All set for I
Best putt forward
Kabul’s ball game
IN THE NEWS
All set for I
INDIAN football is poised to roll into an exciting phase with the start of the ONGC I (India) League beginning today. Defending champions Dempo will take on arch-rivals Salgaocar at Fatorda (Goa) in the opener of the 10-team event.
The I League, which is 12th in the series of the remodelled National Football League (NFL), will have enhanced prize money and a much more professional set-up.
For starters, the prize money for the winners has been hiked from Rs 40 lakh to 50 lakh, while the share of the runners-up has gone up from Rs 22 lakh to 28 lakh. In addition, winners of each match will be richer by Rs 35,000.
The teams that will battle it out are Air India and Mahindra United (Mumbai), East Bengal and Mohun Bagan (Kolkata), JCT (Phagwara), Viva Kerala and Dempo, Sporting Clube de Goa, Churchill Brothers and Salgaocar (all Goa).
Viva Kerala and Salgaocar have been promoted to the I League, while Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Mohammedan Sporting have been relegated to the B Division. The matches will be played in Kolkata, Goa, Ludhiana/New Delhi, Kerala and Mumbai.
A couple of JCT’s matches are likely to be played in the Capital as the crowd response to the NFL games in Ludhiana has been lukewarm. Similarly, the Viva Kerala matches may be shifted from Kochi to Kozhikode.
The new format of the I League, modelled on the professional leagues in Europe and Asia, like the J League of Japan, will also have many other interesting features.
Each club will be allowed to recruit four foreign players, though only three will be allowed to play in a particular match.
The clubs should have proper written contract with a minimum of 14 players out of which, four should have at least a two-year contract. Three players must be from the under-20 group, and each club will have to field an under-19 team for youth development in the Junior NFL — as well as nurture an under-15 team for competing in the Manchester United Premier Cup — which will initially be played in Gurgaon and Delhi.
Each club will also have to adopt a school at its station for spreading the game at the grassroots level. Each club will have to register 25 players for the league. The clubs should have a proper constitution for registration.
To lessen the financial burden of the clubs, the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) will be giving a subsidy of Rs 2.5 lakh for fielding a team in the under-19 I League, and an equal amount for appointing the administrative staff.
To promote greater attendance and improve the revenues of the clubs, after deducting stadium hire charges, 90 per cent gate collection will be given to the host club, which will also be responsible for the sale of tickets.
On paper, the concept of the league looks promising, and if India’s triumph in the Nehru Cup was an indicator of the progress made after the introduction of the NFL, things seem to be on the right track.
However, the NFL has not really helped Indian football turn the corner, despite spending nearly Rs 60-70 crore on the 11 editions so far.
The NFL was launched to give Indian football a shot in the arm, but foreign players seem to be benefiting more than the Indians from the league. For example, six of the top seven scorers of the 11th edition of the NFL were foreigners (if Sunil Chetri is excluded), though he too is not a native. He hails from Nepal, but has been domiciled in India for quite some time.
Odafe Onkeya Okolie of Durand Cup winners Churchill Brothers, who top-scored with 18 goals, including a hat-trick against Mohammedan Sporting, is from Nigeria.
His compatriots are Ranty Martins Soleye (16 goals) of Dempo, McPherlin Dudu Omagbemi (12) of Sporting Clube de Goa and Chidi Edeh of JCT (10 goals). Edmilson Marques Pardal (12 goals) of East Bengal hails from Brazil, while Andrew Pomeyie Mensah (11 goals) of Mahindra United is from Ghana. In fact, of the total 243 goals scored, 133 were by foreigners.
Even among the coaches, foreign recruits like Nigerian Clifford Chukwama (Sporting Clube de Goa), Brazilians Carlos Roberto Pereira (East Bengal) and Robson Mattos (Mohun Bagan) and Moroccan Karim Bencharifa of Churchill, were at the helm of affairs. Bagan employed three coaches — Robson Mattos (Brazil), Chima Okerie and Bernard Operanozie of Nigeria — but still could finish only eighth.
JCT’s Sukhwinder Singh was a glorious exception, having had the distinction of being the only Indian coach to feature in all 11 editions of the NFL. JCT also did themselves proud by winning the Fair Play Trophy for the eighth consecutive time.
But still, the NFL is yet to create a major impact among soccer fans as the average attendance for the NFL matches was 3,978.
The I League can be deemed a success only if spectators are drawn to matches.
AIFF secretary Alberto Colaco is confident that with the thrust being on true professionalism, the I League will move in the right direction.
