Breaking barriers both mental and physical,the Chandigarh football team beat mighty Kerala 2-1 to finish third in the Under-17 National School Games Football Tournament in a crowd-packed,picturesque Polo Ground,Srinagar,on Tuesday afternoon.
Coming into the tournament,the Chandigarh team,winners in 2008 and 2009,were the underdogs. Nobody had fancied the team,in which all the players had hardly touched 14 and were were playing an Under-17 tournament for the first time,and which was missing the stars,to spring a surprise.
For me,the team finishing third is just like winning the title. What these boys have done is nothing short of a miracle. I was told by the organisers that the Chandigarh team had fielded the youngest players in the tournament. But despite that,they played so well till the end. The team performed exceedingly well and the whole crowd cheered for us, coach Bhupinder Singh who had accompanied the team,told Newsline from Srinagar.
The UT players combative spirit emerged as their calling card. Samuel continued with his rich form in front of the goal,netting five times for Chandigarh,and was instrumental in the teams progression to the semi-finals.
I always knew these players had the talent but when you have a team that is playing against physically and mentally superior opponents,one tends to doubt their abilities. But hats off to these players; they were amazing. They could have reached the final but the team conceded two goals in the last five minutes and lost 1-2 to Orissa in the semi-finals. But it is a very good result. And it is a very fair record for players who are playing for the first time in an Under-17 national tournament. The team didnt have bench strength. In fact,in one match the goalkeeper had to play as a defender, noted Harjinder Singh,under whom the team had prepared for the tournament.
Harjinder is sure that the squad would be hot contenders for the Administrators Cup starting on September 22.. If they play like they did in the U-17 National School Games,I can clearly see them as one of the title contenders, he exclaimed.