SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, January 6, 2001, Chandigarh, India

A new era in the offing!
by Ramu Sharma
NDIAN football has had its heroes from the field, some really outstanding players, all of whom left an indelible mark on the game. Then there was a coach called Rahim. He is still talked about as the greatest ever to have strode the scene.

Gritty rower from Chandigarh 
by Rubinder Gill and Arvind Katyal
T is rarely on the dismal sports scene of India that a star comes who holds out hope for the future. To come up from adverse conditions and catch everyone’s attention, is what Gurpreet Kaur has done.

Chiranjeev shows his skills
by K.R. Wadhwaney
hiranjeev Milkha Singh had not yet attained his “Derby” form following wrist injury sustained some months ago. But he showed his skill and ability in no uncertain measure in the Japan’s Qualifying School, where in a very competitive contest, he finished third. His performance, splendid as it was, saw him become the first Indian to earn a berth for the prestigious Japan PGA Tour.

  • Rohtas dazzles

  • Dispute

Joy & sadness of a knockout win 
by Gavin Evans
bulelo Botile felt a mixture of relief, delight and worry when he made it back to his changing room after stopping Britain’s Paul Ingle to win the International Boxing Federation’s world featherweight title in Sheffield.





A new era in the offing!
by Ramu Sharma

INDIAN football has had its heroes from the field, some really outstanding players, all of whom left an indelible mark on the game. Then there was a coach called Rahim. He is still talked about as the greatest ever to have strode the scene. Players and coaches are an inherent part of any game. But what about administrators? They too have a role to play, perhaps more important than either a player or a coach.

There are no two ways about it. The standard of the game in the country is not only linked with that of the coach but also of the administration. In this respect India could be said to be rather unfortunate. True, the people handling football affairs have generally been well placed and knew the right people in the right places to get things done. And also they all had the votes to get to where they could control the affairs of the game. But much more than political acumen and importance is needed. Good intentions alone are not sufficient enough.

It is in this respect that one welcomes the election of Mr Albert Colaco of Goa as the Secretary of the All-India Football Federation. The elation at his election is not because he was an acceptable candidate of both factions (despite K.N. Mour standing against him) but the fact that he had endeared himself to the players, clubs and the media by the efficient way he conducted the National Football League.

In a country so large and the variation in weather conditions and organisational problems, Albert Colaco became a password for efficiency. Rarely did he allow circumstances to overcome him or ruffle him. There was no denying that he was a very popular figure. And that is why the supreme satisfaction in at last having a man like him as the Secretary of the federation.

He has been very careful and meticulous in making public his plans to give a professional touch to the game in the country, all the time keeping the interest of the players and the clubs in mind. That is what it should be. The game has no meaning if the clubs and the players are unhappy. It was their disgruntlement with the authorities that almost led to a breakdown in Indian football with all the NLF clubs aligning against the federation. Happily that chapter is closed now, and more satisfactorily, one of the outcomes of that confrontation was the election of Albert Colaco. He provided the healing touch.

And if his pronouncements on the immediate future is to be believed then Indian football is in for better times. He seems to have addressed all the requirements so necessary to keep the game alive. His draft for the AIFF’s plan of action needs no recommendation.

Clubs playing in the National Football League will welcome his approach to the problems relating to transfers. Henceforth, all clubs participating in the NFL will be allowed to take players on loan from other teams that fail to qualify for a fee. This rule, which is to come into effect from the new transfer season will not only benefit the clubs but also ensure that the concerned players get to stay on in senior company.

This rule will not only help the clubs to strengthen their teams but will go a long way in saving money or cutting down on costs. In the event the clubs loaning the players as well as the players themselves will stand to benefit monetarily. Colaco, however, has made it clear that the rules will clearly distinguish between amateurs and professionals. The new rule in particular will be a boon for foreign recruits who will now be able to attract more attention and in the process more money because of the increase in demand for quality.

That of course is a questionable merit on occasions since not all the foreign players bought over to the country are in the top grade. Quite a few of them are lucky to have attracted offers if only because they belong to a country from which some top players have made a name for themselves in this country.

