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Invest in grooming coaches to develop Indian football: Man City star Paul Dickov

Sayan Mukherjee

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Paul Dickov says India are on the right track as a footballing nation.

New Delhi: India should invest in grooming coaches who would impart modern day knowledge to budding footballers during their nascent stage, former Manchester City forward Paul Dickov said.

India’s growth trajectory in football is slow and for swifter results the country should improve its infrastructure and focus on developing age-based groups.

“Coaching has got to be right from a very young age, getting the facilities right is also very important. India’s vast population and passion for football should also, hopefully, help the national team do well,” Paul told Sports Lounge in an exclusive chat during the announcement of Man City’s global multi-year partnership with premier smartphone brand TECNO mobile here.

“Children should get the chance to train under capable coaches. India also needs to concentrate on picking the right talent for their age-group categories,” he added.

The 46-year-old noted that with limited facilities India have shown potential to grow and rather than immediate results the country should be patient, setting realistic goals.

“India needs to be patient. They should be prepared to take one step forward and expect to take two steps back. Not just in India, but many Asian countries, when it comes to progress in football, expect to achieve everything now without necessarily putting in the hard work to get there first,” he opined.

Dickov has travelled to India several times in the last two years for Man City’s promotional activities and has noticed an improvement in fan engagement and general enthusiasm regarding the sport in the country. He kicked off a new health and fitness challenge named TECNO Race to Manchester City, which will see 40,000 Indian fans race around the world to Manchester.

“It’s getting bigger and bigger. Everytime I come here I see improvement. The national team is getting better. We have all seen that recently. But you can’t expect the national team to do well unless proper care is taken at the grassroots,” the Scot said.

Dickov had a distinguished career in the English Premier League from 1990 to 2011 for clubs like Arsenal, Man City, Leicester City, and Leeds United. He believes that the EPL champions Man City, under chief coach Pep Guardiola, are poised for an even bigger trophy haul after winning four trophies last season.

City won their second straight EPL title (their fourth in seven years), FA Cup title, EFL cup and FA Community Shield last season but crashed out in the Champions League quarterfinals.

“I think they are going to get better and better all the time. The average age of the squad is around 25 years. You look at Ederson, (Aymeric) Laporte, (John) Stones, (Benjamin) Mendy, Bernardo Silva, (Leroy) Sane, Raheem (Sterling), Gabriel Jesus—they are winning things and creating records at such a young age. They can only move forward during the next four, five, six years.

“I can see them going on and creating more records from here on. When you look at what they have won already at that young age and what they could go on to do, they are only going to get better. Champions League will be in their sights this year, I guess because they want to win everything,” the former Arsenal striker said.

Sports Lounge Exclusive

‘Unfavourable’ dates push TAKE Solutions Masters out of Indian golf calendar

Rohit Bhardwaj

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Viraj Madappa claimed his breakthrough international victory at the TAKE Solutions Masters in Bengaluru last year.

New Delhi: Indian golf has effectively lost the US $350,000 TAKE Solutions Masters, Sports Lounge has learnt. The Asian Tour tournament had given the country a breakthrough champion last season in Viraj Madappa at the Karnataka Golf Association course. 

The tournament does not feature on both the Asian Tour and Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) calendars, enough to confirm that it breathed its last in 2018.

TAKE Solutions, a globally-recognised domain-leader in life sciences and supply chain management, has actively supported golf since 2014, when they organised the US $70,000 TAKE Solutions India Masters on the Asian Development Tour (ADT).

The tournament became a launchpad for Indian talent, propelling young Chikkarangappa S. to claim his first international victory. The Bengaluru boy won the same tournament back-to-back with an enhanced US $120,000 prize purse.

Ever since 2014, TAKE Solutions has directly invested more than Rs 10 crore in title sponsorship rights for professional golf tournaments. The firm also hosted tournaments like the Rs 50 lakh TAKE Solutions Classic and Rs 1 crore TAKE Open Golf Championship for 2016 and 2017 seasons on the PGTI.

