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Rabindra, Thoma finish second in Race 1 of Euro GT4 Series

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Bengaluru: India’s Akhil Rabindra on Monday finished second in Race 1 at the Brands Hatch GP Circuit in the European GT4 series. The PRO Sport Performance Racing duo after 32 laps in Race 1, finished second (+3.031 Seconds) behind Reinhard Kofler and his teammate Patric Niederhauser of True Racing. Taking over the charge from Florian Thoma, Rabindra driving the Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 drove bravely to finish second ahead of Danielle Mckay who was driving a MCLaren 570 and Jan Kisiel in the Mercedes AMG.

Florian Thoma in Race 1 drove magnificently and maintained the first spot till the mandatory Pit Stop took effect. Rabindra, who took over the charge from here on, started at the second position a few seconds behind Reinhard Kofler of True Racing, who was driving a KTM X-Bow GT4. Kofler had the advantage of an early pit and gained the top slot once Thoma went into the pit lane for the driver change. Rabindra thereafter drove excellently to maintain the second spot ensuring all efforts by the others to overtake were foiled with the Indian’s intelligent maneuvering on the track.

On Saturday, Florian Thoma clocked a stunning time of 1:33.752 mins to claim the pole position in the first qualifying round while in the second round of the qualifying session, Akhil finished fourth (1:32.095 mins).

Football Lounge

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

Jaydeep Basu

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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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Federer wins on French Open return, Kerber beaten

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Roger Federer defeated Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.

Paris: Swiss tennis star Roger Federer made a triumphant return to French Open after three-year absence, easing past Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego in straight sets in the men’s singles first round, while fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber was shocked by Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova in the women’s singles here.

Federer enjoyed one-sided ovation from the crowds in a redecorated Court Philippe Chatrier on Sunday, while competing at the clay major for the first time after 2015.

“The reception I got today was crazy. It was really nice to see a full stadium for a first round like this. It was a beauty. So I’m very, very happy,” Federer told a news conference.

The Swiss third seed used one hour and 41 minutes to overcome Sonego 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 through 36 winners, setting up a second round encounter with Germany’s Oscar Otte.

The 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded No. 6, lived up to high expectation on him by conquerring Germany’s Maximilian Marterer 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (4).

Seventh-seeded Kei Nishikori and No. 11 seed Marin Cilic also secured men’s singles second round berths in straight sets.

But last year’s semifinalist Marco Cacchinato found it unable to replicate success 12 months ago as the No. 16 seed lost a gruelling five-set thriller to local favorite Nicolas Mahut 2-6, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 after three hours and 18 minutes.

In her Roland Garros debut, the 81st-ranked Potapova, 18, produced the biggest upset of the opening day action by seeing off three-time Grand Slam winner Kerber 6-4, 6-2.

Potapova won 82% on first serve and led winners 28-16, registering her first career top 10 victory.

The Russian continued her momentum following a 6-4 opening set victory to take four games in a row into the second set.

Kerber cut the deficit to 4-2 afterwards, but failed to come closer and crashed out from the competition with a forehand sailing wide in the eighth game.

She was unable to complete a career Grand Slam at least this year following victories in the 2016 Australian Open and US Open, and 2018 Wimbledon.

Potapova will next face Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who knocked China’s Wang Yafan out of the competition 6-4, 6-3.

Both players traded breaks early on. Then Vondrousova showed crosscourt skills to lead 4-1 midway through the first set. Wang moved closer to Vondrousova with two games in a row afterwards, but the Czech steadied for a 6-4 win.

Vondrousova had an early break in the second set and went on to build a 4-2 advantage. Although Wang came back from 40-0 down in the seventh game to maintain her serve, Vondrousova managed to secure her second round berth at 6-3 with her fifth break of the match.

No 2 seed Karolina Pliskova and last year’s beaten finalist Sloane Stephens also sailed through the first round. The ninth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine saw off American veteran Venus Williams 6-3, 6-3.

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Cricket Lounge

Kohli hails lower-order fightback against NZ in World Cup practice game

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Virat Kohli expects the Indian batting line-up to improve their performance.

London: After the Indian top order failed to live up to the expectations in the warm-up game against New Zealand, skipper Virat Kohli expects his lower-order batsmen to rise to the occasion if a situation arises in the upcoming World Cup.

On Saturday, Kohli’s decision to pose a challenge for his batting lineup led to top-order collapse at Kennington Oval, London.

None of the three opening options – Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul – managed to make a mark.

Even Kohli, the number one batter in the world, couldn’t provide much resistance to his struggling team and was cleaned bowed by Colin de Grandhomme at his individual score of 18. After his wicket, India were left reeling at 39 for 4 in the 11th over.

However, Hardik Pandya’s brisk 30 led a brief revival, only for the innings to stutter again until Ravindra Jadeja guided the lower order.

In the absence of Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav, Jadeja top scored with a 50-ball 54 to haul India to 179.

The left-handed all-rounder added 62 with Kuldeep Yadav for the eighth wicket, allowing India to reach the 40-over mark, a prospect that looked unlikely when Trent Boult ran through the top order.

Boult snared a four-fer while James Neesham snared three wickets as the Men in Blue were bundled out in 39.2 overs.

“Very good,” Kohli said of the lower-order contributions at the post-match presentation.

“I mean, the one thing we spoke about in a tournament like the World Cup is, you could easily have your top order out for not too many, so the lower order has to look forward to that and I think Hardik (Pandya) batted really well.

“MS (Dhoni) absorbed the pressure really well and (Ravindra) Jadeja got a few runs as well, so I think from that point of view, we got a lot out of this game, which is what we wanted to. The lower order getting some runs that was the biggest positive.”

The Indian skipper lauded bowlers’ effort and felt that the fielding and catching need to improve.

“We bowled well – they were going at 4, 4.5 per over – and looking at that in isolation we did well. Fielders are going to play a crucial role, half chances will be massive. We’ll have to be precise in all three departments,” said Kohli.

India will now take on Bangladesh in the second warm-up game on May 28 before beginning their World Cup campaign against South Africa on June 5.

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