Among Colaco’s immediate plans is the expansion of the Delhi office with an extension in Goa, a unit which will be a permanent fixture. This is a good move and will certainly contribute to a more meaningful dialogue between the head office and his own State which is slowly emerging as one of most influential football centres in India. In fact the idea of setting up an office in Goa could be expanded and similar such offices could also be made available to other centres, including Punjab, which offers one of the best teams in India in JCT and any number of players needing exposure. The talent in this State needs to be nurtured and also made known.

One of the more ambitious plans include the launching of a website by the AIFF with a view for more and better interaction with the media and the Asian and world football bodies in addition to the proposed extension in Goa. The website is something long overdue and it is surprising that the AIFF has not been able to launch it earlier. Had it been done all the problems of a communication gap between the various affiliated units and also with the Asian Confederation would never have arisen. In this connection one remembers the AFC’s complaint against Mohun Bagan for not honouring its commitment.

Colaco and the new look AIFF’s ambitions include a special thrust on younger players with a programme in which the Indian team will have a minimum of three specialised players of equal ability for each position. This according to Mr Colaco is designed to strengthening the bench.

The AIFF’s decision to set up regional academies including one in the North-East is a step to be welcomed. There is a lot of untapped talent, particularly so in the North-East and Punjab and these academies would be of great help. In Punjab the Sports School at Jalandhar at one stage was doing very well and with a bit of encouragement from the AIFF, it can easily regain its once high stature.


Gritty rower from Chandigarh 
by Rubinder Gill and Arvind Katyal

IT is rarely on the dismal sports scene of India that a star comes who holds out hope for the future. To come up from adverse conditions and catch everyone’s attention, is what Gurpreet Kaur has done.

Gritty, shy, spirited -all this and more can be said about Gurpreet Kaur, the 17-year-old rowing sensation from Chandigarh. She was the only girl to win a medal for India in the sixth Asian Junior Rowing Championships which concluded at the Sukhna Lake on December 17. With hardly a year of rowing behind her she won a bronze in the single sculls event.

A swimmer, it was a visit to the Sukhna Lake last year which led her to rowing. While visiting the lake with her mother Jasbir Kaur, a physical education teacher at Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 20, Gurpreet was fascinated by the rowers there. “I thought may be I should try rowing. It looked good. I liked it,” she recalls.

The idea was worked upon. The mother and daughter garnered the required information, filled the requisite forms and Gurpreet’s rowing career began.

With barely 15 days of training she was selected to represent Chandigarh at the National Rowing Championships at Mahoba, UP Gurpreet won a bronze. Gurpreet has mostly trained herself with a little help from others, former rowers who have helped her from time to time.

“She started training alone. She still trains and practices alone since there are hardly any other rowers from Chandigarh. She is mentally very strong and it has helped her become even more tough mentally. On her own she has developed a good technique but she needs to be groomed, her skills honed. The mental attitude is her strongest point and very refreshing,” says Smita Yadav, the women’s team manager, a former rower and India’s first women rowing impire.

Coach Dalbir Singh thinks highly of her but was not completely satisfied with the bronze she got. He thinks she could have done better and won a silver. Two things mainly prevented her from that—first her inability to spurt in the last minutes and secondly her inexperience in international competitions.

This was her first international meet. She posted much better timings in the races at the meet than she does training alone. " What she needs is competition, as it is with more competition that she will improve more and more,” says Smita Yadav.

Gurpreet, who was expected to top her heat, faltered in her first international race and came second. She had a bad start as she is not comfortable in choppy waters. But the next day her first race was left aside and she stormed into the finals.

In the final , after a good start, she again missed a few strokes when her oar hit three floats demarcating the lanes. " I realised my mistake as soon as I hit the floats. I was worried but my whole concentration was on making the lost ground. Then I heard the crowd urging me on and I started the spurt. I feel happy that I have got a bronze, my first international medal but I feel I could have done better.” In her final single sculls, it was the crowd which urged Gurpreet for the final spurt. She almost left it too late. She won bronze by a very narrow margin Gurpreet, actually belongs to Rakhda Dhahan village of Nawanshahr in Punjab. After a 10-months gap , in August this year, her training was resumed. At the national rowing championships at Bangalore in November this year, Gurpreet clinched the gold medal in the single sculls event, which forced the Rowing Federation of India to select her for the national junior squad for the Asian junior meet. A month-long camp at Chandigarh under Arjuna awardee Dalbir Singh, the coach of the Indian junior team, prepared her for the meet.