Besides the above, they staged the inaugural Rs 1.5 crore Jeev Milkha Invitational on the PGTI at the Chandigarh Golf Club last year with Chikkarangappa emerging the winner. They are scheduled to host the second edition of the event this year from October 17-20.

The firm also supports leading pros like S.S.P. Chowrasia, Khalin Joshi, Chiragh Kumar and couple of promising youngsters Kshitij Naveed Kaul and Karandeep Kochhar.

However, when contacted by Sports Lounge, TAKE Solutions Vice-Chairman & MD, H.R. Srinivasan said even though the dates weren’t favourable for staging of the tournament this year, it will return in a stronger avatar soon.

“This year the dates were not favourable for us because of our business commitment hence we were unable to synchronise dates from a corporate and event standpoint. We will return stronger soon!” Srinivasan, who also doubles up as a PGTI Board member, said in a statement.

Srinivasan had laid out his company’s plans about promoting golf in the country in an exclusive chat with this author for Sports Illustrated India last year. Watch his interview here.

Interestingly, 2013 was the best-ever season for Indian golf in terms of international tournaments. A total of six international tournaments were staged across the country that year—Gujarat Kensville Challenge (Euro 200,000), Pearls Golf Premier League (US $400,000), SAIL-SBI Open (US $300,000), Avantha Masters (Euro 1.8 million), Panasonic Open (US $300,000), Hero Indian Open (US $1.25 million)—making it a win-win situation for domestic golfers.

The Classic Golf & Country Club International Championship will be staged from September 12-15.

The continental tour seems to have read the situation and already announced the launch of a new tournament from September 12-15 at the Classic Golf & Country Club (CGCC) as replacement to maintain the number of Asian Tour events at two. Currently, the US $1.75 million Hero Indian Open (a European Tour event) is only the third international pro event on the Indian golf calendar.

The US $300,000 event will be called the Classic Golf and Country Club International Championship and is expected to feature an exciting mix of established stars and promising talents from Asia vying for top honours at the Jack Nicklaus Signature layout.

The host venue, which comprises of an 18-Hole Signature Championship Course as well as a nine-hole Signature Canyon Course, witnessed a slice of history in 2009 when Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat recorded the world’s lowest 72-hole score with a 32-under-par to win the US $300,000 SAIL Open, his third Asian Tour title.

Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour said, “We are looking forward to the CGCC International Championship as it gives our members another playing opportunity that allows them to gain valuable experience and have a potentially career-inspiring week. 

“Apart from having our best players compete for some of the bigger prize purses on Tour, full-field events such as the CGCC International Championship will also provide our emerging talents with the opportunity to shoot for glory and aim for their breakthrough on the Asian Tour.”

Uttam Singh Mundy, CEO of PGTI said, “Indian golf is on the rise today and the staging of the CGCC International Championship will allow our players to compete on a bigger stage. The CGCC International Championship will give them a great chance to compete and showcase their talents. I am confident the tournament will be a huge success.”

Also read: Renovation work at DGC forces venue shift for Panasonic Open meet

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Sports Lounge Exclusive

India a high-priority market for ONE Esports: Carlos Alimurung

Rohit Bhardwaj

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Newly-appointed ONE Esports CEO Carlos Alimurung.

New Delhi: The ONE Championship has seen immense growth in the last couple of years. Robust marketing, extending the live broadcast umbrella to most countries in the Asian region (including weekly capsule shows on STAR Sports in India) either through television or social media streaming and launching their own TV and film production division ONE Studios in April this year has only assisted in their steep growth trajectory.

Headquartered in Singapore, ONE Championship is beamed live to 2.6 billion viewers across 140-plus countries globally with their multiple offerings of martial arts matches across disciplines like Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Karate, Kung Fu, Silat, Sanda, Lethwei, Mixed Martial Arts, Taekwondo, Submission Grappling, and more. ONE hosts around 40 events in a calendar year spread across top Asian cities like Shanghai, Manila, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore and Yangon. Sports update sports world sports news 

ONE Championship vice chairman Sourabh Mittal

With an Indian billionaire and entrepreneur Sourabh Mittal joining ONE Championship as vice chairman last year, there has been renewed interest back home in the world’s largest sports media property. Mittal was given the responsibility to create some of the most important strategic initiatives at ONE along with assisting founder and chairman Chatri Sityodtong.

