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‘The format is absolutely unfair’

Thanks to a good one-week breather before the final,the turf at the Ambedkar stadium was again sporting a green tinge.

Written by Saikat Sarkar | New Delhi |
February 26, 2009 10:51:43 pm

Indian Nationals and Hindustan FC question the significance of a final after a two-month long league

Thanks to a good one-week breather before the final,the turf at the Ambedkar stadium was again sporting a green tinge. Arrangements to make the showdown between Hindustan FC and Indian Nationals on Friday a crowd-puller had gained pace too.

Meanwhile the teams,for all their different strategic calculations,agreed on one point: the significance of a final after a two-month long league that also included a round-robin super league among the top ten teams.

“The format is absolutely unfair to the team who top the league on points,” said Indian Nationals coach Bernard Oparanozie.

And while the coach blasted the Delhi Soccer Association,he didn’t spare the clubs either. “The fault lies with the club officials as much as the DSA,as they’ve no technical knowledge of the sport. But they are always a part of the meetings where we coaches aren’t allowed. If they protest against the format,the body is bound to follow it,” Bernard added.

This attitude,he said,has brought stagnation in Delhi football. “Protests are made only when a club is not winning. On top of that,the people who are running football are least bothered to look into these technicalities. This is one of the reasons why there has been very little development in Delhi’s football over the past 8-10 years,” Bernard asserted.

His opponents,one-point clear at the top of the table,echoed the view.

“Nowhere in the world does a round-robin football league end in a final. The Delhi league is stretched unnecessarily just to keep the sponsors interested. There’s no consistency in the format either. Last year there were semi-finals,this year there’s a third-place match and earlier there have been double-legged semi-finals too,” said a Hindustan FC player.

For sponsors’ sake
The DSA,however,chose to stick to its stance,prioritising the interests of the sponsors. “From the beginning there’s been a final for deciding the league champions. Some clubs had questioned the significance of the final,but we also have to look after our sponsors. If the champion is decided with four-five matches still to be played,then the interest will die. We’ve to arrange matches in a way that the champion is decided on the final day of the league. The final has been like a tradition in Delhi,” said NK Bhatia,secretary of the DSA.

While conceding that the format is tough for a table-topper,he said: “We’ll focus on this point during the Elite league that starts from July. Matches will be played on home and away basis,so we might just do away with final or semi-finals.”

No choice for ND Heroes
A day after stating they wouldn’t play the third-place play-off against Tarun Sangha,New Delhi Heroes are left contemplating about fielding a second string side,or even a minimum of seven players. The thought comes in the wake of DSA’s rejection of their request to exempt them and award Sangha the third spot. “They (DSA) didn’t listen to our request. Now we have to play the match,” team official Neerav Tomar said. However,the match can turn out to be a farce. “I’m not sure whether we’ll be able to field 11 players. We might have to play with seven players,as per the FIFA guidelines,” Tomar added. The DSA declined to entertain Heroes’ request on any ground. “They can’t flout rules. By cancelling a match,we will incur financial losses. I also think it will be a good practice ahead of the I-league (2nd division),” DSA secretary NK Bhatia.

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