Gurpreet, a Class XII commerce student of the GMSSS-20, has an 11-year younger brother who studies in class I. Her entry to the field of sports came in 1991 as a student of Shishu Niketan School, Sector 22. after repeated visits to the Sector 23 swimming pool, she finally managed to start her training.

A vegetarian by nature, her father, Mr Ajit Singh, an agriculturist, is worried that it may become an impediment in her further growth in sports. ever rising costs incurred in the sport is another worry for her parents. With the sports going hi-tech, the latest equipment, grooming, practice and modern coaching methods are the need of the day for her. Such prodigious talent should not be allowed to go waste.


Chiranjeev shows his skills
by K.R. Wadhwaney

Chiranjeev Milkha Singh had not yet attained his “Derby” form following wrist injury sustained some months ago. But he showed his skill and ability in no uncertain measure in the Japan’s Qualifying School, where in a very competitive contest, he finished third. His performance, splendid as it was, saw him become the first Indian to earn a berth for the prestigious Japan PGA Tour. It was a great achievement for an Indian.

Already in the European PGA Circuit, Jeev’s qualification in the Japanese circuit should help him to gain added confidence to scale new heights in international competitions.

Many experts, including a few foreign coaches who have had occasions to watch him play, feel that he has in him to bring far more laurels than he has so far achieved. “As he gains in experience, he will gain mental sharpness which will help him perform better”, said one experienced coach.

Always relaxed, friendly and ever smiling with a lot of sense of humour, Jeev is a player who should be able to win many competitions in the international circuit, if he learns to soothe his nerves on the course.

On the par-72, UMK Golf Course, in Mayakazi, a southern city in Japan, Jeev had a superb round of eight under 64 on the final day. This was a great performance by a player who was not familiar with the course. This helped him finish third. The winner and runner-up were both Japanese as they knew the course well enough. The champion was five strokes adrift from Jeev who carded 15-under 417 for six rounds.

Jeev was among 90 of the 200 participants, who made the cut and received their cards for the 2001 season. Of these, 40 will be given full exemption. The exempted players will have an option to pick and choose their competitions.

A well known journalist was all admiration of Jeev’s play on the final day of the Japanese tournament. He had an eagle on the longest hole, the par-5 10th. He had another seven birdies. Had he not made a bogey on the fifth, he would have brought the card to nine under instead of eight-under.

Jeev (29), is now humming with confidence. He will be playing two tournaments — the South African Open and the South African PGA Championship — in the third week of January. These competitions are part of the European Tour.

Rohtas dazzles

Age is more in the mind than in the bones or muscles. Rohtas Singh, the senior-most caddy-turned-pro proved this at 45 when he claimed the TNGF Open Tournament at the Cosmopolitan Course in Chennai recently. In a one-off competition, he fired five-under 67 in the final round to win the prize of Rs 1,21,500. He finished with an aggregate of 10-under 278.

Rohtas, who began his pro career 25 years ago, has been one of the keenest players in the country. He has taught many juniors. He is a father-figure to several caddy-turned-pros. An easy going and friendly person he has been one of the members of the Professional Golfers Association of India. He fully deserves an Arjuna award. Sadly, the pivotal body, called the Indian Golf Union (IGU) has not taken up his case strongly enough. He is one of the many who have received a raw deal from the Government.


The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has done a lot for the promotion of sports in the capital. But its plans of translating a nine-hole Lado Sarai (Saket) course into 18 hole may not, after all, become a reality as the additional land required falls within the ‘green’ of the 12th century fort of Prithviraj Chauhan fort complex. Qila Rai Pithera is a centre piece of a conversation plan which is being sponsored by Mr Jagmohan, Minister of Urban Development.

The Minister may have a point in protecting the monuments but he seems to be anti-golf.Top



Joy & sadness of a knockout win 
by Gavin Evans

Mbulelo Botile felt a mixture of relief, delight and worry when he made it back to his changing room after stopping Britain’s Paul Ingle to win the International Boxing Federation’s (IBF) world featherweight title in Sheffield.

