Category Archives: I-league

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.

Sunil Chhetri pens new deal with Bengaluru FC

Sunil Chhetri signs a new deal with Bengaluru FCBlues Skipper Expresses Delight At New Deal That Keeps Him With The Blues Till The End Of The 2016-17 Season

Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC, on Thursday, announced the signing of Sunil Chhetri on a one-year deal that keeps the club’s top scorer with the Blues till the end of the 2016-17 season. The India and Bengaluru FC skipper spent two seasons with the I-League champions before signing with ISL team Mumbai City FC and returning to BFC on loan last season and leading the club to a second I-League crown in three seasons.

“We are pleased to announce Sunil as a BFC player in what will be his fourth season at the club. I don’t think we need to be vocal about what he brings to the club and the kind of impact he has in the dressing room and outside of it. He’s been a top professional and leads the team by example and we feel he has a lot more history to script with Bengaluru FC,” said club COO Mustafa Ghouse.

Chhetri finished top scorer for the club for the third successive season taking his tally across all competitions in a BFC shirt to 35. His brace against Kitchee FC in the AFC Cup Round-Of-16 game in Hong Kong last month sparked a comeback from a goal down as Bengaluru carved a bit of history to make it to the quarterfinal to be played in September.

“I’ve always said BFC is family to me. We’re doing some amazing things at this club and I’m delighted to pen this deal. We’ve had a brilliant season and I’m really looking forward to build on it with the team. The fans, management, staff and dressing room have all made me feel at home from the day I stepped in to Bengaluru and there’s a connect with this city that is special,” said Chhetri – Press Release BFC

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Sunil Chhetri will be playing the AFC Asian Cup 2016 QFs with Bengaluru FC after the club managed to sign him up for another year. And that means he will not be with any ISL team doing their foreign pre-season jaunts in September when the AFC cup Quarter finals are scheduled to take place! Now, that’s some serious intent from BFC to conquer Asia!!

Should Aizawl FC be relegated?

Aizawl FC, North East, Football, Mizoram, Aizawl, I-league, Relegation, Gowth, development

Before Aizawl FC played their first I-league match against Mohun Bagan,  I had not seen them play ever. Against Bagan, under their Spanish coach, Manuel Retamero Fraile, they played some amazing football. Short crisp passing and movement, which is not a very usual sight in Indian football.  Even though they lost the match 3-1, they did not look like a team who were newly promoted and looked like a solid unit. Joy to watch but not efficient enough. For all that flair and style, Aizawl was not able to convert their chances. When they played at home, matches were sold out and got good support all through the league. Eventually, they fell short and is about to get the boot from I-league. But do they really deserve to be relegated?

Should have been more ambitious and pragmatic?

Aizawl played good football but they lacked a good striker to convert those chances. It was clear that they wouldn’t have escaped relegation without some quality players. But instead of recruiting some players, they went ahead and sacked their coach.

Aizawl under Manuel Retamero Fraile : L D L W L L
Aizawl under Jahar Das : D W L D L W L D L W

As evident, their fortunes did not change drastically even after they replaced their coach. Under Jahar Das, AFC did add Joel Sunday, a Nigerian striker who scored quite a few goals for them. However, I feel they should have retained their Spanish coach and should have added some more quality players to their side. If I-league players were too costly, they should have checked for some 2nd division players. Some more quality in their squad would have definitely helped their case.

Should Aizawl FC stay up?

The northeastern region in India is currently the hotbed of Indian football, especially Mizoram. They have a very promising set up in the state in terms of league and development. No wonder there are over 40 players from Mizoram playing in I-league. This was not achieved overnight. It is the fruition of a dedicated effort over the years – the results are there to show. Mizoram’s Santosh trophy win in 2014 and their victory at the National Games is a testament to that commitment. Aizawl FC’s entry into I-league after topping the 2nd division is a gradual and logical progression in Mizoram’s football journey. The question is should we have to forcefully halt that progression?

Over the last few years, we have had many clubs coming in and going out of I-league, especially from North East. If Rangdajied was thrown out, Royal Wahindoh decided to shut down their senior team after a swashbuckling appearance in I-league. And now Aizawl is on the brink of relegation. Whatever the reasons are, this is some serious injustice to clubs from the North East where football is undergoing considerable growth and is a huge market.

