From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.29 :: Jul. 22, 2010

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FOOTBALL / JUNIOR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Chandigarh reaps rich harvest

The side's maiden success came at the expense of traditional powerhouse Bengal (record 17 times winner) and that too, in the superpower's backyard in Kolkata. The 6-4 (1-1) verdict via the tie-breakers in the final for the visitor was extra special for former international Tejinder Singh, who as the coach of the Chandigarh Football Academy has been instrumental in bringing in a professional work ethic, since taking over in 2006, reports Amitabha Das Sharma.

S. PATRONOBISH

Chandigarh players celebrate their rare trophy win.

Chandigarh added its name to footballing excellence by showing what a little attention to youth development can do. The team from the little union territory in northern India lifted the Dr. B.C. Roy Trophy (under-19), reaping in the benefits of a long-term growth plan.

The side's maiden success came at the expense of traditional powerhouse Bengal (record 17 times winner) and that too, in the superpower's backyard in Kolkata. The 6-4 (1-1) verdict via the tie-breakers in the final for the visitor was extra special for former international Tejinder Singh, who as the coach of the Chandigarh Football Academy has been instrumental in bringing in a professional work ethic, since taking over in 2006.

The final saw an even match-up between two sides divided by tradition but united in the talent quotient, as Bengal, too, depended heavily on players from its Indian Football Association Academy and the Mohun Bagan Academy. Success in the tournament — 28 teams in the preliminaries — was defined in the end by states with academies.

The All India Football Federation's technical director Colin Toal, in charge of the nation's youth development programme, was there along with a panel of three Indian experts, to spot talent from the biggest congregation of under-19 footballers. The skills and tactical soundness of a select few caught the panel's attention and Toal was quick in his praise, seeing “immense potential” in the boys.

The express attack combination of Gagandeep Singh and Sumit Passi saw Chandigarh through to the final, with Gagandeep working as the fulcrum of every build up, while Passi was at ease, essaying his role as the target-man. In the final, though, in a rare off-day for the two, it was substitute Lalthzula who nullified Bengal's early strike.

The duo, however, was at its best against defending champion Karnataka in the semifinals, sharing four goals in a one-sided encounter. As Sehnaj Singh and Amandeep Singh controlled the midfield distribution system, the Karnataka troika of S. Nagraj, Lokesh and Edwin was left stranded for the better part of the game and the Gagandeep-Passi combination took full advantage of it.

Earlier in the tournament, Bengal made the biggest splash, notching up 39 goals in the preliminary stage. A 1-1 draw in the quarterfinal group stage against Orissa was not an ideal start for the business end of the tournament, but the team recovered sufficiently to down Manipur (4-2) and Chandigarh (2-1) to reach the last four stage.

Coached by Tejinder's former national teammate Goutam Ghosh, the Bengal side played an attractive brand of football; and Uttarakhand (5-0) was no match for it in the semis.

Playing with a lone striker upfront, the team benefited from the scoring prowess of T. Lalnunpuia, as skipper Prabir Das essayed the role of a playmaker to perfection. Rajib Ghorui and Biswajit Natta were livewires down the flanks, providing width to the side's attack and it was unfortunate that Bengal lost out the final on penalties.

The results

Final: Chandigarh 6 (1) (Lalthzuala 71) bt Bengal 4 (1) (Rajib Ghorui 44) in tiebreaker.

Semifinals: Chandigarh 4 (Gagandeep Singh 10, 61, Sumit Passi 53, 63) bt Karnataka 1 (Lokesh 85); Bengal 5 (T. Lalnunpuia 8, 41, Prabir Das 39, Mithun Oraon 48, Avik Guha (penalty) 74) bt Uttarakhand 0.



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