The events of the previous 10 minutes on December 16 had confused him. I watched him raising his hand and shouting, “Yes! yes! yes!” when he realised he was the champion, before turning to the still-prone Ingle, and then walking over for a concerned second look.

Ingle was conscious but clearly in trouble and Botile hovered for a few seconds before returning to the embrace of his people. He had been booed by the Sheffield crowd throughout the fight, but when he turned to face them and raised his gloves, the crowd applauded him for his outstanding performance — a courtesy of true rarity in English boxing.

Botile watched Ingle being strapped to the stretcher with the oxygen mask over his face, so he knew that all was not well, but he did not yet know the extent of the damage his fists had caused.

When he arrived in the changing room he was suffering from a swollen left eye, a burst eardrum and a badly swollen right ear that would later require bleeding, but he was more worried about his opponent.

I spoke to him as he sat down to undress and he rapidly switched from saying how pleased he was to be vindicated to expressing deep concern about the consequences of this vindication.

“I don’t think his corner should have let him out for that last round because he had nothing left, and I didn’t want it to end like that,” he said. “I wanted Paul Ingle to be healthy. I wanted to wish him good luck for his future because he’s a very brave man, so I felt very bad seeing him carried on that stretcher.”

His South African manager-trainer Mzi Mnguni was elated about the success of this prodigal who returned to him and then to glory. But this was mixed with apprehension over Ingle’s condition.

“I knew we had really won just about every round but funny things happen in boxing so you can never be sure how those judges are scoring it, so I said to Mbulelo: “Go and take him out, when he went out for the 12th and he did what I asked.”

“After it was over I wanted to congratulate Paul on his courageous performance and wish him the best of luck, and I’m just so sorry I couldn’t speak to him. It is a terrible thing that has happened.”

Botile’s promoter, Rodney Berman, said he expected Ingle’s corner to call it off at the end of the 11th round when Botile dropped Ingle with three vicious left hooks.

“I’m sure the referee would have stopped it if it had not been for the bell because Ingle looked in a bad way, and my feeling is that you should rather let your man fight another day than take a risk.”

Botile proceeded to his hotel in nearby Rotherham, still unaware of the details of Ingle’s condition. When I informed him early the following morning that Ingle was in a coma and had been operated on to remove a blood clot, he seemed shocked.

A few minutes later he excused himself and went off to his hotel room — his sense of triumph deflated by the fuller realisation of its cost to his opponent.

Mbulelo Botile has made his name through this fight but its sad conclusion will cast a permanent shadow over the brilliance of his achievement.

It has also put boxing once again on the front pages of all of Britain’s newspapers, and revived the debate about whether the sport should be banned. A private member’s Bill was introduced in Parliament calling for professional boxing to be outlawed but it has no prospect of success.

Britain’s Sports Minister, Ms Kate Hoey, immediately made it clear that she was satisfied with the medical provisions at the fight, and that the government had no intention of legislating against the sport.

For boxers like Botile there are few alternatives. One of six children of a Port Elizabeth factory worker, he was sent to live with his grandparents in the township of Duncan Village, outside the coastal town of East London before his first birthday.

At the age of 16 he lied about his age to get a professional licence and had his first fight in July, 1989. But he struggled to get action and in 1992 decided to cross town and join Mnguni’s thriving gym in Mdantsane township.

Botile was not given much of a chance when, after 11 fights, he challenged the world-rated, highly experienced South African bantamweight champion Derrick Whiteboy, unbeaten in six years. But the youngster prevailed, winning easily. This victory set him up for his 16th fight against the big-hitting Harold Mestre for the IBF world title in 1985. Once again Botile pulled off an upset. He proved to be too quick for the Colombian, knocking him out in the second round. He raked up five defences in two years and looked to be the class of the division.

However, it all fell apart when he defended against Olympic champion Tim Austin in July, 1997. Botile, who had been fighting at bantamweight since the age of 15, struggled to make the weight and despite breaking Austin’s jaw, dropping him and dominating the early rounds, he couldn’t hold it together, and was stopped in the eighth.

