudden plunge. BFC showed there is a clear way of succeeding in Indian football, a model other clubs soon tried to emulate, and the rising popularity of the I-League created concerns for the team at IMG-R plotting a new league.

Now, three seasons into the so-called football revolution, AIFF wants a League merger — for the better of football, it claims. But, like the idea of ISL, was this merger idea fast-forwarded due to BFC’s success in the Asian arena? It would look funny to the outside world that the league with the likes for Forlan and Malouda playing is not the one representing India in Asia. And I’m sure, BFC’s success has got the think-tanks at IMG-R and ISL teams licking their lips at the idea of more lucrative sponsorship deals.

But there are some problems with the merger plans. AIFF has agreed a deal with these ISL clubs that guarantees them no relegation for around eight seasons. So the top league, after the merger, will have teams playing without any relegation. The second tier league, which will be today’s I-League, what AFC recognises as India’s football league, will have no scope of promotion into the new top league, though, relegation still remains.

Basically, all the clubs who have traditionally existed, including big guns such as Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, now face the threat of not playing in the top league. While they can still compete in the second tier league, it remains highly unlikely that they will, considering the difficulty it will face in attracting potential sponsors with no titles to win or AFC competitions to take part.

Is it even fair to these teams who have done so much for Indian football? “We haven’t made any decision on which teams get to play top league and which don’t,” said an AIFF big shot when I asked.  “After Under-17 world cup, the new league will start,” said another AIFF biggie, recently in a press conference. So when will we ever get a confirmation on who will play where? Less than a year to go before the big shake-up and teams do not even know where they will be playing. So how can they sign a good quality player for a long term deal?

I-league, ISL, Indian Super League, HeroISL, Merger, One league, Goa, Clubs, Exit, Leave, League, FIFA

The Goan clubs have already left due to the proposed new roadmap for Indian football. Last year the likes of Royal Wahindoh and Pune FC cited the very same reasons for their exit, though AIFF stuck to its stance that these clubs failed to reach the financial criteria required to play in the top division.

Yet, barring BFC, the corporates have struggled to make the cut too. If Bharat FC had done enough to fulfill the criteria, then why did they pull out after a brief period?

Story made short — IMG-R walked into Indian football and did whatever it wanted to.

Nobody knows how many teams from the I-League will make it to the top-division. Nobody knows what the criteria will be. Will Kolkata have Bagan, East Bengal and ATK when many states won’t even have one team?

There hasn’t been a shortage of excuses though. One phrase given by most AIFF officials in their twisted justification is — ‘many clubs don’t fulfill the AFC requirements’. Apparently many Indian clubs do not have (financially and infrastructure-wise, I assume) to have an AFC club license. So why were they given the rights in the first place? And are we to assume every club that started atleast in the I-League era will fulfill these criteria?

In a way, AIFF is suggesting that only clubs fulfilling the set of rules will have a chance of making it to the top league after the proposed merger.

So I downloaded the 70-page-long AFC club licensing criteria for 2016 and went through it to find out what these possible reasons could be (the OCD kicked in)

I-league, ISL, Indian Super League, HeroISL, Merger, One league, Goa, Clubs, Exit, Leave, League, FIFA, AFCTo be honest, while the I-League clubs seem to be safe on the infrastructure demands, the financial part is slightly murky, with AFC wanting historic and future information. Clubs such has Salgaocar, which has relied on family wealth, might struggle to produce the required financial documents. Or so I think (I would love to be wrong).

Scroll reported that Salgaocar had failed to participate in the licensing process.

But one is to assume most clubs will be able to produce the required documents, considering how the likes of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan play in the AFC tournaments most seasons.

And mind you, while AIFF will not openly admit it, it’s the ISL clubs who will struggle a lot more to match the AFC criteria. For example the foreign player rule:

I-league, ISL, Indian Super League, HeroISL, Merger, One league, Goa, Clubs, Exit, Leave, League, FIFA, AFC

It doesnt mean the ISL clubs can’t take part. But they will have a lot of foreign players who won’t be allowed to play, which is an unnecessary burden on team wages. Will the foreign stars in the team be OK with missing out on Asia’s top league? Also, barring Goa, which other team has player with 3 foreign players or lesser, and succeeded in ISL?

