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    1. #31
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      KOKE POWERS NEUFC TO WIN
      Abhishek Ganguly
      Guwahati:
      
      
      SPANIARD SCORES LATE IN FIRST HALF TO SUBDUE PENN ORJI-LED KERALA BLASTERS 1-0
      The roar of the crowd could be heard a kilometre away from the Indira Gandhi Stadium. It was deafening as North-East United FC's (NEUFC) Spaniard recruit Sergio Contreras Pardo, better known as Koke, stabbed the ball home to give his team a 1-0 lead on the stroke of half-time in their opening ISL match against the Kerala Masters here on Monday.
      The 35,000-strong crowd, however, could not care less about the decibel levels. Their collective roar also marked the beginning of a new era in Indian football.

      Koke's goal not only broke the deadlock but also proved to be the difference between the two sides and left NEUFC's co-owner John Abraham super excited.

      There might have been just one goal in the game but the fans lent vocal support to the home team throughout the 90 minutes. Every time an NEUFC player touched the ball, launched an attack, shot at goal or even made a clearance, the crowd roared its approval.

      NEUFC's marquee player Joan Capdevila was employed as a central defender by manager Ricki Herbert as the match began on a speedy note with both teams looking to go on the attack.NEUFC's James Keene and Koke combined well while local lad Durga Boro and Zodingliana also caught the eye.

      For Kerala Blasters, former East Bengal midfielder Penn Orji was ticking the ball around nicely while Iain Hume posed a threat to the home team's defence on a few occasions. The Canadian striker had the ball in the back of the net in the 16th minute, but it was ruled out for off-side.

      A few minutes later, Blasters' Sabeeth did well to cut in from the left and let one fly but it was well saved by NEUFC goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas. A high point in the game came in the 33rd minute when Durga Boro's powerful long-range shot was parried away former England goalkeeper and Kerala Blasters' marquee player David James, diving full-length to his left.

      And then came the goal. David Ngaihte rolled the ball into the box from the right and Koke arrived in time to neatly place it home.

      The second half was as entertaining as the first with Kerala Blasters pressing for the equalizer. Their Indian-origin striker Michael Chopra, who came on as a substitute, looked sharp. He forced Tzorvas into making three good saves while Robin Gurung also effected a spectacular back-volley goalline clearance. In the final minutes, Zodingliana was unlucky to see his shot come back off the horizontal.

      Fans' joy knew no bounds when referee Pratap Singh blew the final whistle and they celebrated their team's maiden win till late in the night.

    2. #32
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      ISL OFF TO A COLOURFUL START IN N-E
      Guwahati:
      TNN
      
      
      All roads in Guwahati on Monday led to the Indira Gandhi Stadium. The sheer number of people coming in to watch the Indian Super League match between North-East United FC and Kerala Blasters FC even caused a mini jam on National Highway 37. But, once you beat the traffic snarl and entered the stadium, it was an amazing experience.
      It was in almost pristine conditions, a new era in Indian football was ushered in as the entire North-East basked in reflected glory. The stadium packed to the brim. Fans sang and danced in the stands. Papon Da and Zubin Garg regaled fans in their inimitable style prior to the game. Fireworks lit up the night sky. The pitch resembled a green carpet under the full glow of the floodlights. One could not have asked for a better setting for ISL's first match in the North-East where football is a celebration of life itself. You could actually be forgiven for mistaking the Indira Gandhi Stadium here on Monday for a European or a Brazilian venue.NEUFC's 1-0 win over Kerala Blasters proved to be the icing on the cake.

      The rousing reception that the NEUFC players got from the fans when they took a lap of honour was electrifying. But, the biggest cheer was reserved for the Little Master --Sachin Tendulkar, the co-owner of Kerala Blasters FC. Sachin was given a standing ovation by the crowd. The ISL truly has the potential to change the face of Indian football and Tendulkar highlighted just that.

      Larsing Ming, co-owner of NEUFC also underlined this point. “It can make a lot of difference to the game here. In general, ISL has given football a bigger platform. As far as North-East is concerned, with players from the region rubbing shoulders with top players of the world, it is bound to boost the interest of fans here,“ he said. “The ISL is revolution and football is the winner,“ he added.

