Pitching the Tenth

We might never find out what really went through Shlok Jain's young mind or whether the 15-year-old even briefly comprehended the severe consequences of his risque maneuver.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Published:September 11, 2012 1:59 am

We might never find out what really went through Shlok Jain’s young mind or whether the 15-year-old even briefly comprehended the severe consequences of his risque maneuver. This was after all the most memorable day of his school football career. Of his budding life. A day where his school,Campion,stood on the cusp of ultimate glory. And a day where they could bring an end to Don Bosco’s unrelenting hold on the most coveted prize in Mumbai school sports—the boys’ under-16 trophy.

Going into their clash against Bombay Scottish,the equation was pretty straightforward for Jain and his team. Win and be crowned champions. With the score now reading 2-2 and just minutes left on the clock,the desperation for the crucial game-changing goal had reached fever pitch. It wasn’t going to matter how or where it came from.

And as Jain saw his teammate’s overhead pass land closer to the oncoming Bombay Scottish goalkeeper than him,he knew another chance had gone abegging. The ball was too high to connect with his feet and too far for him to stretch his neck out for a header. Rather than give up,the Campion striker did the unthinkable.

Clenching the fingers on his right hand to form a fist,he tried punching the ball into the net instead. There was no question of there being a benefit of doubt here. Neither for his intention nor his action. Jain,who had scored the initial goal for Campion,was red-carded and had to saunter off the field,lonely and dejected. It wasn’t quite the heroic exit that he had dreamed off. But you couldn’t help but feel for the boy. You couldn’t blame Shlok for being desperate either.

The final whistle went off not long after. The deadlock had not been broken. Campion’s dreams of lifting the trophy now no longer rested in their hands.

Waiting in the wings,and watching the drama unfold were coach Leslie Machado and his Don Bosco boys—champions on 9 out of the previous 10 seasons. Later,Machado would claim he had considered the worst when he saw Aryan Sood convert the late penalty that helped Campion draw level in the closing minutes just before Jain’s sending off. But having seen Bombay Scottish hold on to a draw,Machado’s orders to his boys were direct and clear. Win at all costs against arch-rivals St Stanislaus High School from Bandra.

If there’s one thing Don Bosco teams have done well over the years,it is to keep their nerve in crunch situations and pull their team over the line. A major factor for them having won the title as frequently as they have. And eventually they didn’t even need to produce a direct goal to clinch the trophy for the fourth time running.

Well the goal certainly was credited to Quentin Britto. And the diminutive striker deserved every bit of it for having dribbled past and broken free from the resilient Stanislaus defence. But it’s doubtful whether his final attempt would have found the back of the net if it wasn’t for an unfortunate parry off Stanislaus defender Dermot Gracias’s shoulder.

The match itself proved to be rather tedious in comparison to the action-packed encounter between Campion and Scottish. Stanislaus too would have stood an outside chance at aiming for the crown had Campion lost their match earlier in the day. And though that was out of question,the boys in green were now intent on ensuring that their perennial foes didn’t get their hands around the silver either.

Cheering them on vociferously from the sidelines was the Campion gang of course. Rarely had a bunch of defenders been buoyed as passionately as this to keep the ball away from their goal. As expected,finals day at the Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA) ground was a theatre of nerves,drama and the inevitable mix of ecstasy and heartbreak.

The heartbreak in this case was in store for Campion. For at the moment Gracias diverted the ball into his own net with hardly 10 minutes to go for the final whistle,they knew Bosco had done it again. The hands on their heads would only get heavier as the seconds continued to tick by and Stanislaus’s impact on the contest grew weaker.

Eventually the scenes of unbridled revelry were all too familiar with the Don Bosco boys and their supporters,who rushed onto the field from different directions encompassing the MSSA ground.

Speaking about his umpteenth title-win,Machado did not forget to thank Bombay Scottish for their unexpected defiance against a strong Campion unit.

In the end it wasn’t just Britto’s strike that had sealed the title for them. Jatsu Patwa’s brace for Scottish earlier in the day had proved equally to be a pivotal moment in the final outcome. Even with their 1-0 win,Don Bosco finished even on points with Campion—with 16 each. But while both teams had gone into finals day having kept a clean-sheet,Patwa proved party-pooper for Campion. And it was only because Don Bosco had managed to keep all comers at bay for the second season running that they managed to retain the under-16 crown for one more year.

“This win certainly is more pleasing even though we had left it till the final match against Stanislaus last year too. When Campion converted that penalty,I had begun fearing the worst and for the boys to then motivate themselves and win like this in the end is just an extraordinary feeling,” explained an euphoric Machado. Slouched on the sidelines,the Campion brigade,who have now been runners-up for two consecutive seasons,were left to wonder and ponder about what could have been. About having come so near but still having to be content with second prize. About if only Jain had managed to strike the ball with any other part of his body than his hand.

Results: B-16-III-PQF: Arya Vidyamandir (KKC) 4 (Dulkar Degwekar 2,Jai Tulsian,Harbind Singh Thapal) bt St Andrew’s (Bandra) 3 (Kalpesh Chimbaikar,Rahul Velkar,Suraj Kanojia); B-16-III-PQF: Bombay International (Babulnath) 3 (Veer Parikh,Jay Ponlha) bt Infant Jesus (Malad) 0; B-16-III-PQF: Cambridge School (Kandivali) 4 (Dhaval Madrecha 2,Kannan Kakkara,Jeshua Zachariah) bt Sacred Heart (SC) 3 (Desmond D’Souza,Roven Dias,Mandar Kamble); B-16-I: St Francis D’Assisi (Borivali) 2 (Danny John,Shawn Barboza) drew with St Dominic Savio (Andheri) 2 (Sherwin Quadros,Peter Robbert); B-16-I: St Lawrence (Borivali) 1 (Ryan Rodrigues) bt St Joseph (Wadala) 0; B-16-I: Campion School (Cooperage) 2 (Shlok Jain,Aryan Sood) drew with Bombay Scottish School (Mahim) 2 (Jatsu Patwa 2); B-16-I: Don Bosco High School (Matunga) (Quentin Britto) 1 bt St Stanislus High School (Bandra) 0; B-16-II-QF: St Anne’s (Malad) 2 (Kirk Alvares,Francis Pereira) bt Maneckji Cooper (Juhu) 0; B-16-IV-C: Antonio D’Souza (Byculla) 10 (Ansari Adnan 6,Anees –Ur- Rehman 3,Ansari Kashif) bt Our Lady of Dolours (Marine Lines) 0; B-16-IV-C: Swami Vivekanand (Chembur) 3 (Devin L,Anuj Pandey,Avinash Madapatill) bt Anjuman Islam Allana (CST) 0.

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