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SOCCER FAMILY
Family-owned Churchill Brothers club has made it really big on the national football scene
After fish curry, it’s football for Churchill Brothers, writes Mayabhushan Nagvenkar about the club that has won the I-League
C
hurchill Brothers is one of those rare family-owned football clubs that has made it really big on the national football scene. Their maiden I-League win last month shows the passion with which the Alemaos of Varca have nurtured this club since its formation in 1988.
PLAYING FROM THE HEART: Family-owned Churchill Brothers club has made it really big on the national football scene Photos PTI

Is Roger losing grip?
Paul Newman
If someone calls Roger ‘average’ they had better be really, really, really good at what they do. People saying that has really been pissing me off all deserves....I’ll take his ‘average year’ any time,” says Andy Roddick. It was at the Tennis Masters Cup that Andy Roddick bridled at a question about Roger Federer’s “average year”.

Tiger set to prowl on Bethpage
Larry Fine
Tiger Woods is eagerly anticipating his return to Bethpage Black for next month’s US Open, a venue where he will be defending the US Open title in familiar and successful surroundings. Woods won the tournament when it was first staged at the sprawling public course in 2002 and returns to Long Island as the champion after a thrilling 19-hole playoff triumph over Rocco Mediate last year at another public course, Torrey Pines.

   

 

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SOCCER FAMILY
After fish curry, it’s football for Churchill Brothers, writes Mayabhushan Nagvenkar about the club that has won the I-League

Odafe Onyeka Okolic has stayed back with Churchill Brothers in spite of better offers from East Bengal and other clubs
Odafe Onyeka Okolic has stayed back with Churchill Brothers in spite of better offers from East Bengal and other clubs

Churchill Brothers is one of those rare family-owned football clubs that has made it really big on the national football scene. Their maiden I-League win last month shows the passion with which the Alemaos of Varca have nurtured this club since its formation in 1988.

Churchill Brothers’ win at the I-League this season may have been their first national league title, but they did come close to winning on four occasions in the past. For the Alemao siblings, their late mother Elsinda’s dream was ultimately fulfilled this year.

While other popular Goan football clubs like the Dempo Sports Club and Salgaocar Sports Club are patronised by gargantuan mining firms with significant financial backing, Churchill Brothers instead is shouldered by the six lumbering Alemao brothers, with former Goa Chief Minister Churchill being the head of the family.

While the club is named after the eldest sibling, Churchill, the other brothers come with equally exotic first names, a couple of which are in fact surnames of two former US presidents. There’s the physically towering Joaquim, who is the club president and also Goa’s urban development minister, Kennedy, a zila panchayat member, Ciabro and Roosevelt who brings up the rear.

The Alemao brothers have also instituted a football tournament in Goa, named after yet another sibling, Alvernaz who died of gunshot wounds, after he was shot by a Customs official nearly two decades ago for carrying contraband.

While controversies dog the Alemaos with alarming consistency, Joaquim told IANS that they were a part and parcel of a politician’s life and that it was a footballing legacy that they hoped to leave behind.

“Football is in our blood. After a good meal of fish curry, the only thing we turn to is football,” said Joaquim, who is also the president of the Goa Football Association (GFA).

“Only we know the kind of hardship we had to go through to take this club where it is now,” he said, adding that sourcing funds for a non-corporate football club was no joke.

Churchill Brothers first big corporate sponsor was the Zee group, back in the early 1990s. But subsequent, clumsy attempts made by the club to obtain sponsorship, brought in a lot of negative publicity.

Back in 2003, elder brother Churchill, also the club’s chief patron and a self-proclaimed “secular” politician, openly flirted with a tottering Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government, for a substantial state grant for the team, which had failed to find a liberal sponsor that season.

In 1999, a section of the media reported that Churchill, as state industries minister, had allegedly prevented a popular multi-national aerated drinks firm from setting up a bottling-plant in Goa, allegedly for reasons related to football, rather than project inadequacies. The controversy was also discussed during a calling attention motion in the Goa Legislative Assembly then.

Football fans and critics in Goa claim that the club’s extravagant expenditure on players of African origin had shot up the club’s budget considerably.

“Retaining Odafe Okolie alone has cost them nearly Rs 10 million. In 2003, the club’s budget was around Rs 60 million. The figure would have doubled now, with the club’s reliance on foreign players like Felix (Chimaokwu), Ogba (Nnanna) and Odafe,” a GFA member said on condition of anonymity.

However, while refusing to specify a firm club budget, Joaquim said that the club was family for most players.

