Title aspirant Minerva hope to return to winning ways against Gokulam.

Tribune India

Minerva Punjab FC would look to return to winning ways when they take on seventh-placed Gokulam Kerala FC here tomorrow, if they desire to get closer to their maiden Hero I-League title.

But Minerva would adopt a cautious approach after their tiring 0-1 defeat at the hands of East Bengal at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium here, the venue for tomorrow’s match.

Meanwhile, the Kerala-outfit is in a blazing form after beating both Kolkata powerhouses in successive fixtures. They humbled Mohun Bagan 2-1 in Kolkata and then dented East Bengal’s title hopes by the same margin in Kozhikode.

Gokulam’s red hot form can be assessed from the fact that they have collected a total of 12 points in their last five matches.

Placed second in the points table with the title up for grabs, Minerva head coach Wangkhem Khogen Singh very well knows the significance of tomorrow’s fixture.

“The upcoming match against Gokulam is very important and we have already convinced our boys how important this match is for the I-League title. If we take 3 points in this match then we are on top,” Khogen said.

“The boys need to understand this and they will give 100 per cent in the match. In this league, the lower team or upper team doesn’t make any difference. Now we are in a tight situation. The title is close to our hands. But still, we need to work to get it,” he added.

Khogen said he wants to make some changes in his squad to ensure a favourable result as the tactical decision to play Gagandeep as a left back against East Bengal didn’t yield favourable results.

“We think the guy who played against us on our left side was strong and speedy too. We thought Bali can take him on since he is good in marking the players. We want to change one or two players from the last game we played but it’s not finalised,” he said.                   

Meanwhile, Gokulam Kerala FC coach Bino George said playing in the top flight league and rubbing shoulders with country’s premier clubs will provide his team with much-needed experience which will prove to be worthwhile for future.

“As for my team, all our young boys are gathering huge experience from each game. Playing in Hero I-League will give them experience which they don’t have at the moment,” he said.

He also said that his boys are not under any sort of pressure and that’s why they are playing free-flowing football at this moment.

“Minerva Punjab and East Bengal are fighting for the championship. We have no pressure. We will fight and try to play a better game. That is only my aim. Minerva is a good side. Kerala badly needed an I-League team for last 6 years and finally, we have one. Before the start of the season our target was mid-table finish so we are focusing on it,” he concluded. — PTI

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City sports traders seek relief in Budget.

Tribune 31st Jan-18

After the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), the demand for sports goods has declined. Traders say the business has suffered a lot and they have not got bulk orders for long.

Most of the sports goods have come under the slab of 18 per cent tax slab post GST, whereas the value added tax (VAT) barely existed in the 6 per cent tax bracket.

City sports industry caters to the 50 per cent of sports items in the country.

Sports dealers in the city are looking for some relief in the budget. “The government should encourage the sports industry by keeping the sports equipment available in the viable tax bracket and reduce the GST rates to 5 or 12 per cent, instead of 18 per cent,” said Harpal, a trader.

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Defying poverty, young girls shine in sports.

These petite young girls at the age of 10 and 16 are stars in the making. It has been just four months that Parnaj Preet Kaur, a Class VII student, started learning judo, while Manpreet Kaur has been learning javelin throw since last year.

These girls have won bronze in the national and Punjab school games, held at Rohtak and Tarn Taran, respectively.Manpreet Kaur

Manpreet Kaur, whose father is a small farmer, won bronze at national level. Sudhir Kumar, physical education teacher at Government Senior Secondary School, said Kaur came there this year. “She has shown great potential and we are proud that she has won bronze. We will keep on encouraging her,” he said.

For Parnaj Preet Kaur, it was her third tournament. She started learning the game only four months ago. Despite the fact that her family condition is not good, her family doesn’t want her to stop. She won bronze in the state school games organised on December 24 in Tarn Taran in 32 kg category. In last game too, she won a bronze medal. Kaur, who hails from Batala, lives in a hostel at Nehru Garden Senior Secondary Girls School.

Paraj said,” I was earlier into books all the time, but now, since I have jumped into the world of sports, I don’t like anything else. I am totally into playing judo now. I want to be a judo star.”

Her mother Harpreet Kaur says the family is economically weak and despite being unhealthy, her husband has to go abroad to earn for his family. “I Parnaj Preet Kaurhave three daughters and a son. I know that how much it is difficult for me to make arrangements for my family,” said Kaur, a homemaker. She also added that her husband is not well and will come here soon.