The great Indian football league merger, at least according to me, should be delayed till ISL teams have more Indians playing. And once that is achieved, it can merge into I-League as one big, fat league (with around 16 teams) and we can thereafter replicate the 9-month league format that most countries have. Rather than rush to a merger, push ISL teams to  field more Indians, allow I-league to grow simultaneously, at least organically, if you do not want to promote it (AIFF has admitted that I-League TV viewership and stadium turn-out has increased every year), and in two years time, come up with a structure that benefits all stakeholders of Indian football. (Unified league in India likely after U-17 World Cup – Kushal Das)

But, my brain tells me AIFF and IMG-R won’t wait that long. Actually, AIFF Gen. Sec said it too.

If Oxford dictionary’s definition of ‘stockholm syndrome’ as “Feelings of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim towards a captor” is something to go by, then it perfectly describes the relationship between AIFF and IMG-Reliance. The Indian football federation seems to have completely lost the plot, and now, in its bid to survive, has developed an unjustifiable affection for IMG-R.

One can only be an Andy Dufresne (that’s your cue to watch Shawshank Redemption if you haven’t yet) and HOPE the merger will not mark the end of a legacy in Indian football.

This blog post is just a rant and it has nothing to do with my employers. In fact, I have a feeling they won’t like me so much after this. But, blah! As usual, I’m likely to make mistakes. I urge you to correct me wherever you think I’ve gone wrong..

Downloads:

You can download the AFC club licensing criteria here (page 33 infrastructure, page 55 financial): http://www.the-afc.com/uploads/afc/files/AFC_CLR_Booklet_2016.pdf

AFC Champions League competition regulations: http://www.the-afc.com/uploads/afc/files/acl_2015_competition_regulations_final.pdf

AIFF general secretary Kushal Das is living in a fool’s paradise – Sporting Clube de Goa

AIFF, Sporting Clube De Goa, Football, Indian Football, Goa, I-league, SCG, Flaming Oranje

Sporting Clube De Goa

The pull-out of Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa should have been a wake-up call for the AIFF to at least now set its messy house in order but instead the federation, and its ignorant general secretary, have resorted to unnecessarily pointing the accusing finger at us. In an interview to a news agency and other media channels, Das said “FC Bardez have a bigger fan following than these clubs. I have seen them in the Goa Pro League.”

Kushal Das is really cut-off from the reality. To say that a four-month old club has more fan following than us is ridiculous and a huge insult to the contribution of clubs like Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa, who have contributed immensely to the development of Indian football.

We wonder how many matches Kushal Das watched in Goa and how many I-League matches he has attended since becoming secretary?

For the ignorant Kushal Das’s knowledge, until some years ago, both clubs attracted massive crowd wherever it played. The Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, saw big attendances but since Praful Patel took over as president and Kushal Das was appointed secretary, the numbers have dwindled. Indian football’s slump is also reflected in the poor rankings and much of this is due to mismanagement by the AIFF.

The AIFF cannot blame the Goan clubs to hide its own inefficiency.

Indian football is at its lowest ebb and an ill-informed secretary doesn’t help its cause.

Kushal Das must remember that he is a paid employee of the AIFF. We have not made a living out of football but instead helped others make a living through football. It is clear that Kushal Das, who is occupying a wrong chair, has no clue about football in India and his comments reflect the deplorable state of AIFF at the moment.

Kushal Das is an embarrassment for Indian football. He must apologise for his comments which are shocking and uncalled for.

Mr. Victor G Fernandes
CEO.
SPORTING CLUBE DE GOA

AFC Cup 2016 Final – Know thy opponent : Through the words of an Iraqi Football expert

Air Force Club, JSW, Bengaluru FC, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, AFC Cup, 2016, Doha, Qatar, Sunil Chhetri, Hammadi, Star Sports, Football, Indian Football, Soccer, IraqThe big day is here. It is a momentous occasion for Indian Football as Bengaluru FC takes on Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya or the Air Force Club of Iraq as they are known in the AFC Cup 2016 final. Since there was a dearth of information on today’s opponent, I decided to get in touch with an Iraqi football expert to know more about Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya. I asked a few questions to football writer Hassanin Mubarak and here are his replies. Read on!

