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Ill-timed Durand Cup still a hit with fans at new venue

Jaydeep Basu

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Football-loving Kolkata crowd have thronged to the grounds to watch Durand Cup action.

New Delhi: For the soccer fans in Delhi (and be assured their numbers are not too small), it came as a double blow in the last couple of weeks. First, the age-old Durand Cup has been revived, but not at its traditional venue, the Ambedkar Stadium at Delhi Gate. It is currently in progress in Kolkata and surrounding towns.

Then came the news of Delhi’s franchise outfit shifting their base to Bhubaneswar. Apparently, lack of crowd support in the last few seasons has forced them to move out. The capital now has no role to play in big time football.

Durand Cup this time is ill-timed and ill-scheduled, thanks to permission granted by the authorities. Durand and the Calcutta Football League (the local league in Kolkata) are being played simultaneously. A league and a short spanned knock out tournament being clubbed together adds to the problems of trophy-oriented teams.

Thus this double duty is causing huge problems for local teams, especially the three Kolkata majors, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting. Yet, thousands throng the ground every day now to watch Durand matches. Delhi’s loss seems Kolkata’s gain.

Reports suggest there were close to 15,000 people at the East Bengal ground when the home side opened campaign. A good number of people waited outside as they had no clue about buying online tickets. Similar enthusiasm was noticed during Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting matches.

Well, it’s time to call spade a spade. It is no secret that quality of organisation in Durand Cup this time is not exactly the best in the world. Teams, coaches, officials and even media have complaints. Still, Durand Cup 2019 is hugely successful. Because it has the crowd support, the biggest sign of prosperity for any soccer meet.

Old timers would scoff at this. Durand Cup in the past had always witnessed packed houses in Delhi, they would rightly say. But is it baffling that the same crowd in Delhi never got transferred at the Nehru Stadium when the franchise side began its journey with pomp and gaiety.

Important people attended matches. Glamorous film stars waved at the spectators. Hired youngsters swayed their hips and sang during outings. Yet the crowd got thinner and thinner. It was reduced to few hundreds in some matches. The best and honest efforts by the organisers did not yield result.

Success of football in modern era, a former Paris Saint-Germain president once said, is all about orgnisation. He was not wrong. Football, after all, is pure entertainment. But not the world’s only entertainment. To compete with others, it has to pull up its socks.

In Indian context, doubts still prevail sometimes. Franchise football here spent lavishly on organisation of matches, at least four times more than average spending in I-League.

Yet Delhi stadium looked deserted last season. Guwahati organisers are deeply worried. So are Kolkata and Pune. But with similar organisational efforts, Goa are thriving, Kochi sitting comfortable.

So, what brings crowd to the ground, actually? A veteran All India Football Federation (AIFF) official said: “It is the connect with football and teams that attracts spectators. In cricket’s IPL, players like Virat Kohli or Mahendra Singh Dhoni are roots of success.

“They are far bigger stars than people occupying VIP gallery seats with dark sunglasses on. Of course, the orgnisers must be complimented for their tremendous packaging skills.”

Looking at ongoing Durand Cup, he seems right. The weather is unfriendly, the organisation has loopholes. Most matches are scheduled at 3pm in the afternoon. Teams are reluctant to field their top players.

Still, a large number of people are always present to cheer their favourite teams. There is no need to flash inflated figures on electronic boards.

Indian soccer fans are like one of those strange phenomena. To tap them, one needs different tactics, unorthodox efforts, not the copy-paste approach.

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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