Parnaj’s elder sister, who is 14 years old, is also into sports. She is athlete. Their mother said she wanted that both girls to make her proud by clinching good positions in their respective games.

Parnaj’s coach Sudhir Kumar said he was proud to be teaching such a dedicated young girl. “I am proud of her. I want to see her in the nationals now. For that, I will keep on guiding her and will make her prepare,” he added.

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A kick-off with a brand new life.

Meet these three young women, who dared to choose a career they loved, not the ones their parents decided for them. And they are happy, promising to attain greater heights.

In April this year, a picture of girl students throwing rocks at security forces became a defining image of the resentment and anger in the region. At the centre of this image was 23-year-old Afshan Ashiq, a footballer, carrying a stone which she appeared to aim at a police vehicle. “I am not a stone-thrower, was never one and will never be. I want to be known as a footballer,” says Afshan. 

Her transition from being a student from Kashmir to an aspiring footballer has seen a usual struggle between what a woman ‘should’ do and what she does feel like doing. So far, she is through half-way: a sporting career looks right ahead.

The April incident, Afshan says, was “a reaction to the police using harsh language with me and other girls”. “We had to defend ourselves.”Afshan has moved past that image with help from the state government. She met chief minister Mehbooba Mufti who decided to do her bit to promote both Afshan and women’s football in the state. Afshan is now the captain and goalkeeper of the J&K team competing in the Indian Women’s League which had the first season kicking off in Cuttack in October last year. The league is run by the All India Football Federation.

Afshan is training in Mumbai and aims to play for the Indian side. “Mumbai is completely a new world,” she says. “People are professional. There is competition and exposure.” She plays for a Mumbai club and has even inspired a Bollywood biopic on her life.

“Many girls in Kashmir sacrifice their dreams to a mindset. I am happy I have been able to convince my parents about my career. They are happy,” she said. Her tenacity has led the state government to actively support sporting talents. “We are taking multiple initiatives such as opening academies with professional coaches to train the youth in various sports,” says secretary, J&K State Sports Council, Waheed-ur-Rehman Para.

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UP government wants its primary school students to play football.

As part of the initiative, the government will encourage around 1.85 crore students enrolled in around 1.10 lakh primary and around 50,000 upper primary schools being run by it across the 75 districts to take up the sport with a gusto.

With memories of overwhelming response to FIFA Under-17 World Cup held recently in India still fresh, the state government has decided to promote football at the school-level.

As part of the initiative, the government will encourage around 1.85 crore students enrolled in around 1.10 lakh primary and around 50,000 upper primary schools being run by it across the 75 districts to take up the sport with a gusto.

As step one, it has decided to have under-14 teams in each government-run primary schools.

The education directorate (basic) has instructed all divisional and district level officials to ensure that at least two footballs each are made available in every school functioning under their jurisdiction on a priority.

The plan is to later select players from these school teams for district-level squads and with support of All India Football Federation (AIFF) make the state a hub of football players.

The seriousness of the state government for the mission can be gauged from the fact for the first time a state level under-14 football championship has also been planned for these students in February/March 2018 as per the guidelines of All India Football Federation.

In a missive dated December 6, additional director education (camp) Ruby Singh has ordered all divisional assistant directors of education (basic) and basic shiksha adhikaris (BSAs) of all districts to ensure that students of every school get to play football at least 2-3 days every week, said BSA-Allahabad Sanjay Kushwaha.

They have also been asked to organise frequent matches at district and divisional level to help these students improve their playing skills, he added.

The officials have been instructed to ensure that they succeed in preparing a good under-14 team at the district and the divisional level to represent them while praising their efforts in the past to promote sports and other child welfare activities in the schools.

The letter also acknowledges recent steps taken to encourage children of government primary schools to embrace sports and these have helped create a fertile environment for the task at hand.

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2018 FIFA World Cup™ official match ball unveiled: an exciting re-imagining.

A reinvention of a classic model with a brand-new panel design and the latest technology: in an exciting re-imagining, adidas today revealed the official match ball for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, which pays homage to the first-ever adidas World Cup ball. The Telstar 18 evokes unforgettable memories of the 1970 FIFA World Cup™ – and of legends like Pelé, Gerd Müller, Giacinto Facchetti, Pedro Rocha and Bobby Moore – and will feed the dreams of those who will play for football’s most coveted prize in Russia next year.

“I was lucky enough to get to know this ball a bit earlier and I managed to have a try with it," Argentina star Lionel Messi said. "I like all of it: the new design, the colours, everything.”