What’s is Air Force Club’s style of play?

Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya are an attacking side playing two forward up-front, with Hamadi Ahmed and the returning Amjad Radhi, one of the most prolific strikers in the Iraqi league in current times who is attempting to regain his old form. The little and large combination of Hamadi and Amjad were once the best two front-pairing in Iraq until Amjad left for Arbil in 2010. The striker wearing the No.40 for Al-Jawiya was top scorer in this tournament in 2012 with 9 goals. Amjad has spent the last couple of seasons in Saudi Arabia and Egypt without much success and while he was Al-Jawiya’s main forward during his last spell at the club, Hamadi has now taken on that mantle with Amjad being the second striker. Basim Qasim also has Emad Muhsin if needed. Al-Jawiya’s goals will depend a lot on the ability of the wide-men to create in the final third, the hopes of victory will rest heavily on the shoulders of Humam Tariq and 15-goal hit man Hamadi Ahmed.

Their Strong points and weakness according to you?

Al-Jawiya relies a great deal on the presence of Hamadi Ahmed, their main goalscorer and attacking threat. The new coach Basim Qasim appointed in the summer has not changed either the style or team formation since taking charge, however, they have proved to be resilient under the former Police Lieutenant and are unbeaten in the first six games under him. Basim Qasim will, however, have to reshuffle the ranks with the absence of center back Samal Saeed and winger Bashar Resan, two key players who will be suspended for the final. Bashar will be a significant loss, with the team balance on the wings with Humam Tariq on the opposite flank interrupted, with both players having the talent to switch flanks throughout matches. While Basim Qasim has a ready-made replacement for Samal Saeed, in Saad Natiq, however the coach does not have that luxury with a replacement for Bashar. One solution would be to start Hulgard Mulla Mohammed, the brother of the retired wing wizard Hawar. He is a different proposition for defenders compared to the pacy and tricky Bashar Resan. Hulgard does not possess the speed he once had but the versatile two-footed attacking midfielder can play on the wings or in central midfield. But the absence of Bashar will be a substantial miss for Al-Jawiya.

Are they going to play the same way in the final or are you expecting a cagey game from them? Who are all the players to watch out?

I expect Al-Jawiya will play their usual game in Doha and go out and score goals. It could be a cagey and cautious final if the game remains goalless. The key players will be Humam Tariq out on the wings and Hamadi Ahmed, they could be the winning formula for Al-Jawiya.

Are you expecting to see a lot of fans in Doha supporting the Air Force club?

There won’t be many Iraqi fans traveling and a majority of the supporting contingent will be expatriates living in the tiny Gulf state.

What’s the talk among the Iraqi football fans about Bengaluru FC?

Little is known about Bengaluru FC among both the Iraqi fans and the Al-Jawiya players but with both teams in a final, the opposition will be respected. 23 years ago Al-Zawraa, one of the most successful clubs in Iraqi football history were humiliated 6-2 by the East Bengal Club so Iraqis will be wary of this very fact.

Follow Hassanin Mubarak on Twitter here.

You can read his extensive preview of Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya here.

Muzaffarnagar to Doha – Nishu Kumar’s Incredible Journey

Nishu Kumar, Bengaluru FC, Football, India, AFC Cup, 2016, Soccer, Uttar Pradesh, Defender, left back, Doha, Muzaffarnagar, Indian Football Let’s start off with a question – How many top flight footballers hailing from Uttar Pradesh do you know? Just like me, you can take the help of Google to find the answer. Apart from the sheer joy of supporting a youngster in fulfilling his dreams of becoming a great footballer, Nishu Kumar’s  place of  origin played a great role in me doing a short feature on him.

The Hindi heartland is the region from where we don’t see enough talent popping up in our football scene and Nishu Kumar maybe the sign of great things to come and of untapped potential from the state.

