Men in green reap rich harvest

Men in green reap rich harvest

Football

key man: Sunil Kumar caught everyone’s eyes with his spectacular show for HASC. dh photo Srikanta sharma r
The atmosphere was gloomy on Tuesday evening but Hindustan Aeronautics Sports Club lit up the scene at the City’s football stadium once again turning the heat on their opponents.

With convincing ease, the defending champions of the Bangalore District Football Association’s Super Division League, retained their crown for the second consecutive time after a testing two-and-a-half month schedule. This indeed was a soothing balm to heal the wounds inflicted after being dumped out of last season’s I-League Second Division for failing to meet required norms. But, keen to wipe the disappointment off, the champions strung together another impressive round of performances to wear the crown for fourth time in the last six seasons.

A visibly ecstatic coach M Muralidharan showered praises on his team but felt time has arrived to focus on the future. “Credit must go to the team for playing so well throughout the tournament. It feels fantastic to have won the BDFA league again but the disappointment of I-League is still fresh in my mind. My aim now is to qualify for the I-League again. I am very confident that this team, which has a perfect mix of youth and experience, will do well there,” added Muralidharan

Playing against a gritty MEG in their penultimate league game, their 1-0 lead was cancelled out by a superb strike from Ramu in the second-half. A draw would have jeopardised their title chances, but a young and talented Satish Kumar (Jr) had other plans. The 20-year-old from City’s Gun Troop area produced a magical strike from a close range that screamed into the goal which eventually swung the title in HASC’s favour – almost decisively. With nine goals in the league of 13 matches, the striker emerged as the top scorer for his side catching many an eye.

Find of the season

“Satish is definitely one of the finds for us in the recent past. He and Dada Nabeel form a potent force. Satish has got both skill and speed along with a great presence of mind, more than what an average youngster would possess. I am certain that he and Nabeel would be picked for Karnataka in the upcoming Santosh Trophy. This is why I feel our participation in the I-league will provide a tremendous boost to the careers of such youngsters. By 2011, Satish could feature in the national team,” pointed out Muralidharan, who has been associated with HASC since 1985 as a player and as coach since 2006.

“Currently our focus is to develop youngsters. The balance would be 75-25 in favour of youth. Veterans like Xavier Vijay Kumar, RC Prakash and Rajendra Prasad will continue to play pivotal roles. One of the most important criteria for seeking berth in I-League is to have an under-17 or under-19 squad. The HASC management has promised to increase our budget and we currently are in the process of building that team. Once that is completed, our ticket for I-League (Second Division) should be confirmed,” noted the long-serving HASC employee.

“With the current crop of players, I am confident of out team performing well in the Second Division. We have intensified our training programmes and plan to recruit more players from the upcoming Santosh Trophy. Also the management is expected confirm the employment of at least 7-8 players. These incentives should encourage all to strive for more in the season ahead.

Tougher competition

“Moreover, playing in the I-League itself is a big motivation. The level of competition is obviously much higher. While the battle for supremacy is generally between three or four teams in Bangalore, out there it is much more. My only ambition is to steer HASC into I-League – India’s premier football competition. And, I feel we have the resources to accomplish it this season,” remarked the confidant coach.

Muralidharan’s thought was also echoed by the green and white brigade’s captain Xavier.

“Except for a few teams, not many possess the arsenal to test top flight teams. I-league is the real test. It is what many of us aspire to play right from our teens. Following the successful title defence, we will build the squad keeping in mind the national glory. Hopefully it all turns out well,” said Xavier, who has worn the leader’s arm-band for the last four years.

Expressing confidence ahead of the Santosh Trophy, Muralidharan said last year's semifinalist have a great chance to go the distance.

“The local league has just got over and many would be match fit. The attack and midfield looks very good. And I am anxiously waiting for it as the tournament will be a window for spotting out-station talents,” added Muralidharan.
Sidney Kiran

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