Resources of these clubs from North East might not match with others in the league, but what they have is sheer passion and commitment towards the sport. Take Royal Wahingdoh for example. They withdrew from I-league, but they have been a strong presence in the U-15 League, of which they were the runners-up after going down to Minerva on penalties.

If we are to reward the North East region and their football, instead of being a destructive force, stakeholders in Indian football should handhold these clubs to success. That could only lead to more aspiring clubs from North East to vie for spots in I-league and 2nd division.

The latest edition of I-league was a nine-team affair after Royal Wahindogh and Bharat FC backing out. If Aizwal is retained in the league and with another team promoted from the 2nd division, the number of teams in the I-league for the next edition could be a respectable ten.

As the data from the poll, I conducted on FNI suggests, a lot of fans are in favor of Aizawl FC staying up in the league. It’s time the voices are heard out loud and clear – let’s hope someone is taking a note.

Santosh Trophy 2016 : Final Round – Groups & Fixtures

Santosh Trophy, 2016, Nagpur, final round, February, West Bengal, Railways, Services, Assam, Mizoram, Goa, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Jammu & KashmirSantosh Trophy 2016 : Final Round will be held Nagpur. Two teams qualified from the zonal qualifiers are grouped into two groups.

Venue:

Matches will be played at South East Central Ralway ground in Motibagh and Nagpur University ground

Group A: Services, Mizoram, Jammu & Kashmir, Railways, Maharashtra
Group B: Punjab, Tamilnadu, West Bengal, Assam Goa

 

Matches Group A :

Date Schedule Results
Feb. 29 Mizroam vs Railways 1-1
Feb. 29 J & K vs Maharashtra 1-3
Mar. 02
Services vs J & K 1-0
Mar. 02 Maharashtra vs Railways 3-0
Mar. 04
Mizoram vs Maharashtra 0-1
Mar. 04 Railways vs Services 0-2
Mar. 06 Maharashtra vs Services 0-1
Mar. 06
J & K vs Mizroam  1-4
Mar. 08 Railways vs J & K  1-2
Mar. 08 Services Mizroam  1-

Points Table Group A :

Team MP W D L GF GA GD Points
Maharashtra 4 3 0 1 7 2 5 9
Services 4 3 0 0 5 2 3 9
Mizoram 4 2 1 1 7 4 3 7
J & K 4 1 0 3 4 9 -5 3
Railways 4 1 0 3 4 9 -5 1

Matches Group B :

Date Schedule Results
Mar. 01 Tamil Nadu vs Assam 3-0
Mar. 01 West Bengal vs Goa 1-3
Mar. 03 Punjab vs West Bengal 0-1
Mar. 03 Goa vs Assam 1-0
Mar. 05 Tamil Nadu vs Goa 0-0
Mar. 05
Assam vs Punjab 0-2
Mar. 07 Goa vs Punjab 1-0
Mar. 07 West Bengal vs Tamil Nadu  0-1
Mar. 09 Assam vs West Bengal 1-5
Mar. 09 Punjab vs Tamil Nadu 0-5

Points Table Group B :

Team MP W D L GF GA GD Points
Tamil Nadu 4 3 1 0 7 0 7 10
Goa 4 3 1 0 5 1 4 10
Bengal 4 2 0 2 7 5 2 6
Punjab 4 1 0 3 2 7 -5 3
Assam 4 0 0 4 1 9 -8 0

Semi final :

Date Schedule Results
Mar. 11 Tamil Nadu vs Maharashtra  0-1
Mar. 11 Services vs Goa 1-0 (ET)

Final :

Date Schedule Results
Mar. 13 Maharashtra vs Services 2-1

Kovalam FC on a fine run in the U-15 Youth League

Ebin Rose, Kovalam FC, India, Football, Indianfootball, Grassroots, Kerala, Football, Academy, Thirvananthapuram, SoccerKovalam FC, the sole participant from Kerala in the ongoing U-15 Youth League is on a fine run. With one more match to go, Kovalam is currently the toppers of Group F : Rest of India II.

After going down to Fateh Hyderabad 2-1 in a closely contested opening match, Kovalam FC came back strongly to defeat Boca Juniors Football academy from Bangalore 7-1 in their second match. From then on there has been no looking back for Kovalam FC. In the subsequent matches, Kovalam defeated Mahogany FC 4-1(Chennai) and overcame Ozone FC (Bengaluru) 2-1.

