Posts Tagged ‘baichung bhutia

05
Sep
09

A deserved victory for Bhutia and co.

Three of my most favorite football teams are Manchester United, Atletico Madrid (Spain isn’t just about Barca and Real) and the Indian National Football team. Yes, you heard it right, the very team led by a certain Baichung Bhutia and coached by an Englishman named Bob Houghton. Ask any football fan in India and 8 out of 10 will tell you who top-scored in last season’s Premier League but ask them who the current I-League champions are and they would be clueless. That is football in India for you, where most of us  consider ‘Indian football’ as a non-existant entity.

For all those who saw the nerve-wrecking final of the Nehru Cup between India and Syria, I’m sure it must have been of a one of a kind experience. It was easily by far, one of the best games of football I’ve ever witnessed. No goals in regular time and with less than 10 minutes for penalties substitute Renedy Singh converted a free kick to send the crows to ruptures. He may not be a David Beckham but on that particular day he did much more than Beckham could ever do in his career – help win a trophy for his national side. But then, just when everybody thought the game is over for the Syrians, Ali Diab brilliantly headed the ball past the Indian ‘keeper with hardly any time left for the final whistle.

India wins Nehru Cup

Ask Roberto Baggio or David Beckham. They wouldn’t think twice telling you that a penalty shootout is the most dreaded affair for any football player. No matter how big a superstar you are, when it comes to shooting the ball from 12 yards with just one person separating glory from you, it is not about skill or talent, rather its about the nerves. Unfortunately for the West Asians, nerves deserted them, along with luck. And then there was super-man Subrata Pal. The three saves he made were nothing short of being called spectacular. The moment Pal leaped to his left to stop Belal Abduldaim, I swear the song Chak De India was playing in my head. The Syrian Coach Fajer Ibrahim commented after the match that Syria could have romped home 4-0 had they scored and the Indians did not deserved the victory. Someone should remind him life, and football are not about possiblities, rather reality. The bottom-line is that Syria lost and India won. But what an irony that in both 2007 and 2009 India won the cup after losing to Syria in the league stages but defeating them when it mattered the most in the final. Lightning does strike twice after all.

India does have a lot of talent. Guys like Chhetri, Pal and NP Pradeep certainly deserve a shot in the European leagues, at least in the smaller ones like in Belgium. It is a pity that Chettri couldn’t make the cut for a work permit with QPR. Else he would have been the second Indian after Bhutia to play in England. What India lacks the most is enough match practice. In the last couple of years apart from two Nehru Cups and the AFC Challenge Cup, the team has hardly played a game. India needs to play more friendlies against better oppositions from Asia and if possible outside. I can’t wait to see India play  the likes of Japan and South Korea in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.

Advertisements