And the results are clearly showing. ONE Studios is distributing content globally via digital partners such as Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon, among others. With his eyes on helping ONE Championship become Asia’s first multi-billion dollar sports media property, Chatri has appointed Carlos Alimurung as the CEO of ONE Esports. Carlos will be responsible for designing ONE Esports’ vision and strategy, setting the company’s goals, and supporting the team to execute and deliver. Sports update sports world sports news 

Along with Carlos’ appointment, the organisers announced the staging of their first Esports World Championship Series. Sports update sports world sports news 

ONE Esports will be organizing a series of Dota 2 World Pro Invitationals featuring the top teams in the world. The ONE Dota 2 Singapore World Pro Invitational will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on December 20-22, 2019 and the ONE Dota 2 Jakarta World Pro Invitational will be held at ICE BSD on April 17-19, 2020. Each Invitational will see the world’s best professional Dota 2 teams compete for a prize pool of USD 500,000.

In addition, as part of ONE Championship’s commemorative activities for its 100th event to be held later this year in Tokyo, Japan on October 13, ONE Esports will be hosting the ONE Tekken Tokyo Invitational and ONE Street Fighter Tokyo Challenge on October 5 and 6 respectively. Each tournament will give members of the fighting games community to take on 9 top-ranking fighting games esports professionals in a 3 v 3 team format.

ONE Championship founder, chairman and CEO, Chatri Sityodtong

“I am excited to announce ONE Esports’ official launch of Asia’s largest esports world championship series. It is also my pleasure to announce that we have named Carlos Alimurung the CEO of ONE Esports. Carlos is an incredible leader with invaluable business savvy and unparalleled expertise in the esports industry. There is a natural crossover between martial arts and gaming fans in Asia. The opportunity to bring everyone together under Asia’s home of millennial live sports is something that we have worked very hard on. ONE Championship is committed to bringing its same brand of large-scale event production and live broadcast capabilities, unique world-class content production, global media distribution, storytelling expertise, and marketing experience to ONE Esports. With ONE Esports, ONE Championship is without a doubt Asia’s largest producer of millennial sports content,” Chatri Sityodtong said in a statement. Sports update sports world sports news 

Before joining ONE Esports as CEO, Carlos served as the Chief Business Officer for Battlefy—the world’s largest open esports competition platform. Prior to Battlefy, Carlos worked at Univision, where his last role was SVP of Corporate Business Development and was responsible for corporate venture investments and new business development. Before Univision, he was the Head of Strategy for LG Electronic’s NA Home Entertainment business and focused on partnering with retailers in innovative ways.

Sports Lounge spoke exclusively to Carlos Alimurung, who was in New York at the time, for understanding the reason behind taking up this opportunity and how he intends to make ONE Esports the leading esports provider in Asia and beyond. Excerpts: Sports update sports world sports news 

SL: What prompted you to take up this role?

Carlos Alimurung: There are a few big reasons why the opportunity to work at ONE Championship was really attractive to me. The first one is about my meeting with Chatri (Sityodtong). The first time I met him, I was immediately magnetised by his vision for the company. The three pillars of ONE—being value-based, creating self-made heroes and developing compelling stories—that kind of vision for a 21st century media company was really attractive to me. Sports update sports world sports news 

Reason no. 2 is—the market is big, there’s a huge audience for Esports and the region has in upwards of 100 million gamers, out of which one-third are full-time Esports enthusiasts. In my opinion, that market has not been served effectively. There is a huge opportunity for a company like ONE Esports to go in there and I truly believe that a multi-billion dollar business can be created there.  Sports update sports world sports news Sports update sports world sports news 

The third reason—which in a way is related to no. 1 and 2—is how ONE Championship has delivered combat sports in the region and globally and, in particular, that it is value-based, very unique and differentiated as no one is doing that in Esports with that kind of perspective. That in a way gives it an edge. Sports update sports world sports news 

Also any opportunity one has to become a CEO and prove to themselves that they can be an effective leader, support a team to deliver great results, I think that’s an opportunity you got to take. So, I am super excited to be part of ONE Esports and privileged that the ONE team chose me for the job.