Nishu, Bengaluru FC’s left back started his footballing journey from a small ground across his home in Muzzafarnagar. He played with his friends on the dusty ground. By eighth standard he had made up his mind on staying in a hostel to pursue his studies and had set a target to be achieved – to join Lucknow Sports College. So, when Lucknow Sports College came calling for football trials, Nishu didn’t have to think twice and got selected after the trials. This is when he spotted a newspaper ad about trials at the Chandigarh Football Academy. He had already made up his mind on living in a hostel to continue his studies, so although he did not know much about Chandigarh or the football academy, Nishu set out on a journey that changed his life.

In 2009, Nishu joined CFA, and under the guidance of ex-Indian internationals Harjinder Singh and Tejinder Singh, Nishu honed his skills to perfection. “I started off as a striker in football in my childhood, just like any other youngster. It is in CFA, that I started playing as a defender”, Nishu says with a grin. He was played as a central defender and excelled his position as he appeared in various tournaments for CFA and played the National school games and various age group tournaments for Chandigarh.

After almost four years in CFA, he appeared for Chandigarh in the Sub-junior National Championship for Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy. Even though Chandigarh lost the final to Assam, Nishu’s consistent display for the team was noted by AIFF scouts who were present during the tournament.

In 2013, Nishu left CFA to join the AIFF Regional Academy in Mumbai, and was subsequently drafted in to the AIFF Elite Academy in Goa. Former Indian International Sabir Pasha was the coach in the academy at that time and he slightly adjusted Nishu’s position on the field. Sabir Pasha recommended that he shift to left back and from then on he has been playing in that position with great success.

According to Nishu, “Playing as wing back as opposed to a central defender is much more interesting as it not only involves all facets of defending, but also provides an opportunity to test my attacking skills. Even though it involves a lot of running up and down the pitch, this is a position that I enjoy playing in.”

I have met Nishu a couple of times before I sat down with him for this interview. During our earlier meetings, he literally shied off from talking. Hence, I was curious to know, how come a shy person like Nishu changes to a combative footballer when he takes to the field.  He quipped, “Yes I am a bit shy off the field, but football is an high intensity sport and we have to be utmost serious while playing the game professionally, hence I am always charged up before match to give my maximum best.” After prodding a bit more, he says “Yes, probably when I am on the pitch playing football, I turn to be a different personality,” he says innocently.

Playing football and hoping to cut a professional career in the sport while hailing from a place like Uttar Pradesh where the sport is not very popular would have been quite a dream to accomplish. When asked if he ever imagined playing with stalwarts of Indian football like Sunil Chhetri, Nishu says, “While I was at CFA, I never imagined I would be playing at this level. But after I moved to Mumbai at the AIFF regional academy, I was more confident on where the game could take me.” While at the Elite academy, the AIFF U-19 team played couple of friendlies with Bengaluru FC, as part of their preparation for the Asian Champions Trophy tournament. He recalls how the whole team was so charged up to play against BFC as the team was already making waves in Indian Football and they were the team to beat according to the youngsters in the India U19 team. “We were so elated after the first friendly that I could not even sleep that night as we played against top players like Sunil Chhetri, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Rino Anto, John Johnson and others at BFC. But I never expected to get selected here. Later when I got to know that I got selected by BFC, I was so extremely excited.”

Nishu Kumar, Bengaluru FC, Football, India, AFC Cup, 2016, Soccer, Uttar Pradesh, Defender, left back, Doha, Muzaffarnagar, Indian Football Nishu, who is a Chelsea fan idolises John Terry. He has settled in quite well at Bengaluru FC after being signed on by the club in 2015. He has since appeared for some matches in the AFC Cup and I-league for the club. He says the seniors at the club always help him on and off the ground and playing along players like John Johnson is in itself an inspiration to improve and do well on the pitch.

Nishu Kumar, Bengaluru FC, Football, India, AFC Cup, 2016, Soccer, Uttar Pradesh, Defender, left back, Doha, Muzaffarnagar, Indian Football Nishu was signed on by the club when Ashley Westwood was the coach and now they have a  new coach in Albert Roca. When asked about the difference between two coaches, Nishu said, “there is not much of a difference, but yes, both of them have a different approach to the game. Roca insists on playing with the ball and having more possession, but Ashley was about high intensity and used to totally charges us up while preparing for a match.”