      Speaking about his team, Ming said, “It was a challenge to set up NEUFC. It is always exciting to bring in talented players from across the globe. We have got a very interesting mix of foreigners.Ours is a balanced squad and we had a decent pre-season as well. The North-East has already emerged as a powerhouse in Indian football. If NEUFC does well in ISL, it will only re-assert the region's superiority in the sport.“


    3. #33
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      Bagan duo out to `strike' for Chennaiyin
      Aravind Suchindran
      Chennai:
      
      
      Balwant, Jeje Relish The Challenge Of Scoring Goals For Their ISL Side
      They may not be from Chennai, but for the two next two months their sole aim is to see Chennaiyan FC finish on top of the ISL table. Meet Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh -two of India's best strikers who will carry the hopes of the city soccer fans. While Jeje is one of the most promising Indian strikers at the moment, Balwant was a sensation in the I League last season playing for Churchill Brothers.
      The interesting part of this Indian combo upfront is that they both represent Mohun Bagan in the domestic circuit this season.Both Jeje and Balwant were pretty impressive in the recently concluded Calcutta Football league where their team narrowly fin ished second to arch-rivals East Bengal. “We got to play together daily during the CFL and it was a good thing. I gained a lot of confidence scoring the goals, but now it's time to carry it forward. I look to maintain my form and continue the good work for Chennaiyin FC,“ Balwant, who scored 17 goals in all competitions last season, told TOI.

      Jeje has been waiting for this opportunity for a while and is looking to make the most of it.“They were saying they would start the ISL for the last two years.And when I finally saw the opening ceremony , I was really excited. Things cannot get bigger than this for Indian football,“ Jeje said.

      Balwant, originally from Punjab, has played a few games in Chennai and is already feeling at home here. “I feel comfortable in Chennai, it's a great city . I have played for Punjab in Chennai during the 2009 Santosh Trophy and have also come a few times during my time with JCT,“ he said.

      Chennaiyin FC have a mar quee manager in Marco Materazzi and the presence of stars like Elano and John Stiven Mendoza is making Jeje very excited about the whole project. “If you look at the foreigners in the league, they are of such high standards and we get to learn a lot from them.Along with that, if you see the amount of coverage this league is getting, it will surely help Indians get a lot of exposure and I am happy for that,“ said Jeje, who played a big role in India's SAFF Cup victory in 2011.

      There will also be strong competition to get into the playing XI, but the duo is not too worried.“Nothing is ever easy . Only six Indians can play in the first XI and there's going to be a lot of competition. But that's par for the course, we are ready for it,“ Balwant said.

    4. #34
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      PREVIEW - Del Piero vs Trezeguet, a new contest
      Saumyajit Basu
      New Delhi:T
      
      
      Time for promos is over and it's time to get down to brass tacks. After Bayern Munich's visit, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is set to savour the opening of the blockbuster release featuring Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet in lead roles.
      To mark a new chapter in the Capital's sporting landscape, the curtain will go up in the theatre located in the south of the Capital on Wednesday evening with the second match of the Indian Super League featuring hosts Delhi Dynamos and Pune City FC. The run-up to the event and the opening ceremony in Kolkata had a heavy dose of popular and time-tested props that bespoke of business acumen with the idea that sells.

      Now the bandwagon shifts to the Capital. Even if the rest of the names don't ring any bell, a 39-year old Alessandro Del Piero still can attract and generate a lot of interest in the people who have enjoyed a daily dose of European leagues for the last 20-odd years. It is time for them to have a look at the stars in flesh and blood with ISL providing the platform.

      The key point of interest will be the battle between Del Piero and Trezeguet, one Italian World Cup winner and an other having a European championship medal with France. One flourished as a striker playing from a the deep that the Italians love to call trequartista and earned the epithet of Il Phenomeno for his vision, dribbling skills and a knack of scoring incredible goals for `Old Lady' Juventus.