SL: What would be the differentiating factor for the game or esports offerings you produce from popular products like PUBG?

Carlos: We will be launching the DOTA 2, Tekken and Street Fighter 5 at the end of this year. We believe those are the best games to launch Esports with. The reason behind that is DOTA 2 is a very big game and has a stirring historian Asia. So, we really think that is a great game to establish credibility. Tekken and Street Fighter are also very storied Esports titles and naturally, we will see there a crossover between the usual combat sports and ONE Championship. So, we think that these are the best games to launch with. As you can imagine, we are in active discussions with other game developers, there will be more announcements coming along shortly around other games we will be partnering with. Sports update sports world sports news 

To answer the question how we are going to be differentiated in a market having many players already, it relates to the point I made previously about what ONE Championship has created in the mixed martial arts space—the three pillars. We would try to emulate what our fighters have already down at ONE Championship. We would leverage those capabilities and assets as we try to deliver that content in Esports.

Action during one of the ONE Championship bouts.

SL: Is ONE Esports going to create its own game IP?

Carlos: There are many things that ONE Esports can do. That was one of the reasons I felt compelled to take up this job. There’s a wide range of opportunities we can go after. For now or the immediate future, ONE Esports’ focus is partnering with the best E game developers in the market, delivering the content in a way that is well differentiated and establishing ourselves as a leader in Esports in Asia. Opportunities like developing our own IP are some of the things we are going to consider in the future but in the near term the plan is about hosting and creating some of the best Esports events. Sports update sports world sports news 

SL: What are ONE Esports plans to explore the Indian market which is the biggest consumer base after China?

Carlos: Yes, certainly. We believe that there is a multi-billion dollar business that’s possible in the Asian region. It’s hard for me to imagine attaining that without India. We do have global aspirations like any global player has regarding India. For us India will always be a high-priority market for reasons like high mobile penetration, incredible technological tradition and history of innovation, big emphasis on standard education, all this fits nicely into gaming. We believe there isn’t any company that is truly delivering esports that is totally compelling up until south east Asia. When you combine all this, there is enough conviction to delivering ourselves in a differentiated way to India.  Sports update sports world sports news 

Also Read: We want to bring ONE Championship to India by 2017 end: Victor

INDIANS COMPETING IN ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

Name

Weight Class

Based

Country of Origin

Arjan Bhullar

Heavyweight

British Columbia, Canada

India / Canada

Asha Roka

Female Atomweight

Bhopal, India

India

Gurdarshan Mangat

Flyweight

Williams Lake, Canada

India / Canada

Himanshu Kaushik

Strawweight

Delhi, India

India

Puja Tomar

Female Atomweight

Muzaffarnagar, India

India

Rahul Raju

Lightweight

Singapore

India

Ritu Phogat

Female Atomweight

Singapore

India

Roshan Mainam

Flyweight

Singapore

India

SL: There are decent number of Indian MMA fighters competing in the ONE Championship. Isn’t that good for generating interest here?

Carlos: Those Indian fighters joined ONE Championship is because they believed, as they should, that we view the Indian market as the place to be. We are going to follow suit with ONE Esports as well. I have visited India a few times in my life. I have been to Mumbai and Bengaluru. Love the culture and the people. I am super excited to enter India for ONE Esports soon. Sports update sports world sports news 

SL: When do we expect the launch of the Esports World Championship series?

Carlos: We are going to launch two Dota 2 invitationals with the first one to be staged at Singapore in December. The second Dota 2 will happen in April 2020. The Tekken and Street Fighter invitationals will also be in mid-2020. We intended to have the events earlier but unfortunately we need to close out some agreement (sponsorship) negotiations. There are a lot more announcements coming up shortly because our tentative schedule looks pretty packed. There will be many more events we will be announcing in the coming weeks.

The ONE Championship cheergirls are a huge hit with the crowds.

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Kabaddi

Haryana Steelers need to pull up their socks: coach Rakesh Kumar

Ashish Mani Tiwari

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Rakesh Kumar.