It is obvious that Nishu has a long way to go in his career, so when asked about this he said, “This is only a prelude, I know I can do even better and I am trying hard to improve and get better.” He is hoping to make the maximum out of the chances that have come his way this season, and is keen to impress the coach and the fans alike. Just as any other Indian footballer, he dreams of playing for the senior Indian national team someday! Nishu attributes his success to the coaches who have helped him develop and is quick to credit all who have helped him over the years to reach where he is now.

When I was about to wind up the interview, I thought of asking him one last question. “Did anyone from UP football association ever talk to you?” NO, was the answer. This reply was predictable and is a glimpse into what exactly is ailing our football system. But despite these challenges, there are talents like Nishu Kumar who, if provided with the right guidance and platform can excel in the top level. I wished him the best for the finals of the AFC Cup in Doha and we bid good bye!

Bengaluru FC, The history Makers

Bengaluru FC, CK Vineeth, Football, Bengaluru, Bangalore, Bengaluru FC, Indian Football, AFC Cup, Johor Darul Taksim, Malaysia

Pic Credit : JSW Media

Fans were cheering and dressed in blue as the teams walked into the stadium. Albert Roca’s men dressed in blue (home jersey) and the Malaysian side were in their red shirts.A goalless draw would take the home team to the finals. The Malaysian side have never lost to the Indian side in their 4 meetings against them , BFC managed to walk home with a draw in their last meeting.
Peeeep!!! The match started with Bengaluru driving forward , the home advantage has given the blue’s much needed confidence. Blues dominated  the field as Rino Anto troubled the JDT defense with his quality crosses . Both teams played good football , it was a delight to watch both the sides attacking each others goal .Against the run of play the visitors pierced Bengaluru’s net in the 11th minute through their captain,  Safiq Rahim as he scored from the close range.

The goal certainly  made the home team restless as they looked dangerous at the opponent half . They had chances to score the equaliser , but the home team was more interested in wasting the chances rather than scoring from it. On the other hand Roca’s men in  looked dangerous on the break ,but their efforts lacked quality to test the keeper. Bengaluru was desperate to make the score level before the break and their moment came in the 40th minute as the captain Sunil Chhetri headed home the equaliser from Eugenson Lyngdoh’s corner. There were some odd efforts on either ends but the efforts were not enough to break the deadlock. As referee pointed to the half time scores were equal.

The second half began with the same intensity but this time the away team were dominating the field with their possession and their team play , as they were closing down too quickly on BFC players.JDT  made the first substitution of the match and were  bossing the midfield areas .Meanwhile home team looked  dangerous on break and they got in front in the 66th minute . The captain stepped up again , Chhetri scored a 30 yard stunner from outside the box with his right foot . Few minutes later Bengaluru side extended their lead through Juan Antonio as he headed home the 3rd goal from a typical Eugenson Lyngdoh’s freekick. JDT put their bodies forward to make a come back but the home teams defense stood as rock. All the attacks by the away team was knocked off by the Bangaluru defense.Referee signaled the end of the match after a tough 90 minutes and the stadium erupted.

A Historic achievement , Bengaluru FC has made it to the finals of AFC cup, Proud moment for Indian football .The Iraqi Air force Club awaits them in the finals.Surely the newbie of Indian football made us proud.

Match Report by Jithin Baby. Follow his blog here : https://jithinbabymulackampilly.wordpress.com

Bengaluru FC announces plans for Residential Academy

bengaluru fc, academy, grassroots, bellary, john kila, vijayanagar,

(L-R) Bengaluru FC Chief Technical Officer Mandar Tamhane, Head of Youth Development John Kila and Chief Operating Officer Mustafa Ghouse at the press conference held at the Bangalore Football Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Wednesday.

