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SSB pip Alakhpura to keep semi-final hopes alive in IWL



SSB women's football team players celebrate after scoring against FC Alakhpura. Photo: Twitter

Delhi: SSB women’s football team kept their chances for semifinal qualification alive after eking out a 1-0 victory over FC Alakhpura at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana.

SSB striker Dular Marandi scored the winner, but it was their defender and captain Susmita Marandi, who took the Player of the Match award with her gutsy play to keep Alakhpura out.

It was a tight match between two equally-matched sides, with long spells of the game being played out in the middle of the park. However, SSB got the lead early on through forward Dular Marandi.

The Jharkhand-born striker chased what was literally a lost cause, as an aerial ball was played in behind the Alakhpura defence.

Goalkeeper Neelam rushed out of her line, but Marandi reached the ball just nanoseconds before her and slipped it past the Alakhpura keeper to put SSB in the lead.

That game SSB some impetus as they looked to dominate play in the middle of the park, but Alkhpura also matched them with their brute strength, though the side from Haryana seemed to lack the final pass that would set up their strikers.

Alakhpur upped the ante in the second half, as they looked to put more bodies in the SSB box and launch long balls into the area. But the SSB defence dealt with these threats expertly.

Meanwhile, SSB looked to get on the ball and spread the balls to the wings in an effort to stretch the SSB defence and catch them on the counter.

Panjim, Rising club play out draw

In Ludhiana, Panjim held on to a 1-1 draw against Rising Student Club of Odisha at the Guru Nanak Stadium.

Karishma Shirvoikar had scored for Panjim early on, but Satyabati Khadia equalised for RSC just before the half time break.
Panjim goalkeeper Ashika Gadekar was adjudged the player of the match for her heroics under the bar.

Football Lounge

Sad that AIFF has taken I-League clubs for granted: Salgaocar

Jaydeep Basu



Salgaocar SC withdrew from the I-League in 2016. Photos: Twitter and Google.

Salgaocar SC owner Shivanand Salgaocar says the current state of Indian football pains him

New Delhi: Things were different in 1956. Narendra Damodardas Modi was a six-year-old kid, Elvis Presley’s maiden RCA single “Heartbreak Hotel” had just been released and Indian national football team reached the Olympic semifinals. Most importantly, the words “franchise” and “professional league” were unheard in Indian sport.

This was the time when VM Salgaocar Group of Companies launched Salgaocar Sports Club (now Salgaocar Football Club) with an aim to promote local talent in Goa. In years to come, Salgaocar became one of India’s finest clubs from the western coast – officially crowned the country’s best team more than once.

Jump cut to 2016. Sixty seasons later, after winning the NFL and the I-League once each and the Federation Cup four times, Salgaocar decided to quit I-League, joining the list of 23 clubs, who had either shut shop or had withdrawn from the national scene in recent past.

No one from the authorities approached Salgaocar for a change of decision. They had no time – Indian football had by then discovered the excitement of “franchise-based football”.

Salgaocar SC won the Federation Cup four times, beating East Bengal in the final of the 1997 edition.

The present club owner, Shivanand Salgaocar, is a veteran administrator, who once held top positions both in All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Goa Football Association (GFA). A man of few words though, Shivanand finds the situation sad.

“The current situation very sad for Indian football. Unfortunately, what happens in all sports associations is that once office bearers get elected to any governing body, they tend to forget the association exists for the clubs. They think the clubs exists for them. They take the clubs for granted,” said the former AIFF treasurer.

Shivanand is not far from the truth. After remaining more or less mute spectators to the demise of several traditional clubs, the AIFF is now all set to reduce I-league to the second division.

Shivanand Salgaocar said his club could make a return to the I-League in the future.

“As far as our team is concerned, we withdrew from the I-League primarily because we did not see any road map for I-League teams. In fact, basically, there is no roadmap for Indian football and also for the future of I-League,” said Shivanand.

Asked what should be the right approach in the current situation, the former GFA president said: “That is for the administrators to decide. They should know what went wrong and what should be done to rectify it. In Goa, Dempo, Sporting Clube de Goa and we decided to withdraw from the I-League. We thought it was not going anywhere.”

Shivanand vehemently opposes to any idea that his company has stopped patronizing football. Unlike some other clubs, whose managements, out of sheer frustrations, have switched over to basketball or table tennis, Salgaocar still have 200 players in their rolls.

“My intention was to contribute to the growth of football in a way we thought best. You are free to disagree with me. But that’s our philosophy…. me and my daughter Swati, who takes great interest in youth development.

“We have been promoting football for over 65 years. Even today besides the team which plays in the Goa Pro League, we maintain age-group teams. We have teams in under-10, under-13, under-14, under-16, under-18 and under-20,” Shivanand pointed out.

Salgaocar SC now concentrate on encouraging football at the grass root and maintain several age-group teams.

“If we wanted participate in ISL, we could have joined it from its inception. We don’t know whether I-League will be merged into ISL….basically, no ground rules have been laid down till date. Instead of waiting for the AIFF to take a call on when and how things will pan out, we decided to concentrate on encouraging football at the grass root and promoting local talent,” he added.

Asked whether Salgaocar would return to the national scene in near future, Shivanand said: “I can’t talk about the future. But as and when the circumstances seem appropriate, we might get back into the I-league. Mind it, we have not disbanded the club.”

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Football Lounge

Valencia stun Barcelona to lift Copa del Rey




Valencia players celebrate after scoring against Barcelona. Photo: Twitter

Barcelona: Valencia were nearly flawless defensively and opportunistic on the counter-attack in a 2-1 victory over heavily favoured FC Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final, a memorable achievement for a side marking their 100-year anniversary.

For Barca, Saturday’s loss was a second major disappointment this month, coming just 18 days after their stunning collapse against Liverpool in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal.

