“HAIL THE Emperor,” I say as Ismalia Tiemoko walks towards me and the Niger coach breaks into a big smile. He then rather shyly goes, “Merci, Merci.” It’s a moniker that Tiemoko had received as a youngster in his homeland and one that he’s carried proudly ever since, from his playing days to now guiding his young team in their first-ever appearance at the under-17 World Cup. He doesn’t shy away, however, when asked to recall the time when he was anointed as the Emperor. And the narration has a lovely filmic feel for good measure as he uses dramatic pauses—aided by the fact that there’s a translator in the mix—after each line. It happened back when Tiemoko himself was an under-17 player and the coach then announced that the best player of the tournament would get a “special gift”. That best player turned out to be Tiemoko. “My teammates lifted me on their shoulders and carried me to the coach,” he recalls. Dramatic pause. “I didn’t know whether he was going to give me money or some gifts. Seeing me on their shoulders like that. He just bent down slightly and said, ‘Hail Emperor, that’s what you’ll be known as from today’.” The coach was right. Emperor Tiemoko is still in charge.
Chile’s tour of Kolkata
Down and almost out after back-to-back losses, the Chile U-17 team, however, is enjoying their time in Kolkata. The team members and support staff are seriously trying to get to ‘local’. The team media manager Waleska Fuchslocher has taken a fancy to mehndi and comes to press conferences with her palms decorated. Some Chile squad members went to see the Durga idols immersion rally at Red Road before the start of the tournament and also visited the Birla Planetarium and the Missionaries of Charity.
— Selección Chilena (@LaRoja) October 11, 2017
Their man in Russia
THE FOOTBALL World Cup is a big deal for all Brazilians, including their media. So much so that one of Brazil’s leading media companies, Globo Sport, has a man posted in Moscow—the venue of the next World Cup—since April of this year. The journalist, who is presently in Goa covering the under-17 tournament, will be in Russia for another year till the World Cup is over. “My job is to basically report on all facets of life there, from politics to culture, and show the country of Russia from all angles to people back home as they prepare for the World Cup,” he explained. He will also be traveling to all the venues in the country and getting a feel of them long before the likes of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho land in Moscow.
Spot of bother
At the U17 level, you would expect some immature bickering. But for it to come in only the second minute of the game between Paraguay and Turkey was surprising. As soon as the referee pointed to the spot, Paraguay’s Anibal Vega sprinted towards the ball. His teammate Antonio Galeano tried to snatch it but Vega wouldn’t budge. Tussling over a penalty is not limited to teenagers. Edinson Cavani and Neymar Jr were at loggerheads to take a PSG spot kick recently. Here, Galeano grumbled as he walked away. He grew more vocal when Vega’s penalty was saved.
Age no bar
While most teams pack their squads with as many 17-years-olds as possible, Guinea and Brazil have been exceptions. While Brazil has four 16-year-olds. Guinea has gone one step further, cramming their side with four who are 15. The Brazil coach reasoned that those were the best players for those specifics positions, Guinea coach has brought them here for another reason. “If these kids get used to playing at the U-17 level, it would be easier for them to play in U-16 level. We have a tournament back home, and I think playing the World Cup will be the ideal way to prepare for it.” .