The name of the original Telstar came from its status as the “star of television”. The first ball to be decorated with black panels, the pattern was designed to stand out on black-and-white TVs, and changed football design forever.

Almost 50 years later, Telstar 18 features a brand new carcass, high technology and sustainable elements such as recycled packaging. It also includes an embedded NFC chip, which enables consumers to interact with the ball using a smartphone. The personalised and location-aware experience displays specific details of each ball and provides access to challenges which users can enter in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup™.

“The original Telstar is one of the most iconic footballs of all time and one which changed football design forever, so developing the Telstar 18 while staying true to the original model was a really exciting challenge for us. The new panel structure and inclusion of an NFC chip has taken football innovation and design to a new level and offers both consumers and players a completely new experience,” said Roland Rommler, Category Director of Football Hardware at adidas.

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Special drive against child labour launched

The Tribune 14 Nov-17

Deputy Commissioner Varinder Sharma today launched a special awareness campaign under National Child Labour project to make the people aware about the menace of child labour.

Launching the posters of the campaign, the Deputy Commissioner said the main aim of the campaign was to wipe out this curse from the district. He said under the project serious efforts were being made by the district administration to ensure that the exploitation of children through child labour was checked at every cost. He said the district administration had been making all efforts to make sure that students were not forced to do work.

The Deputy Commissioner said the administration was running 27 schools where children were imparted primary education free of cost. He said besides education, these schools were carrying out various activities for the overall personality development of these children. Various activities would be now carried out by the administration in the Child Labour Week to be observed by the administration.

He said the provisions of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 were being implemented strongly to ensure the well-being of children. He said the recent amendments in the Act had made the provision of stringent punishment for the offenders.

Also, Section 3 of the Act now debars any child below the age of 14 from working in any hazardous or non-hazardous institution, adding that as per Section 3 (a) any adolescent (14-18 years) may work in non-hazardous institution but they could not be forced to work for more than five hours.

The violation of these provisions could lead to punishment of six months to two years of imprisonment and fine of Rs 20,000-Rs 50,000. Also, if the parents of any child force him to work, they too could be penalised for it.

Meanwhile, the DC lauded the NGO and the SAS foundation for taking keen part in this awareness drive. He said such endeavours on part of the NGOs would be instrumental in making this campaign a mass movement.

On this occasion, project director of the National Child Labour Project Sukhjinder Singh and president of the SAS Foundation Ramanpreet Kaur were also present.

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Italy’s FIFA World Cup qualification failure sends shockwaves around the world

For the first time in 60 years, Italy have failed to qualify for a FIFA World Cup. The next FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia in 2018.

Four-time world champions Italy suffered a shock when they failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with their qualifying play-off match against Sweden ending in a goalless draw at the Friends Arena in Stockholm on Monday.

Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup to be played in Russia in 2018 sent shockwaves through the country and beyond, with their veteran player Gianluigi Buffon making a tearful exit from international football.

The Italian media called their team’s failure an ‘apocalypse’, as it was way back in 1958 that the ‘Azzurri’ had failed to qualify for a World Cup event.

“I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football, because we failed at something which also means something on a social level,” said an emotional Buffon confirming his exit, according to AFP.

Buffon was not the only one to walk away post the failure; with the 36-year-old Andrea Barzagli, the 34-year-old midfielder Daniele de Rossi and Giorgio Chiellini also retiring from international football.

There were reactions from all over the world with Italy’s failure, who along with teams such as Chile, The Netherlands, Cameroon, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Ivory Coast and USA will be watching the World Cup from home.

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FIFA very happy with India’s U-17 WC organisation: AFC

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) General Secretary Dato Windsor on Wednesday termed India’s successful hosting of the FIFA U-17 World Cup as “fantastic” and said the world body is very happy with the way the mega-event has been organised. 

“I think from the feedback we got from FIFA, they are very happy with the organisation of the World Cup. It’s not easy to organise a World Cup in such a huge country. There got to be some issues but if you look at it in a very objective way, I think it has been fantastic,” said Windsor.

He further added this should be a new beginning for the Indian football.

“We have to take this as the base and keep going forward.

The football development in Asia is our top priority. There are many countries in Asia who don’t even have proper stadium facilities.

“We have a set of plans in place and it’s about taking it forward. It’s about developing infrastructure for the betterment of football,” said Windsor.

Asked about the venue of the semifinal match between Brazil and England being changed from Guwahati to Kolkata, he said: “It’s unfortunate but we don’t have any say on nature.” — PTI

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Why Indian football’s mediocrity will continue well beyond FIFA U-17 World Cup.