New Delhi: One of the most experienced and successful players of Kabaddi, Rakesh Kumar had been a part of two World Cup and three Asian Games winning teams for India. Rakesh Kumar (37) remains one of the few Kabaddi players, who received Arjuna Award. sports news headlines sports world

Recently Rakesh Kumar spoke to Sports Lounge on his journey and over various aspects of Kabaddi including the performance of Haryana Steelers. sports news headlines sports world

Excerpts of the interview:

SL: Since from your childhood days, you have been a Kabaddi enthusiast, who inspired you to take up the sport?

RK: My elder brother used to play Kabaddi, I have grown watching him, which attracted me a lot, so I would like to credit my elder brother for inspiring me to take up Kabaddi as a sport and my parents and friends also supported at every point.

SL : Was there any difficult moment in your life that made you think about quitting Kabaddi?

RK: In 2003, I suffered a major hand injury and when I was recovering, I used to cry a lot, as I was not sure about the comeback that was a really difficult time for me. sports news headlines sports world

SL: You are a well-known player for a never-say-die attitude. During 2014 Asian Games final against Iran. Your (Rakesh’s) head collided with your teammate. Both of you were bleeding. The coaching staff wanted to take you off, but you played on and India won the gold. Can you recall that moment and please tell us your memories of that match.

RK: That collide happened after half time, the coach insisted me to come off but I said, it’s all about the nation and also, it was a very close encounter, so I continued and we defeated Iran. However soon after the match, I directly went to my coach and asked him to take me to the hospital, as I was not feeling well.

SL:   Following the launch of Pro Kabaddi League, Kabaddi in India has inched new heights, what do you think, is it enough to promote the sport? Do you think authorities and administration need to take more steps towards the encouragement of sport?

RK: Definitely, Pro Kabaddi League has taken Kabaddi to another level, because before Pro Kabaddi League, Kabaddi players used to depend only on Asian Games. But there is still scope for many improvements mainly from junior levels and Kabaddi authorities must look into this, to take up Kabaddi to Olympic in upcoming times.

SL: How do you see Kabaddi as an Olympic sport?

RK: We always win medals in Asian games, if our team goes in Olympic, I am sure for winning medals in Olympic.

SL: Iran has gained a lot of from Pro Kabaddi League and during 2018 Asian Games India lost in the semifinal, what are your views on the whole scenario? How can India improve ahead of upcoming tournaments?

RK: Iran has definitely improved in Kabaddi, not only Iran but other foreign players are also drawing experience from Pro Kabaddi League. 2018 loss was bad luck for us, however, we are a champion in Kabaddi. Ministry and federation need to fix regular camps and schedule ahead of 2022 Asian games.

SL:  As a head coach of Haryana Steelers, what’s your plan for the ongoing season and what are your expectations from the team?

RK: Last game was a happy run (Puneri Paltan vs Haryana Steelers July 22), but frankly I am not happy with the overall performance of the team. We need to solve our small- small problems, to maintain a fair rhythm because we will be facing a lot of good teams as we go ahead in the battle. Also, I have much more expectations from the team, hopefully, they will deliver as per the expectations in the upcoming games.

SL:  Other coaches of PKL teams have way more experience than you (Rakesh Kumar), what are your views on this?

RK: At the end of the day, the coach needs to groom and motivate his players. Yes, I am a new coach and I am watching other coaches and also I am taking advice from several senior coaches. It’s not about new versus old, it’s all about the experience that I have.

SL: Your famous ‘Lion Jump’ has become a highlight of the Pro Kabaddi League. Please tell us about it and how did you make it your signature?

RK: When I was practicing in my village, I started this kind of jump and further I honed this skill of Lion Jump. It took several years sports news headlines sports world

SL:  Could you tell us about your favourite Kabaddi moment?

RK: My first Asian game (2006), where we won the Gold medal and then in 2011, I received the Arjun Award, these two are my favourite Kabaddi moments. sports news headlines sports world

SL:  Apart from Kabaddi, what makes you happy?

RK: Worship is something that I always look forward. I always spend some time for prayers and worship.

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