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The tournament where stars are born: Subroto Cup burns bright

Jaydeep Basu



subroto cup
Manipur & Saidan Secondary School, Mizoram, won the Subroto Cup's sub-junior U-14 boys title this year.

New Delhi: As head of talent spotting team for the Subroto Mukerjee Cup in 1992, Rohit Parashar was in a dilemma.

The top few spots in the list of talented footballers to be given government scholarships were usually reserved for players from the teams, who made the final. But Parashar was too impressed with amazing skills of one midfielder from a Sikkim school. The problem was the Sikkim school lost in quarter-finals.latest sports news in english

Parashar was an experienced coach, who served Sports Authority of India (SAI) for years. After much thought he decided to keep the number one spot in the list for the youngster. “This boy, Bhaichung Bhutia, is the finest I have seen in many years,” he told this correspondent then.

Bhaichung bhutia

Bhaichung Bhutia first came into prominence in the Subroto Cup in 1992.

The rest, as they say, is history. They also say history repeats itself. Ten years later, in 2001, a Delhi school fielded a striker in Subroto Cup, who made everybody sit up and take notice. Again, the school lost in quarter-finals. Again, the boy, Sunil Chhetri, soon became the country’s best striker.

Recently, one All India Football Federation (AIFF) official was quoted saying Bhutia and Chhetri became footballers more by accident than design. It was perhaps not the wisest statement to make.

True, AIFF has been doing a decent job at the grassroots recently. But prior to that there were certain private platforms, who backed talents silently. And meticulously. Subroto Mukerjee Cup for schools is one of them.

Established in 1937, it took AIFF nearly 40 years to start its first under-16 tournament. Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy was launched in 1976. In contrast, Subroto Cup started in 1960. For a long time, it was the only national level tournament to showcase talents.

Let’s take the example of Shyam Thapa, currently the chairman of AIFF’s prestigious technical committee. An Asian Games medallist, a legendary striker. Considered the most stylish footballer ever in Indian soccer. But old-timers are still not tired of talking about Shyam Thapa, the schoolboy. He created a stir for Gorkha Military School, Dehradun in 1964 Subroto Cup.

The Dehradun school won the Subroto Cup beating then AIFF general secretary Khalifa Ziauddin’s Anjuman-i-Islam school from Mumbai. Shyam was a pure sensation. Recruiters from all over the country were looking to get the boy for their respective clubs.

Anecdotes could be unending. They could be amusing, odd, sad or tragic. Most people don’t like to hear them. Those who like, they forget easily. Who remembers the country’s finest school football tournament was actually a brainchild of Wing Commander KK Ganguly? He developed and ran Subroto Cup for more than a quarter century. And almost singlehandedly.

Sunil chhetri

Sunil Chhetri was the 2001 Subroto Cup’s player of the tournament.

Ganguly was one of country’s finest soccer administrators in modern India. In the end, his exit from Durand Cup and Subroto Cup was rather unceremonious. But his contribution was colossal. Unmatched till date. Yet, he is a forgotten man in Indian football.

Currently managed by Group Captain Deepak Ahluwalia, Subroto Cup has expanded over the years. It has now two age group meets in boys’ category and a girls’ section, too. Foreign schools take part regularly. A huge platform indeed. The national body do send its spotters but how seriously the list is perused remains a question.

May be another anecdote could be added to explain the point. In 1993, Special Sports School from Tashkent finished runners-up. The team was accompanied by Uzbekistan’s national coach. Asked, he said it was important for him to watch how the juniors from his country were shaping up.

Next year, the same coach, Rustam Akramov, led Uzbekistan to gold medal in Hiroshima Asian Games. A few months later, AIFF appointed him India’s national coach.

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India thump Bahrain for 2nd big win in AFC U-16 Championships qualifiers



India U-16 football

Tashkent: India continued its impressive show in the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers by thrashing Bahrain 5-0 to notch up its second big win in the tournament here on Friday.