The Catalans-dominated ball possession from the outset at Benito Villamarin Stadium against an opponent that had no interest in competing in that aspect of the game and were focused on getting out quickly on counterattack opportunities.

One of those came very early in the contest when a blunder by defender Clement Lenglet led to a golden opportunity for Valencia forward Rodrigo, whose shot from close range was cleared away by defender Gerard Pique at the goal mouth.

Barca superstar forward Lionel Messi got in on the action in the 18th minute, sending in a low shot that defender Gabriel Paulista did well to clear away for a corner kick.

Lionel Messi scored a consolation goal for Barcelona.

After surviving that scare, the Bats got on the board in the 21st minute on a play in which Jose Luis Gaya received a long pass on the left side and then found Kevin Gameiro, who fired a potent blast from the top of the area past net minder Jasper Cillessen.

Barca’s troubles then deepened 12 minutes later when Carlos Soler found just enough space on a fresh counterattack against defender Jordi Alba on the right side to send in a pass to Rodrigo, who bounced in a header from point-blank range.

On the other end of the field, Messi tried his utmost to get his team going and fired a shot from outside the area just before the intermission that goalie Jaume Domenech did well to save.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde made a couple of substitutions after the break, sending on Malcom for Nelson Semedo and replacing Arthur with Arturo Vidal in an attempt to bolster an attack that was having to make do without the injured Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

Both teams had good chances to score in the early part of the second half, with Goncalo Guedes coming close to giving Valencia a 3-0 lead on a shot that went just wide and Messi nearly pulling one back for Barcelona at the 56-minute mark with a nifty run in the area and a left-footed shot that clanked off the woodwork.

Barcelona kept pressing forward against their defence-minded opponent, nearly getting a goal from Pique on a close-range shot off a pass from Malcom in the 71st minute and then finally making the score 2-1 when Messi tapped the ball home after a header by Lenglet had struck the right upright.

The final 20 minutes were action-packed, with Barca throwing caution to the wind in search of the equalizer and Valencia unable to convert golden chances on the counter-attack.

But Valencia’s gritty defence was the story in the end as the Bats secured their eighth title in Spain’s annual knockout soccer competition and their first since 2008.

Barca, winners of a record 30 titles in this competition, came up short in their bid to win an unprecedented fifth straight Copa del Rey title.

Afterward, Valencia head coach Marcelino Garcia Toral said on the field that he was thrilled to have won his first title in a 20-year coaching career.

“There’s always a first final, and it took seven semi-finals to get to a final. And thanks to the players, the fans, the coaches and my family, they’ve made me – professionally speaking – the happiest man in the world.”

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Cash-rich ISL doesn’t have a tradition like I-League, believes Stimac

Sayan Mukherjee



Technical director Isaac Doru (left) and coach Igor Stimac are confident of helping Indian football reach loftier heights.

New Delhi: Money can’t buy tradition, which should be given due importance while formulating Indian football’s future course of action, new national team coach Igor Stimac said on Friday.

The Croatian and new technical director Isac Doru believe any conflict regarding the domestic club structure is an impediment to their objective of developing football in the country.

The All Indian Football Federation‘s (AIFF) aim to declare the Indian Super League (ISL), a tournament conceptualised by their marketing partners, the top league of the country over the I-League is now an open secret.

But irrespective of whatever advantage the glamourised tournament seemingly offers, it can’t match I-League’s “tradition”, Stimac said.

“Any conflict won’t help Indian football. The ISL is a privatised league where investors have pumped in money in the hope of financial gains. I see no wrong in that.

“But the I-League has one thing which the ISL don’t have, that is tradition. You can’t buy tradition. The I-League has been going on for many years. It will take the ISL many years to develop tradition,” the former international said on his first interaction with the Indian press since his appointment.

While Doru harped on the need for a holistic approach from all stakeholders, Stimac said his forte lies in guiding young talent, which I-League has in abundance since all perceived top players have preferred to play in the financially lucrative ISL.

During his tenure Stimac said he would strive to “organise, develop and improve” youngsters, which was his primary reason for applying for the job, following the departure of Englishman Stephen Constantine after India’s first round exit at the AFC Asian Cup.

“The ISL has professionalism and top players. We need to find a way to speed up the growth of I-League clubs,” the 51-year-old said.

While modern football is taking rapid strides in advancement with the advent of technology, Stimac said Indian football should also grow exponentially to make up lost ground. He is currently conducting a preparatory camp in New Delhi for the King’s Cup, to be held in Thailand from June 5.

The 1998 World Cupper has conducted physical tests on the assembled players and will duly prune it down to 23 before India flies to Thailand on June 1. Stimac would work on the technical aspect of players after they have reached the desired physical conditions.

“I am happy with the response of players. We don’t have much time.”

He has identified several deficiencies in India’s Asian Cup performances and would work with the called-up players towards solving them.

Stimac said Sunil Chhetri (centre) is a very valuable & experienced player but he too needs to fight for his place in the team.

“India conceded goals due to lack of concentration. There was also a dearth of tactical movement during games. We need quick, agile players at the centre of the pitch who would concentrate on the thick of action and would react quickly to the second ball,” Stimac, capped 53 times by his country, opined.

In order to achieve that, he would need a strong backline, which is why his primary objective now is to find more central defenders who would compete for first team places.

“All good things start with good defending,” the former centre back remarked, adding that eventually he would look to add more offensive options, so that “we can move from one system to another” seamlessly.

Doru said Indians need to be well versed with the “synchronised” approach of modern football, for which he has already developed a strategic plan for the next four years, to be implemented by the age-group national team coaches and the club coaches.

“Indians are not overtly physical. But they are quick and agile, which we plan to harness,” said the Romanian.

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