Best putt forward
INDIAN women’s golf is set to make a giant leap when the Emaar-MGF Ladies Masters gets under way at the Eagleton Resort in Bangalore on December 5. Co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour (LET), the Women’s Golf Association of India and the Indian Golf Union, the inaugural tournament, being promoted and organised by Golf in Dubai, will see a strong field of 114 competing for a share in the 200,000-euro prize money. Solheim Cup stars Trish Johnson of England and Becky Brewerton of Wales are among the big names who have confirmed their participation. Twelve spots have been reserved for Indian professionals. “The tournament, the richest golf event to be played on Indian soil, will feature a galaxy of superstars and it could well mark the beginning of a golfing revolution in India,” commented William Rattazzi, CEO of Emaar-MGF. He said Emaar-MGF planned to bring golf courses of international repute to Hyderabad and Punjab. “The Ladies European Tour is delighted to visit India for the first time,” said Alexandra Armas, the LET’s executive director. “The tournament will be a great opportunity for Indian professionals to showcase their skills on the big stage,” she added. Her views were echoed by Champika Sayal, secretary-general of the Women’s Golf Association of India. “It’s a historic occasion for women’s golf in India and we are ready to host an event of this scale,” she said. The Emaar-MGF Ladies Masters will be followed by the Dubai Ladies Masters to be played at Emirates Golf Club’s Majlis course from December 13 to 16. Golf in Dubai is backed by Dubal (Dubai Aluminium) as the main partner, while National Bank of Dubai, Emaar, Jumeirah Hotels, Emirates Airlines, BMW, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Gulf News, Omega and CNN are its other partners.
Co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour (LET), the Women’s Golf Association of India and the Indian Golf Union, the inaugural tournament, being promoted and organised by Golf in Dubai, will see a strong field of 114 competing for a share in the 200,000-euro prize money.
Solheim Cup stars Trish Johnson of England and Becky Brewerton of Wales are among the big names who have confirmed their participation.
Twelve spots have been reserved for Indian professionals.
“The tournament, the richest golf event to be played on Indian soil, will feature a galaxy of superstars and it could well mark the beginning of a golfing revolution in India,” commented William Rattazzi, CEO of Emaar-MGF.
He said Emaar-MGF planned to bring golf courses of international repute to Hyderabad and Punjab.
“The Ladies European Tour is delighted to visit India for the first time,” said Alexandra Armas, the LET’s executive director.
“The tournament will be a great opportunity for Indian professionals to showcase their skills on the big stage,” she added.
Her views were echoed by Champika Sayal, secretary-general of the Women’s Golf Association of India. “It’s a historic occasion for women’s golf in India and we are ready to host an event of this scale,” she said.
The Emaar-MGF Ladies Masters will be followed by the Dubai Ladies Masters to be played at Emirates Golf Club’s Majlis course from December 13 to 16.
Golf in Dubai is backed by Dubal (Dubai Aluminium) as the main partner, while National Bank of Dubai, Emaar, Jumeirah Hotels, Emirates Airlines, BMW, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Gulf News, Omega and CNN are its other partners.
Kabul’s ball game
SHORT of funds and experience but bursting with confidence, Afghanistan’s fledgling cricket team is already itching to take on the best sides in the world.
“If we get even 50 per cent of the facilities that other international teams have, nobody would be able to beat Afghanistan,” declared national cricket federation president Shahzada Masood.
Buoyed up by what they claimed as victory in the Asian Cricket Council’s (ACC) Twenty20 Cup earlier this month, Afghanistan officials hope to attract aid to help the development of the recently imported but already popular sport.
Officially, the ACC final against Oman on November 2 was declared a draw because Afghan fans invaded the pitch in Kuwait before the umpire could pronounce the match over after Oman, needing three runs to win, had missed the last ball. Afghans, however, celebrated the result as a victory.
Their enthusiasm impressed former England all-rounder Matthew Fleming, who ended a four-day fact-finding trip to the country for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) recently.
“Clearly they are bursting with talent and interest is booming on the back of that victory,” said Fleming at the national team’s practice nets next to the bullet-riddled Kabul stadium where the Taliban used to hold public executions.
The MCC wants to help to develop the game in the country. The relationship began with a match in Mumbai in March, 2006, when Afghanistan thrashed an MCC XI led by former England captain Mike Gatting by 171 runs.
Two members of the Afghan team, Hamid Hassan and Mohammad Nabi, subsequently spent time at Lord’s on the MCC’s Young Cricketers scheme.