Striker Sridarth and winger Shubho Paul were the star performers of the Indian team as they scored a brace each, while Bahrain keeper Mohamed Hasan Jaafar conceded an own goal in the first half.

The India U-16 boys had beaten Turkmenistan 5-0 in their opening match on Wednesday.

The Indians got the early goal they were looking for through striker Sridarth in the fourth minute when he beat the offside trap and was played through by Yoihenba.

India kept knocking on the doors of Bahrain goal and got its second through opposition goalkeeper Mohamed Hasan Jaafar, who spilled a cross from Pritam Meetei into his own net in the 25th minute.

Sridarth was on form again as he made an entry into the Bahrain box, and slipped it past the keeper to make it three in the 27th minute.

Shubho Paul made it four on the stroke of half-time. He made an interception inside the Bahrain area, dummied an opposition defender and planted the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

It was an even contest in the second half but the damage was already done. India coach Bibiano Fernandes then brought in Himanshu Jangra on for Sibajit Singh, while he opted to go with the hard-working Ratanbi in place of Taison Singh.

Meanwhile, Isac Zomuanpuia came on for Sridarth to add some variation to the set-pieces.

With less than 20 minutes of regulation time to go, Shubho scored the fifth goal for India in the 73rd minute as hit the net after Bahrain goalkeeper spilled the ball yet again.

With this win, India now move on to six points in the group with 10 goals to its kitty.

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Man United, Arsenal begin Europa League campaign with victories



Arsenal players celebrate their victory on Thursday.

London: Last season’s runners-up Arsenal romped to a 3-0 victory at Eintracht Frankfurt in their Europa League opener while Mason Greenwood spared Manchester United’s blushes and Rangers got the better of Feyenoord.

Unai Emery’s enjoyed the best result of all with youngsters Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka scoring in Germany.

In between, Dominik Kohr was sent off for last season’s beaten semi-finalists Frankfurt, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made sure of the win for Arsenal in the Group F clash.

Their next game will be at home to Standard Liege, who beat Vitoria Guimaraes 2-0 on Thursday.

At Old Trafford, United had teenager Greenwood to thank as the 17-year-old’s goal gave them a 1-0 win over Astana of Kazakhstan in Group L.

Greenwood became the youngest goalscorer for United in European competition with a composed finish 17 minutes from time.

Victory justified Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to make nine changes from Saturday’s Premier League win over Leicester City with a host of youngsters given their chance to impress.

The group’s other game saw AZ Alkmaar come from behind to draw 2-2 with Partizan Belgrade in Serbia despite playing more than an hour with 10 men.

Wolverhampton Wanderers were unable to make it three wins out of three for Premier League clubs as they slumped to a 1-0 home defeat against Braga at Molineux.

Ricardo Horta’s second-half goal gave the Portuguese club all three points in Group K and it was a disappointing night for a Wolves team who are still without a win in the Premier League this season.

In the same group Slovan Bratislava were 4-2 winners at home to Besiktas, who welcome Wolves to Istanbul in a fortnight.

Celtic held

Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers started in fine fashion as they edged out Feyenoord 1-0 at Ibrox in Group G with Sheyi Ojo scoring the only goal of the game midway through the first half.

James Tavernier missed a penalty before that for the Glasgow side on an emotional night as a minute’s silence was held in memory of Fernando Ricksen. The former Rangers and Netherlands defender died aged 43 on Wednesday after a long battle with motor neurone disease.

It is an ideal start for Rangers in a tough group and their next match will be away in Switzerland against Young Boys, who lost 2-1 at Porto on Thursday with Tiquinho netting twice for the hosts.

Celtic battled to a 1-1 draw with Rennes in France in a fiery Group E encounter, with Ryan Christie’s second-half penalty cancelling out M’Baye Niang’s 38th-minute spot-kick for the hosts before the visitors had Vakoun Issouf Bayo sent off at the death.