Club To Scout In Various Parts Of The Country Starting With Bengaluru; Academy To Be Set Up In Vijayanagar, Bellary

Bengaluru: JSW Bengaluru FC, on Wednesday, revealed its plans of a full-fledged residential academy at the JSW Township in Vijayanagar, Bellary, at a press conference addressed by club COO Mustafa Ghouse, CTO Mandar Tamhane and new Head of Youth Development John Kila at the club offices at the Bangalore Football Stadium.

The club will conduct trials in five different locations across the country – Bengaluru, Kerala, Mizoram, Punjab and Chandigarh – in the Under-16 (January 2000 to December 2003) and Under-18 (January 1998 to December 1999) age categories. The shortlisted players will then be put through a final round of trials in Bengaluru after which the selected players will relocate to the academy in Bellary.

The Bengaluru leg of trials will be held from July 23 to July 30 at the Bangalore Football Stadium and interested players can register and obtain further information on the official BFC website,www.bengalurufc.com or on the club’s social media platforms. The dates of trials at the other venues will be announced shortly.

The fully-funded youth development program, which will be overseen by Kila, will provide for the players’ accommodation, education and nutrition.

“Youth Development has always been a part of the club’s philosophy and a residential academy is something we’ve wanted to put in place for quite a while now. John (Kila) comes with a rich experience of having implemented youth programs at various clubs and we are sure that under his guidance, our youngsters will progress through the ranks and make it to the club’s first team and in time, the Indian National Football Team as well,” said Ghouse.

With licensed coaches, physiotherapists, professionals in strength and conditioning and sports science, the BFC Academy will work in tandem with the club’s first team. With regards to the infrastructure, the facility comprises a full-length sand-based football pitch equipped with floodlights, a gymnasium and a swimming pool.

Kila, meanwhile, expressed his excitement at the project. “It is a privilege to be a part of this club as we are looking to put our youth in the first team, which I am very excited about. The BFC residential academy and talent hunt is a fantastic project and I am looking forward to working with the coaches and players,” said Kila.

Former Barcelona assistant manager Albert Roca roped in as coach by Bengaluru FC

Barcelona, Albert Roca, Bengaluru FC , I-league, football, India, Catalonia Former Barcelona Assistant Signs Two-Year Deal With Indian Champions; AFC Cup Quarterfinal Will Be Roca’s First Game In Charge

Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC are delighted to announce the appointment of Albert Roca as the club’s new coach. The 53-year-old Spaniard has signed a two-year deal that keeps him with the Blues till the end of the 2017-18 season.

Roca brings with him a wealth of coaching experience at the highest level having served as an assistant to Frank Rijkaard for five seasons at Barcelona (2003-2008) during which the Catalans won the Champions League once, the La Liga twice and the Spanish Super Cup twice before following the Dutchman in the same role to Turkish club Galatasaray (2009-2010) and finally the Saudi Arabian national team (2011-2013). Roca’s last job was as manager of the El Salvador national team where he was in charge for a year.

As a player, Roca’s most notable stints were with Real Zaragoza and CE Sabadell FC in the La Liga apart from shifts with a number of clubs in the second division.

“We are very excited to announce Albert Roca as the new coach of Bengaluru FC. He is, what I would call, a major signing at the club.  Albert has been with some of the best clubs in Europe as well as spent time in developing countries because of which he will have a great sense of the challenges India would bring,” said Parth Jindal, CEO, Bengaluru FC.

“We have had a very successful three years and Albert is only going to compound the efforts we have been making. He has also done some commendable work with young players in his career and that is absolutely in line with the philosophy of BFC where we are trying to develop players into stellar talent for the future,” he added.

Roca, a resident of Grannolers in Catalonia near Barcelona, said he was excited at the prospect of joining the Blues and was confident about playing the kind of football that the club and the supporters would be proud of.

“I’m very satisfied to have signed with Bengaluru FC. They are the champions of India, have fantastic supporters and most importantly, have a great support system and a management that is always hands on and wants to stay at the top. I want to assure our supporters that we will always give it our best. I want the supporters to be happy about the way we play,” said Roca.

Roca’s first game in charge will be the AFC Cup quarterfinal against Singapore side Tampines Rovers in September; a game he reckons will be a tough challenge. “The AFC Cup quarterfinal is definitely going to be a big challenge but we will do our best to get a good result and make the semis,” he said.