Ebin Rose, Kovalam FC, India, Football, Indianfootball, Grassroots, Kerala, Football, Academy,Thiruvananthapuram, SoccerKovalam FC will play their final match on 30th vs Bengaluru FC. Kovalam will have to at least manage a draw from their last match, if they have to maintain their chances to qualify for the final round of the U-15 league. Two teams from each group would qualify to the next stage where they would be divided into two groups. Subsequently Top two teams will get the nod to semi-finals and eventual final will decide the maiden winner of U-15 Youth League.

Kovalam FC’s story is a typical rags to riches one. After a modest beginning in 2009 with 20 footballers, Kovalam FC has one of the finest grassroots set up in Kerala with over 100 players training with the team now.

Do check out this interview we did with Ebin Rose (former Kerala & I-league player), who is the chief coach and dons the all-in-all role at Kovalam FC:

Interview : Kovalam FC’s Ebin Rose on Grassroots Development and More

Bengaluru FC replace injured Walker with Michael Collins

Michael Collins, Bengaluru FC, I-league, 2016, Huddersfield Town,Blues Sign Former Huddersfield, Oxford Midfielder Till End Of 2015-16 Season

Bengaluru:  Bengaluru FC, on Thursday, announced that the club would be replacing injured midfielder Joshua Walker with fellow Englishman and midfielder Michael Collins. Walker, who missed the first two games of the season with a knee issue, faces a long enough layoff to keep him out for the rest of the season, prompting Ashley Westwood to ring in the change.

“It’s under unfortunate circumstances that we have to replace Josh with another player but this is a short, congested season which means we had to move quickly. We’ve done our due diligence on Michael and I’ve spoken with former coaches, players and current scouts on the basis of which I’ve made my choice. Michael has more than 300 games in English football under his belt, is a good character and will be a good example of a professional to everyone around,” said Westwood.

Twenty-nine-year-old Collins started his career with Huddersfield Town with whom he spent six seasons, playing 173 times and scoring 19 goals. His second substantial spell was with current League One team Scunthorpe United where he played 79 games before moves to AFC Wimbledon (loan), Oxford City and York City (loan).

Interestingly, Walker and Collins have been teammates at Scunthorpe and the duo have been exchanging notes. “I’m very excited to start this chapter of my career. I got a call from the gaffer who gave me a lowdown about the League and more after which I had a word with my family and decided that this is the right time in my career to try something new. I’ve even been speaking with Josh who keeps filling me in,” said Collins who hails from Halifax.

Collins is slated to arrive in the country over the coming week, ruling him out of the Blues first home game against Shillong Lajong on Sunday. “There’s no time to stele in and I’m going to have to blend in right away. But I don’t think that should be a worry because I’ve been keeping myself fit. I can’t wait to come over and play my part in helping the club win the League,” said Collins who has 6 caps for the Republic of Ireland at the under-21 level.

While Walker has been replaced and de-registered from the I-League, he continues to be a Bengaluru FC player. “It’s unfortunate what happened with Josh Walker but it’s a call that had to be taken. However, he still remains a Bengaluru FC player and we wish him a speedy recovery. He was brilliant for us last season and had a big hand in the successful season the club produced. We will be working with him closely to see him recover to full fitness at the earliest,” said Mustafa Ghouse, COO of Bengaluru FC.

 

That’s how the North East kicks it!

Football, North East, Charity, Community, Royal Whingdoh, Shillong Lajong, Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, Assam, KolkataA glimpse of the football scene in Assam and Meghalaya!

When we planned a trip to the North East this December, I was all excited. Football, that was in my mind. When we had to replan our initial itinerary to avoid Tawang from the list and settle for Meghalaya and Assam, I was, even more, happy. Guwahati FC, Guwahati Town Club and the Shillong football scene was in my mind. It’s a year-end trip, my wife has yearned for a long trip for a long long time, all this meant I couldn’t outrightly tell her that I was looking forward only for football. I did not do that mistake! Will never do that!

However, I did send a message to Riewdondor Khongwir ( A good friend from Indian football Live FB Group) alerting him that I will be landing in Shillong and would love to meet up with him! We landed in Kolkata and took a train to Guwahati. While on the train we spotted a few football grounds in Bengal, however, I was terribly sad that I could not go to Salt Lake or feel that football frenzy in Kolkata. We did, however, see some hoardings of Atletico De Kolkata though.