They now host CFR Cluj, the same side who eliminated them in Champions League qualifying. The Romanians shocked Lazio 2-1 on Thursday.

Elsewhere, Sevilla, who won the Europa League three years running from 2014 to 2016, beat Qarabag 3-0 in Azerbaijan in Group A with Javier Hernandez getting their opening goal.

PSV Eindhoven opened up Group D with a 3-2 victory against Sporting Lisbon while Roma crushed Istanbul Basaksehir 4-0 in Group J.

In the same group Borussia Moenchengladbach were stunned by Wolfsberg, losing 4-0 at home to the unheralded Austrian side who were making their group-stage debut.

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Di Maria-led PSG humble Real Madrid, Juve held by Atletico in Champions League




Paris: Angel Di Maria was hailed as “exceptional” after scoring twice against his former club as Paris Saint-Germain shrugged off the absences of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and thrashed Real Madrid 3-0 on Wednesday to get off to the perfect start in the Champions League.

Di Maria beat Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois at his near post to put PSG ahead in the 14th minute at the Parc des Princes, but it was his second goal just after the half-hour that really lit up this encounter.

The Argentine, who starred for Real for four years and won the Champions League with them in 2014 before moving to Manchester United, gave Courtois no chance with a left-footed shot from 20 yards out that arrowed into the’s sports news

Thomas Meunier added the gloss at the death but it was Di Maria who had cleared the way, stepping into the gap left by the injured Mbappe and Edinson Cavani as well as suspended Neymar.

These two clubs are trying to recover some of their lustre after disappointing campaigns in Europe last season, but for PSG this result is a measure of revenge for their defeat at the hands of Real in the last 16 the previous year.

They remain unbeaten at home in the Champions League group stage since 2004 and they are already in control of Group A before facing Galatasaray and Club Brugge, who drew 0-0 on Wednesday.

They had a Gareth Bale goal disallowed for handball after a VAR review just after going two behind, while Eden Hazard struggled to make an impact on his first start since his move from Chelsea.

Madrid were also handicapped by the absences of Sergio Ramos, Nacho and Marcelo in defence as well as Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric in midfield.

PSG, confusingly wearing white while the visitors wore dark blue, opened the scoring in the 14th minute when Di Maria latched onto a Juan Bernat cutback from the left byline and fired in.

Hazard shot just wide at the other end moments later and Bale curled a free-kick over the bar from the edge of the area. Just after that, in the 33rd minute, Di Maria took a touch and smashed a shot into the right-hand corner to make it 2-0.

Then came Bale’s disallowed goal, and the Welshman came close again in first-half stoppage time, yet the Spanish giants created little in the second half apart from a Karim Benzema goal that was ruled out for offside.

Hazard, meanwhile, departed 20 minutes from time having failed to make his mark, and PSG scored again in stoppage time, Meunier exchanging passes with Bernat before finishing.

Both sides should still make it through but for now it is PSG, six months on from their horror show against Manchester United, who have more reason to be optimistic. Especially with so much firepower still to return.

Herrera gabs late point for Atletico

Hector Herrera grabbed a dramatic point on his Atletico Madrid debut with a late header that saw his side come back from two goals down to draw 2-2 in their Champions League opener against Juventus on Wednesday.

Herrera came off the bench to crash home Kieran Tripper’s last-minute corner and complete the comeback after Juve had gone ahead through Juan Cuadrado’s superb strike seconds after the break and a bullet header from Blaise Matuidi on 65 minutes.

Stefan Savic gave the home fans hope when he pulled one back for Atletico five minutes after Frenchman Matuidi had doubled the away side’s lead.

Manchester City made a flying start to their campaign with a 3-0 win against Shakhtar Donetsk. Robert Lewandowski scored as Bayern Munich eased to a 3-0 win over Red Star Belgrade while Tottenham let a two-goal lead slip to draw 2-2 away to Olympiakos.

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