“Look, Odafe stayed back with us, even though East Bengal and other clubs were offering him much more than we were. We play football from the heart. Churchill Brothers is like a family. There is no other way to explain this. We put all the money we earn in our respective businesses into the club,” Joaquim said. — IANS

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Is Roger losing grip?
Paul Newman

If someone calls Roger ‘average’ they had better be really, really, really good at what they do. People saying that has really been pissing me off all deserves....I’ll take his ‘average year’ any time,” says Andy Roddick

It was at the Tennis Masters Cup that Andy Roddick bridled at a question about Roger Federer’s “average year”. The American pointed out Federer’s Grand Slam record in 2008: he had won the US Open, reached the finals of the French Open and Wimbledon and the semi-finals of the Australian Open, where he had glandular fever.

Federer is only one Grand Slam title short of Pete Sampras’s all-time record of 14, has played in 14 of the last 15 finals and made the semi-finals or better of the last 19 events. Nevertheless, there is no escaping the air of vulnerability around Federer, who lost this week in the Rome Masters.

Rafael Nadal clearly has his number, even on Federer’s favoured faster courts, while more and more journeymen are claiming his scalp. Who would have thought, at the height of Federer’s powers, that he would soon be losing to Filippo Volandri, Mardy Fish or Ivo Karlovic? The key difference now is in Federer’s performances away from the Grand Slam events. In nearly 20 months since the 2007 US Open he has won only five titles: last year’s US Open, the 2007 Tennis Masters Cup and minor events at Basle (twice) and Halle.

Federer’s trophy-winning rampage between 2003 and 2007 was even more intense, with 49 titles won. When his record-breaking run at the top of the rankings ended last summer he was 27. Nevertheless, he remains No 2 and feels he benefits from having fewer titles to defend.

Federer’s frustrations were evident in the floods of tears in Melbourne and last month in Miami, where he smashed a racket after a bad forehand error against Djokovic. “I found it strange he broke his racket in Miami, he who always keeps calm, but these things happen when you are frustrated on the court,” Djokovic said.

Peter Fleming, John McEnroe’s former doubles partner, said: “Temporarily he seems to have lost his (nerve) against the top players. It’s starting to look like he needs another voice that can tell him what’s missing”. “He needs a coach. He’s never had to adjust to something because he’s been so talented that he could go out there and figure it out”. Patrick McEnroe, US Davis Cup captain Most leading players have a full-time coach, but Federer has not worked with one since parting with Peter Lundgren six years ago. He employed Tony Roche part-time until 2007 and Jose Higueras during last year’s clay-court season, but now works only with Pierre Paganini, his fitness coach, and Severin Luthi, Switzerland’s Davis Cup captain.

“I’m very happy with Severin,” Federer said. “We have been working the last one-and-a-half years together, so nothing really changes. I just continue with the great team that I have”. His forehand has long been the game’s greatest shot, but it has misfired recently. However, he does not talk like a man who thinks he needs coaching advice. “It’s normal for me to miss forehands,” he said after his most recent defeat, to Stanislas Wawrinka. “He’s not going to beat Nadal from the back of the court. Hardly anybody does. To beat him I think he needs to reshape his game a little bit”, said Stefan Edberg. The power of modern rackets, the slowing down of grass courts and players’ improved fitness have combined to reduce the impact of different surfaces and to make the game more one-dimensional. Nearly all the top players now stay at the back of the court, knowing they are likely to be beaten by passing shots if they approach the net.

Federer, who has an excellent serve and fine volleys, now limits his own forward forays. However, some diehards think he should come to the net more.

”In order to develop and become an even better player his strategy should be to play more serve-and-volley,” said Edberg. “I think that would benefit him and it would make it easier to beat Nadal, though that’s never easy of course.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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Tiger set to prowl on Bethpage
Larry Fine

Tiger Woods is eagerly anticipating his return to Bethpage Black for next month’s US Open, a venue where he will be defending the US Open title in familiar and successful surroundings.

Woods won the tournament when it was first staged at the sprawling public course in 2002 and returns to Long Island as the champion after a thrilling 19-hole playoff triumph over Rocco Mediate last year at another public course, Torrey Pines.

“It was a great atmosphere when we played in 2002,” Woods said in a conference call to reporters at the US Golf Association’s media day at Bethpage earlier this week.

“The fans were truly into it. I think everyone was having a great time. If you made a putt, people went crazy.

“It was a ton of fun to play in front of that, because it’s always fun to play in front of people who appreciate shots and are excited that the guys are playing well.”

Teeing off on June 18, this year’s event will be even more of a people’s championship after the US Golf Association (USGA) made more tickets available to the public due to a slump in corporate hospitality sales.

“Since it will be a number of years until the US Open returns to the New York area, we hope that New York sports fans take advantage of the opportunity to be part of the US Open experience,” USGA director David Fay said in a statement. Woods said competing on public courses for one of golf’s four majors was special.

“I grew up on public golf courses, so for me, they were a vehicle for me to be able to play golf,” said the world number one, who will be gunning for his 15th major win and first since undergoing knee surgery following his Torrey Pines triumph. — Reuters

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