Landed in Guwahati, took a cab all the way to Kaziranga and the whole place is littered, yes, littered with scenic football grounds. I hate tight schedules. For a laid back man like me, its a downer. In Assam too, I missed out seeing a stadium or a football match!

But that was not the case in Meghalaya. I met Riewdondor on the very first day I landed there. He assured me that he will take me to the JN stadium in Shillong. Again, we had so many places to visit and I was afraid if we could make it to the stadium. On our second day in Shillong, we took a trip to Cherrapunji. The wettest place on earth!

But the real surprise was a banner that welcomed us in Cherrapunji. An exhibition match between Shillong Lajong FC and Royal Wahindoh being played in a local ground. I had read about an exhibition match between the two sides some time ago. I thought the banner would be an old one.

We went around Cherrapunji and while we were on our way back, I could see crowd trickling to the ground and immediately told my cab driver to stop. We got down, walked up to the ground. What we saw afterwards is inexplicable. Junior teams from Lajong and Wahindoh was fighting it out on the field, and the stands were brimming with the crowd!

The best part was that the crowd had youngsters and elderly people, men and women, and even children holding hands and walking on the sides. Everyone cheering every single move! Unbelievable! Football in Meghalaya is a community festival. There were vendors selling all kinds of stuff around the ground, there were people perched on all possible parts of the field wanting to watch the match! It was an incredible experience! Sheer love for the game! I said to myself, this is the best part of my trip so far!

Next morning, Riewdondor came down to the hotel and we took a long walk to the Shillong JN stadium. All the way, we spoke about football, the huge role it plays in North East and, of course, the dismal affairs of Indian football. But a morning spent discussing football is definitely not any ordinary morning. We walked all the way to the stadium, saw the Polo grounds, newly laid artificial turf where Royal Wahindoh juniors were prepping for an upcoming match and then the stadium itself. JN stadium, which attracts huge crowds for the Lajong and Wahindoh matches, was in full glory under the morning sun. Riewdondor noticed that bucket seats were installed in the stadium. We stood there for a while chatting and he accompanied me back to the hotel. Thank you Riewdondor for taking me there!

The day before, I had managed to sneak into the Lajong office as well. I was bit late, though. Folks over there seemed pleasantly surprised seeing a football fan from down south barging into their office. However, they were kind enough to tell that if I could make it early in the morning the next day, I could meet the coach! 

There is no North East without football. For people there, the game is in their blood, to be nurtured as a community festival than a game, that bring people together, and keep their bonding with each other strong. If you are a football fan, and if you ever visit the North East of India, do watch a match there – your love for the game would just double! 

Credits to wifey for the pics and editorial support!

BOCA JUNIORS FOOTBALL SCHOOL INDIA TO PLAY UNDER 15 I-LEAGUE

Boca Juniors Football Schools, bangalore, UNDER 15, I-league, Youth, Soccer, Bangalore, Bengaluru, GrassrootsBoca Juniors Football School India (BJFSI), the premier football training academy in Bangalore has confirmed their participation in the inaugural edition of AIFF Under 15 I-League.  This participation comes as a consequent of successful completion by Boca Juniors Football School India of the AIFF Academy Certification Program introduced earlier during the year.

BJFSI will be participating in the Under 15 I-League under Rest of India Group and the first round of matches likely to be scheduled during January 2016.

“We are delighted to achieve this milestone through our organised approach and training framework under professional and qualified coaches. This will be fantastic platform for the boys to get exposed to competitive football environment in India. We applaud AIFF on their initiative to launch Under 15 Youth League “said Petros Sideris, Technical Director, BJFSI

Robin Singh ruled out for at least 6 months!

Robin Singh, Football, SAFF Suzuki Cup, Sri Lanka, Bengaluru FC, I-league, AFC CupRobin Singh suffered knee injury while playing the group stage match against Sri Lanka in SAFF cup. He suffered the injury while scoring his second goal against Lanka and was seen writhing in pain. Afterwards, he was immediately taken to the hospital.

National team coach had confirmed the next day that injury was not serious and Robin will be available for selection for the match against Nepal. However he did not make it to the squad versus Nepal and later news emerged that Robin was ruled from the rest of the SAFF cup.

He flew to Bangalore later for further assessment of his injury. Bengaluru FC owner Parth Jindal has taken to twitter to confirm that Robin will be ruled for an extended period.

Looks like Robin will be out for at least 6 months and this going to be a big blow for Bengaluru FC. BFC will miss his service for I-league and AFC Cup.

 

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