With the AIFF refusing to look beyond the current tenure of President Praful Patel, and investing heavily on a small group of boys, the Indian football fraternity can forget about any long-term development after the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

With the group stages of the FIFA U-17 World Cup over, the line-up for the tournament’s Round of 16 has now been confirmed.

India finished with the wooden spoon, bowing out of the group stages without a point and with a goal difference of -8.

The Luis Norton de Matos-coached team did show glimpses of a promising side in the three games, but were eventually outclassed by three vastly superior teams.

Huge spending on small group

If there’s one thing these games showed, it is that no amount of training or financial investment on a group of teenage boys can turn them into world beaters. It must be noted that close to Rs. 15 crore, as per well-placed federation sources, had been spent on this group of players, with active state funding.

Across the world’s best performing footballing nations, kids start playing football well before they reach double figures, in terms of ages. That isn’t the case in India.

Back in 2015, India’s men’s national team head coach Stephen Constantine had summed up the issue well, saying, “Our problem is we are not teaching young Indian boys at the age of five, six and developing basics. You can’t start at the age of 14 or 15... Players all over the world are starting out at five, six seven — that’s the difference. Until we address it, that’s where we’re always going to be, we’re always going to be playing catch-up,”

There isn’t a structure in India’s system that caters to kids below ten years of age, neither is there any large scale plan for the long run.

No systematic youth development plan

Earlier this year, Richard Hood, AIFF’s Head of Player Development, formulated the concept of ‘baby leagues’, with inputs from a few senior coaches and former Indian players

Yet, in the absence of a pan-Indian push, it is unlikely to be of much help. India is home to millions of students in the age range of 6-10.

With cooperation from the union sports ministry and state governments, it would have been ideal for the AIFF to formulate a long-term plan, long-term being 15/20/25 years, for pushing the sport among the youngest of students, across both genders, in the country.

Hood himself is vocal on these issues on social media, and in one of his recent tweets, said, “National youth competitions are meaningless in the absence of intense year round local and regional multi-tier age specific leagues and cups.”

Short term focus

As things stand, the AIFF is set to spend significant amount of money in the next couple of years focusing on the current crop of U-16 and U-17 boys. Luis Norton de Matos is set to continue with the current U-17 side, which will now effectively be India’s U-19 team.

All players have been offered three-year contracts, albeit it remains unclear as to how many of the players will actually sign on the papers. The team will play the AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers in November, before taking part in the I-League as a AIFF-representative team.

“The current under-16 team will follow the same path as the under-17 team in terms of foreign exposure except that we would like them to play in more competitions now,” AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das was recently quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

Such plans will entail heavy investment, likely to run into nine-figures, over the next two-three years.

With AIFF not being the richest of sports bodies in India, it is surprising indeed that so much time, effort and money is being invested in a group of boys in their mid-teen years.

It is true that none of these boys should be left in the lurch like many of their predecessors have been. That doesn’t, however, call for heavy investment on one group of players, especially when it is known that they wouldn’t miraculously turn into world class players with more training or exposure tours.

Little plan for other wings

Women’s football, for instance, suffers from gross under-investment in India. Until recently, the women’s national team hadn’t played an international friendly for four years.

If there isn’t enough money for organising a single women’s international friendly for four years, how does one justify this investment on a few U-16 and U-17 boys?

Sample this: there isn’t any plan that goes beyond the current tenure of AIFF president Praful Patel. His term ends in 2020, but football as a sport will continue beyond 2020. India, however, is yet to see anything beyond the immediate international competitions.

Japan, at present, has a 100-year plan targeting its national league structure. In India, it is not yet known as to when the 2017-18 season of the I-League will start. It is already the middle of October 2017.

Giant still sleeping

A lot was made on social media about how India put up a fight in the opening two games of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The team indeed did well against USA and Colombia in small periods of the games, but the possibility of these boys helping India qualify for the senior World Cup in future is highly unlikely, given that India is nowhere near the continental powerhouses of Asia.

If the objective of competitive football was to ‘win hearts’, India would have been the reigning world champions in the sport. Unfortunately, that is not the point of football, and celebrating mediocrity year after year isn’t going to mask the inability of India’s football administrators to look beyond the immediate future.

The term ‘sleeping giant’, initially used by ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter, is often used to describe India’s footballing potential. Those who have followed Indian football closely in the last decade will know that this ‘giant’ wouldn’t be sleeping had it not been heavily drugged by those looking after it.

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