Playing in the final of the Under-16 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship against hosts Nepal at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Tuesday,Krishna Pandit was determined to make up for the lost opportunity against Afghanistan in their semi-final encounter. In that match,the Chandigarh footballer failed to convert his penalty during the penalty shootout as his spot kick hit the bar. While India scrambled to a 4-3 win over Afghanistan,Krishna,who until that match had scored two goals in as many matches for India,could not perform as he had expected.
On Tuesday,Krishna failed to score in Indias 1-0 win over Nepal in the final,but he did play his part in the victory. First,he was a constant threat in front of the goal,piling pressure on the opposition keeper. But it was his skills as the Indian captain that was a revelation in the tournament as under his leadership,India registered victory over the hosts. With this,he achieved the distinction of becoming the second player from Chandigarh to lead the Indian Under-16 team in the final.
Two years ago,another player from Chandigarh,Mohammad Sajid Dhot had skippered the team,although India lost to Pakistan 1-2 in the final. While in that match,three players from Chandigarh Sajid,Daniel Lalhlimpuia and Khiangte Lalramzauva represented India,in the final against Nepal,Krishna had another city player,Anirudh Thapa,for company.
On a rain-soaked Tuesday afternoon,it was defender Jerry Lalrinzualas long-range effort in the 18th minute that separated the two sides as the team won one of rare titles in any age group for India.
It was a fantastic display from the boys. Despite the conditions,they played well and remained unbeaten throughout the tournament. They deserved to win the title, said Surinder Singh,coach of St Stephens Football Academy where Thapa trained for five years before he joined the Indian U-16 side. Both are now members of All India Football Federation (AIFF) Under-15 Kolkata Regional Academy.
Krishna,14,who plays as a striker,formed a potent partnership with Bedashwor Singh and scored most of the goals for India while Thapa,15,cleverly manoeuvered the ball in the midfield. But it was Krishna who impressed all with his scoring and leadership skills. In the last one year,he has become head coach Goutam Ghoshs preferred choice as a striker.
Thapa,however,has been away from the spotlight despite being a hardworking player. Both the players deserved to be where they have reached today. They have worked hard to become a regular member of the playing team. I am delighted that they are keeping Chandigarh football on the national map with their efforts, said Surinder,who has also worked as assistant coach and national selector for the Indian Under-14 team.
After winning the SAFF Championship,the Indian Under-16 team will prepare for the AFC Cup qualifiers to be held in September in Kuwait,where both Krishna and Thapa are again expected to play crucial parts in the teams endeavour.