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Gahlot’s rise shows I-League clubs remain Indian football team’s supply line

Jaydeep Basu

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Talented young footballer Narender Gahlot's stock has risen after scoring against Syria in the Intercontinental Cup.

New Delhi: Arup Das rarely avails Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) facilities these days. Yet, he vividly remembers the bus on route number 764 that goes through Vasant Vihar.

Six years ago, a 13-year-old boy from the Capital’s Najafgarh area used to travel daily on this route to train in Josh academy, in which Das is a trustee.

The boy, Narender Gahlot, is currently on a high after scoring India’s only goal against Syria in Intercontinental Cup. “Narender is from a humble background. He used to travel a long distance on a daily basis to train in our academy. But we certainly found him a natural central defender, who could play at top level,” Das remembered.

Das has been proved right. From the Delhi based academy, Gahlot moved to Minerva FC and then showed his mettle for Indian Arrows in the I-League. He has now been recruited by a franchise in the cash-rich tournament, officially the country’s top league.

In three matches in the Intercontinental Cup, India, under Igor Stimac, conceded 10 goals, logged just one point and ended up winless. From statistical point of view, a disappointing show on the eve of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

But Mark Twain once famously said: “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” In this case, we would like to believe the American writer. After all, Stimac has raised hopes by introducing a host of youngsters to the national side. Indian fans expect these boys to learn from their mistakes and excel. Gahlot is one of them.

One gets a curious feeling while going through the list of newcomers in the national squad. All of them, from Jerry Lalrinzuala to Jobby Justin, are basically products of I-League clubs before they switched over to different franchises because of better financial offers.

The grassroots and youth development programme of the franchises, which received high praise from All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) executive committee on July 9, seems to have escaped the notice of Stimac!

Sahal Abdul Samad never played for an I-League club but he learned his football in an academy in the UAE. He also played at the university level in Kerala and Santosh Trophy for the state before joining a franchise unit.

Manvir Singh spent his youth career in the much-maligned Minerva Punjab FC (like Gahlot) and then joined Mohammedan Sporting.

Farukh Chaudhary honed his skills in I-League second division club Lonestar Kashmir. Lalrinzuala is a product of the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) elite academy. Justin came to limelight while playing for Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB).

Well, the list could be longer in the post-2014 scenario. So, let’s not start a debate (unlike the AIFF press release) on who should receive accolades for developmental work and, of course, bag the Asian Champions League (ACL) spot.

Many eyebrows have been raised after India conceded nine goals in the first two matches against Tajikistan and DPR Korea. Rarely in the past few years India fared so poorly against their Asian rivals.

Stimac’s decision to play around 30 players in the King’s Cup in Thailand and the Intercontinental Cup is under question.

Spare a thought for the coach. He had to enter the Intercontinental Cup without a top player in every key position. Central defender Anas Edathodika had an injury. Central midfielder Pranoy Haldar suffered the same fate on the eve of campaign.

Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua is yet to recover from the operation he underwent recently. To make it worse, senior central defender Sandesh Jhingan was hardly fit.

In the World Cup qualifiers, India have been grouped with Asian champions Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Not exactly an easy group, but if India can log around 15 points, then they can hope to make the next round as one of the four second best teams from eight groups.

Fans would expect Stimac to make up his mind on his first 14 footballers, at least.

Football Lounge

Philippe Coutinho to join Bayern Munich on loan from Barcelona

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Philippe Coutinho.

Munich: Bayern Munich have secured the services of Brazil winger Philippe Coutinho on a season-long loan from FC Barcelona, pending a medical.

The 27-year-old winger will provide Niko Kovac with a further attacking outlet after the departures of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez this summer.

“I can confirm that I was in Barcelona with Hasan Salihamidzic on Wednesday and that we reached an agreement with both the club and the player,” Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the Bayern club website. “We have been dealing with Coutinho for a while.”

After coming through the Vasco de Gama youth ranks, the highly rated Coutinho was snapped up by Inter Milan as a 16-year-old, although he had to wait until turning 18 in 2010 to move to Europe.

In 2013 he left for Liverpool, and his eye-catching performances on Merseyside earned him a big-money move to Barcelona in January 2018.

Coutinho has already lifted two La Liga titles, two Spanish Super Cups and one Copa del Rey with Barca, and helped Brazil triumph on home soil at this summer’s Copa America.

The Brazilian – who also has Portuguese nationality through his wife – becomes Bayern’s fifth summer signing, following the arrivals of Lucas Hernandez, Benjamin Pavard, Fiete Arp, Ivan Perisic.

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Thangboi Singto joins Delhi Dynamos as assistant coach

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Thangboi Singto has extensive knowledge about India's talent pool.

New Delhi: Delhi Dynamos FC announced the signing of Thangboi Singto as its assistant coach for the upcoming season here on Friday.

The former assistant coach and technical director of Kerala Blasters’ youth development wing, Singto was instrumental in shaping up Shillong Lajong FC, where he worked for four seasons.

The 45-year-old Manipuri is known for trusting and promoting young players, particularly from the North-east.

Following the development, Singto said “It gives me immense pleasure in joining Delhi Dynamos. The positive talks and plans for the club that transpired during meeting the director, CEO and Head Coach Josep Gombau convinced me that I can come here and contribute in improving the footballing aspects of the club.”

“One important factor is to further improve and help all the youth players in their overall growth and progression towards the first team set up,” the coach further added.

Head coach Josep Gombau also extended is welcoming to the coach and said, “We are so happy to have Singto with us. He has a lot of experience and knows the league very well. Welcome to the club.”

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Messi, Ronaldo and Van Dijk nominated for UEFA Player of the Year

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The Uefa awards will be decalred on August 29. Text & Image: @UEFA

Nyon: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk have been nominated for the 2018/19 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award.

The winner will be named – along with the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year and UEFA Champions League positional award winners – during the group stage draw in Monaco on Thursday 29 August.

The UEFA Europa League Player of the Season will be announced the following day.

The three-man shortlist: Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina)
The top goalscorer in the UEFA Champions League and the European Golden Shoe winner picked up his tenth Liga title.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus and Portugal)
The UEFA Nations League winner and top goalscorer at the finals also scooped his first Serie A title.

Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool and Netherlands)
The final man of the match for the UEFA Champions League winners also reached the UEFA Nations League showpiece.

The rest of the top 10

4 Alisson Becker (Liverpool & Brazil) – 57 points
5 Sadio Mané (Liverpool & Senegal) – 51 points
6 Mohamed Salah (Liverpool & Egypt) – 49 points
7 Eden Hazard (Chelsea/Real Madrid & Belgium) – 38 points
8= Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax/Juventus & Netherlands) – 27 points
8= Frenkie de Jong (Ajax/Barcelona & Netherlands) – 27 points
10 Raheem Sterling (Manchester City & England) – 12 points

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