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Open to all: Santosh Trophy trials a mixed bag

The Delhi Soccer Association’s open-trials policy for the Santosh Trophy has come under criticism from a section of players who feel it will leave the team with little time to practice as a unit ahead of the tournament beginning later this month.

Written by Aditya Iyer | New Delhi |
May 12, 2009 11:01:13 pm

The Delhi Soccer Association’s open-trials policy for the Santosh Trophy has come under criticism from a section of players who feel it will leave the team with little time to practice as a unit ahead of the tournament beginning later this month.

After a rigorous training session at the Ambedkar Stadium on Monday,last year’s Captain Pushpender Kundu said,“I honestly think that open trials is a waste of our time. We’re spending a lot of energy in trying out the youngsters; hence we seniors are barely getting enough time to practice as a team.”

The tournament begins in two weeks’ time and due to the open trials,it will take a few days more before the squad is announced.

DSA secretary NK Bhatia defended the procedure. “With open trials,youngsters from the under-19 and under-21 categories have a platform to compete. This also allows Delhi footballers playing in other states and clubs to return. I understand we will fall short on practice time,but it isn’t something we can’t cope with.”

Meanwhile,the open trials have also attracted players from various states. “Our (foreign state players’) presence increases competition and the overall performance levels. Delhi will only gain from letting all of us play,” said veteran midfielder Arup Sarkar,who earlier wore the Chirag United jersey.

‘Immense improvement’
The system has also worked for agegroup players like Ashish Bhalla,who represented the Delhi under-21 team. Although unsure of making the squad,he says nonchalantly: “There’s immense improvement in us (youngsters). It’s great to be playing with seniors like Gagandeep and Nirmaldeep.”

Ex-Pune FC player Praveen Rawat though,is a youngster who is confident of making the cut. Rawat is all praise for the open trials. “This grants us a chance to prove our mettle. It also offers players like me,who play club football outside the state to give something back to Delhi.”

Differences aside a common theme resonates in the camp. “This time we will build a great squad. Although the lack of time,with a mix of national-level players,New Delhi Heroes,HFC and various other top I-League players at our disposal,we shall be aiming for the final berth” says Delhi Coach Surinder Kumar. Open trials or not,there is sincere belief that this is the year Delhi will demonstrate their ability and flex some serious soccer muscle.

Agreeing passionately,Kundu concludes: “I’m banking on the youngsters to perform well and the senior players to act as the guiding force. We are all working towards a common goal.”

Having won the coveted trophy only once since its inception in 1941,Delhi agree it’s time to turn the tables around. This is the unified chorus of solidarity which echoes in the camp when it comes to their team’s prospect at repeating the heroics of the 1944-45 season.

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