The Blues coach is expected to land in Bengaluru in the fourth week of July.

 

Ayeyawady’s Match-fixing Saga : The Breaking News that I Couldn’t Break!

Perks and dilemma of being an Indian football influencer.

Ayeyawady, Football, Myanmar, League, AFC Cup, Match Fixing, BettingThe latest news from Myanmar is that Ayeyawady United  is under the scanner from authorities over match fixing. A report that has appeared in Myanmar Times have revealed that a club official, along with some players fixed a few of their matches in Myanmar league, and also an AFC cup match. We are not yet sure of which AFC cup match of Ayeyawady was fixed, it will only be revealed after investigations are completed by the Myanmar league and the club itself. In AFC Cup, Ayeyawady was in a group comprising of Bengaluru FC, Johor from Malaysia and Lao Toyota FC from Laos.

It is being reported that an anonymous complaint has been filed with the Myanmar league authorities, involving officials and players of club. Ayeyawady had contrasting fortunes in the AFC Cup group stage as they got thorough drubbings at the hands of Johor (8-1) and Bengaluru FC (5-3) in their away matches. The home leg matches were also defeats, but the margin was less as they went down 0-1 to Bengaluru FC and 1-2 to Johor. They also managed two wins against the Laos side Lao Toyota FC.

On April 13th, when Bengaluru FC played Ayeyawady at home, and defeated them 5-3, I was quite elated. But suddenly, my sense of elation turned into a sense of concern, as an unknown twitter handle claimed that the match was probably fixed. It was a  commendable performance from BFC and all of a sudden when I got to hear this, it made me a bit upset. I started digging deeper to get more information on this.

Ayeyawady, Football, Myanmar, League, AFC Cup, Match Fixing, Betting

In no time, I followed the handle that broke this news and discussed why he thought that the match was fixed. This person, who introduced himself as a professional gambler from UK, explained why he thought the BFC vs Ayeyawady match was probably fixed and this is why he thought so.

Basically the odds in play were not moving naturally all game. Everything was almost over in the match and Bengaluru was getting hit constantly. Even with 2 minutes to go, the odds were so so short. The odds should be going the other way when the game is nearly over etc. Nearly every round of AFC cup games, a team will be fixing.

He went on to claim that it is pretty common for teams from Myanmar and Laos to indulge in match fixing.

Usually a Myanmar side or Laos side. Even happening in world cup qualifying games in Asia too. FIFA/AFC seem to take a blind eye towards it. I’m a professional gambler so it’s very easy for me to read the odds in Asian betting markets to see a game that looks dodgy.

…And was quick to point out that so far he has not seen an Indian team involving in fixing and gave a clean chit to our football.

For Bengaluru the prices were so much lower than what they should be. The defending for the goals back it up too. But yeah anyway the good news is that i’ve not seen an indian team fix this year so i’m pretty certain your football is clean.

We still don’t know if the match involving Bengaluru FC was fixed or not. But it was very surprising for me to see a report pop up this week – JDT’s AFC Cup opponent Ayeyawady face match-fixing investigation. Betting is not a silly issue, that I could go public without some credible evidence. So I kept it to myself, and later shared my concerns with some close friends who actively track Indian Football. They did not express any surprise either after hearing the news.

Betting is a dicey issue and it probably happens a lot in Asian football. Many reports claim that there are many betting cartels active in Asia. The recent inclusion of Justice Mudgal in FIFA’s governance committee is definitely a step by FIFA to utilize his expertise in understanding these networks that operate in Asia, especially South Asia. Justice Mudgal was appointed by the Indian Supreme Court as part of a three-member committee that led the inquiry in the IPL betting and spot fixing case.

Afterthought: There are no considerable rewards for running an Indian Football news Twitter handle, except having some followers among fans, players, officials and journalists, who are connected with and are passionate about the sport. But the real joy is when you get trinkets of information such as this alert on match fixing, which later gets substantiated. Call it a dilemma or a joy – these are definitely perks of being an Indian Football Influencer.

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