Young talent raises Karnataka hopes

Last Updated 23 January 2010, 14:52 IST

It has been quite a while since Karnataka football tasted success at the national level but this winter had some better news in store with their youngsters doing the State proud with some commendable performances.

While the State under-16 boys fell just short of laying their hands on the Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy, losing to Jharkhand 0-1 in the final in Haryana, the under-19 lads went a step further by clinching the Dr BC Roy Trophy for the fourth time with a 2-0 win over Orissa in the summit clash. These performances underlined the State’s footballing potential, bringing to fore a wealth of talent.

The under-19 squad was shaped by coaches J L Andrew and Saravanan in a three-week camp in Bangalore. Captained by central midfielder Shankar – an India under-16 player – the youngsters stitched together a good show to regain the title on a sunny January evening in Mandya.

“The victory is special,” said Andrew, a former ITI player who triumphed in the same event way back in 1979.
“These victories can go a long way in shaping their careers, especially in terms of self-confidence. Majority of them are from not-so-well-to-do families and success could be the spark they desperately need.”

“It feels great to lift the title at home,” said Saravanan, who has had a great season, having steered his side Dharmaraja Union to the BDFA Super Division after winning the ‘A’ Division. “I have been working with youngsters for quite a while now and it is an enriching experience to see them win. And, it would give you more pleasure if they graduate to become a big player.”

The under-16 boys had a tougher run as they had to play in two different cities. In the South/West Zone qualifying rounds at Mumbai, they hammered Kerala (6-1), Puducherry (8-0) and Andhra Pradesh (8-0) before edging Maharashtra (1-0) to emerge group toppers.

Sudden jolt
Their brilliant run was given a sudden jolt by Jharkhand (1-4) in the opening quarterfinal league match. However, victories against former champions Bihar (1-0), Mizoram (2-0) and Tripura (2-0) helped them set up a semifinal clash against Meghalaya.
An easy 2-0 victory put them on course for the third sub-junior title and first in nearly a quarter of a century. However, a physically-stronger Jharkhand proved too good in the final.

“After our earlier loss to Jharkhand we devised fresh plans for the final. While we were very much in the game until the end, failure to convert some clear chances hurt us badly,” said under-16 coach Dakshina Murthy of ADE, a former Karnataka player himself. “A lot of hard work went into the making of the team. After the selection trials we played a lot of matches against SAI and ASC and that really helped the boys get into rhythm,” he observed.

Although the entire U-19 squad played very well, special credit should go to Shankar, Sridhar, Lokesh M, R Mohan and Vinod Kumar. If Shankar and Sridhar marshalled the midfield well, Lokesh and Mohan were brilliant down the flanks, showing good presence of mind on several occasions while Vinod did justice to his job as the lone striker.
All three coaches believe this is the best chance for the Karnataka State Football Association to resurrect the game here. “The game up north is completely different from what it is here. It is more physical and testing,” observed Andrew.
“The need of the hour is a long-term plan. The boys need exposure trips and have to play at least 6-7 tournaments annually,” said Murthy.

“Following the good showing by our youngsters, other teams will be wary of playing us in the future. We have the potential of regaining the Santosh Trophy, but a lot of work has to be done,” said Saravanan.
With the FIFA Goal Project Academy and an artificial turf slated to come up at the Bangalore Football stadium in 2011, Karnataka has a wonderful chance of grooming and nurturing talent.

(Published 23 January 2010, 14:52 IST)

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