“I don’t want to make excuses but I was very tight and very weak at bantamweight for that fight, and anyway I don’t think that fight should have been stopped when it was,” he said.

Tragedy was very much part of his life. His father died. Later two brothers were murdered in gang feuds within a month of each other. Then in late 1998 he was severely injured in a car crash and took several months to recover, the medical expenses almost crippling him financially.

In the meantime he moved up two weight divisions but struggled to regain the form of his early years. In his fifth fight at featherweight, in Washington DC in November, 1999, he won a split decision over former IBF champion Hector Lizarraga.

“I know I wasn’t fit enough for that fight and that I haven’t always worked as hard as I should. I was 100 times fitter against Ingle.”

He was now the IBF’s mandatory contender but the Ingle fight never seemed to materialise making Botile increasingly frustrated. Possibly because of this he tried to change camp and went to the United States but eventually returned to Mnguni, with his American trainer Terry Stotts.

The Ingle fight was certainly one of the finest performances ever given by a South African boxer and if he can maintain this level of dedication and focus he could hold onto his title for several years. He would like to test these skills against some of the other leading featherweights in the world, including, of course, the most lucrative of them all, Britain’s Prince Naseem Hamed.

“Naz beat my stablemate Vuyani Bungu, but now I would like to fight him, and, yes, I think I have the skills to come out the winner,” said Botile.

Berman, however, is stressing caution. “Both have now beaten Paul Ingle, and I think Botile’s performance, against a better version of Ingle, was more impressive, so I think he has a very good chance, but I would first like to build up Botile’s name and his confidence with a few defences before Hamed.”

He pauses for a moment before adding: “Unless of course there’s really an offer we can’t refuse. I think the fight will happen.”

But with Paul Ingle injured the talk of fresh challenges seems a little premature. As Mbulelo Botile expressed it: “I feel joy, but sadness too. I’m just hoping he’ll be okay.” — Gemini NewsTop



England complete cycle of poor form

WITH a well deserved 1-0 series victory over Pakistan, it seems England have completed a full cycle of poor form. Earlier in the year, they beat West Indies for the first time in 31 years. Nasser Hussain did a wonderful job, though he was unlucky as a batsman and Mike Atherton played a major role. I had already smelt it when Wasim Akram said “a 3-0 series win would be satisfying”. This victory will make next summer’s ‘Ashes’ much more exciting. The Australians are on the top of their cycle for quite a while now and they are due to come down. I hope it starts with their tour to India early next year.


Anand’s success

In the World Chess Championship, Vishwanathan Anand had a tremendous run. His philosophy of drawing with black and then coming on top with white pieces was sensible and commendable. In beating Alexander Khalifman in a long-drawn battle, he showed the grit, form and tenacity of a true champion. Anand has displayed a sound preparation for the openings and an especially attacking style throughout the tournament. In the openings he has shown a liking for Ruy Lopez with white and Sicilian with black pieces. But any variation, novelty or mischief tried out by his opponent was dealt with imaginatively, displaying a solid and wide preparation for the openings. An example of his attacking style was his second game against GM V Bologan, where the intended knight sacrifice ( move 37 Nf6) was a devastating blow for his opponent and closed all doors for him.


Call meeting

The Mandi District Sports Council is the richest sports organisation in the state, but it has miserably failed in giving a fillip to sports activities in the district. The funds of the sports council are being misused. It has also failed to convene a single meeting since its inception. The Deputy Commissioner, who is chairman of the council, should call a meeting to discuss financial irregularities.


Paramjit Singh

Paramjit Singh, quarter-miler, who reportedly broke “ Flying Sikh” Milkha Singh’s record of 45.6 seconds in 400 metres had recorded a timing of 45.56 seconds in the same event only two months prior to the Sydney Olympics. However, at the Sydney Olympics he recorded 46.64 seconds and was eliminated in the first heat. He could not come even near his timing of 45.56 seconds clocked at Chennai. The timing of this athlete on Indian solid appears to be manipulated. So far he has never come near “Flying Sikh” Milkha Singh’s record of 45.6 seconds in any foreign competition.