In June this year, fast bowler Hassan became the first Afghan cricketer to play at Lord’s, appearing for MCC against a Europe XI.
The absence of cricket in Afghanistan was a sign that the Afghans, unlike neighbouring India, had never been conquered by the British.
While the hardline Taliban banned most traditional sports, cricket was one of the things they brought with them from the Pakistani refugee camps where many of their recruits originated.
A new wave of refugees fled to Pakistan to escape the ongoing violence and, in their turn, brought the sport back with them when the Taliban were toppled in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the USA.
The Afghan team have done well in competitions across Asia, including the UAE, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Kuwait. — Reuters
IN THE NEWS
Foreign players are expected to call the shots in the Indian Cricket League’s Twenty20 tournament beginning in Panchkula on November 30. The “golden oldies” — Inzamam-ul-Haq, Brian Lara (if he makes it), Chris Cairns and Lance Klusener — will undoubtedly be the cynosure of all eyes, but there are several other players who can make a big difference to their teams’ fortunes.
Of the 30 imported players distributed equally among the six teams, four figured in the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa two months ago — England’s Darren Maddy and Vikram Solanki, New Zealand’s Craig McMillan and South Africa’s Johan van der Wath.
McMillan was the leading six-hitter in the 12-nation event with 13 shots beyond the boundary. His fireworks guided the Kiwis to the semifinals, where they were outplayed by Pakistan.
All-rounder Maddy scored an even fifty and took two wickets in the match against New Zealand at Durban, which his team lost by just five runs. Opener Solanki’s best effort in the tournament, a 31-ball 43 against India, also went in vain.
Pace bowler Van der Wath took six wickets in five matches for the Proteas, with best figures of 2-31 versus the Kiwis.
Another player to watch out for would be Delhi Jets captain Marvan Atapattu, who announced his retirement from international cricket earlier this week. The elegant Sri Lankan batsman, who has 5,502 runs in Tests and 8,529 in ODIs to his credit, is fresh from scoring a couple of fighting fifties in the two-Test series against Australia.
The oldest of the lot is 39-year-old Aussie Stuart Law, who was a key member of the squad that finished runners-up in the 1996 World Cup.
The way these retired or fringe players perform might well determine the fate of the Essel-financed event.
Chandigarh Lions: Chris Cairns, Hamish Marshall, Daryl Tuffey (all New Zealand), Imran Farhat (Pakistan), Andrew Hall (South Africa)
Chennai Superstars: Stuart Law, Ian Harvey (both Australia), Chris Read (England), Russell Arnold (Sri Lanka), Shabbir Ahmed (Pakistan)
Hyderabad Heroes: Inzamam-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood (all Pakistan), Chris Harris (New Zealand), Nicky Boje (South Africa)
Kolkata Tigers: Craig McMillan (New Zealand), Lance Klusener (South Africa), Darren Maddy (England), Upul Chandana (Sri Lanka), Boyd Rankin (Ireland)
Delhi Jets: Marvan Atapattu (Sri Lanka), Taufeeq Umar (Pakistan), Niall O’Brien (Ireland), Paul Nixon (England), Dale Benkenstein (South Africa)
Mumbai Champs: Brian Lara (West Indies), Vikram Solanki (England), Johan Van der Wath, Nantie Hayward (both South Africa), Nathan Astle (New Zealand)
Apropos of Ravi Kant Singh’s write-up “A toast to the host” (Saturday Extra, October 27), India admirably showcased its organisational skills by successfully staging the 4th Military World Games in Hyderabad. The spectacular, well-planned show won appreciation from Brig-Gen Gianni Gola, president of the International Council for Military Sports.
India was not found wanting in providing world-class facilities for the Games in which over 100 countries participated. Deservingly, the Indian armed forces earned plaudits for making the games a landmark in the history of the Games.
In comparison to the previous edition of the games, in which they could claim a lone bronze, India excelled by bagging 10 medals (two gold, one silver and seven bronze). Thus they finished 20th in the medal tally, which was topped by Russia. Interestingly, all Indian medal winners were men, whereas women from other nations created 17 games records. Overall, India’s show was creditable, though they could have done better.
Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala
Kudos to Team India for winning the one-day series against Pakistan. Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh were the architects of India’s triumph, which was their first ODI series win against the arch-rivals on home soil in 24 years.
Shoaib Malik’s men were outplayed in the Guwahati, Kanpur and Gwalior matches, though they staged a superb fightback to win the Mohali and Jaipur games. The victory margin (3-2) was not as close as it appears to be, for India were the better team.
Rajinder Singh, Mohali