      The Delhi team is coached by Belgian coach Harm van Veldhoven while his opposite number at Pune City FC is Franco Colomba. The team from Maharashtra had a month-long training session at the Serie A club Fiorentina, with whom they have a tie-up.The coach has drawn heavily from his Italian connection and the squad includes his son Davide Colomba, who is a leftsided midfielder. Goalkeeper Emanuele Belardi and centreback's Bruno Cirillo and Daniele Magliochheti complete the Italian delegation.

    5. #35
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      Garcia was unstoppable'
      Kolkata:
      AGENCIES
      
      
      Luis Garcia might not have scored a goal in their 3-0 rout of Mumbai City FC but that he was at the centre of Atletico de Kolkata's attack was acknowledged by none other than their opponents' manager Peter Reid.
      “I think Garcia played beautifully and we were unable to contend him,“ the English pundit said of the former Liverpool star who was part of their 2005 UEFA Champions League team.

      Without taking anything away from Atletico de Kolkata, he said: “I think it's fair to say the better team won on the day . They passed better than us.“

      The Mumbai attack lacked sting without Nicolas Anelka (suspension) and Freddie Ljungberg (calf muscle injury) but Reid insisted to focus on the ground realities that they did not pass well. “I don't want to make any excuse. We did not pass the ball well. It's not a pleasant thing, we can only get better. You cannot win football matches if you give the ball away. “I made a couple of changes, I thought we started the second half better. But the second goal changed the complexion of the game,“ Reid told reporters after their loss at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan in the ISL opener. On confusion about the availability of the mercurial Frenchman Anelka, Reid said they did not want to risk going against the FIFA ban despite a green signal from the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

    6. #36
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      The ref who gave up pizzas & politics
      Marcus Mergulhao
      Kolkata:
      
      
      Chris Penso, the man who was at the centre of Sunday's Indian Super League opener at the Salt Lake Stadium, would have not taken to suvpervising football matches at the highest level had his political career taken off. Penso, a senior referee from Major League Soccer (MLS), contested elections for the Dover mayor' post in 2003 when he was 21 and lost by a mere seven votes. He made another unsuccessful bid for the office in 2007.According to reports, Penso was also the manager of his family pizza business (Penso's Pizza), which has been in service since 1936. He is likely to return to take charge of family business after he calls time on whistle-blowing. He was approved as an international referee by FIFA in 2012.
      Penso, whose wife is also a football referee, was one of the three officials from the United States who officiated the opening game between Atletico de Kolkata and Mumbai City FC at the Salt Lake stadium on Sunday.

      “We have 30 Indian referees on ISL duty. At the moment, we have three foreign referees from the US. A few other foreign referees could come on board,“ said Gautam Kar, head of referees department, All India Football Federation (AIFF). The AIFF has written to several countries inviting top referees to officiate in the ISL but most have turned down the invitation as their officials are busy supervising domestic matches.

    7. #37
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      In sweltering India, it's raining money
      Marcus Mergulhao
      
      
      The ISL Has Opened Its Coffers For Footballers. TOI Looks At Some Of The Impressive ‘Take Homes’
      India’s financial muscle in sports is not restricted to cricket alone. The Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 cricket, as the world knows, is cash-rich and attracts the best cricketers from around the world, but even in football, franchisees in the Indian Super League (ISL) are coming up with offers that have made famous names stop for a while and ponder.
      The capture of Delhi Dynamos marquee player Alessandro Del Piero and signing of French star Nicolas Anelka provides a glimmer of hope that India can be an alternative destination for players looking beyond Middle East and the United States.

      Delhi Dynamos, for example, splashed out around Rs 11 crore to make Del Piero, a World Cup winner with Italy in 2006, the highest paid footballer in the ISL.

      A marquee player for Australian club Sydney FC last season, Del Piero rejected offers from several clubs around the world, but when Delhi came calling with a four-month offer of $1.8 million, the Juventus legend could simply not refuse.

      Del Piero is not the only player of repute who is paid handsomely. Nicolas Anelka could have so easily been playing in the English Premier League if he had not walked out of West Brom following a five-match ban imposed by the FA in England for a ‘quenelle’ gesture. Mumbai City FC will not mind as the French striker came on board after agreeing a three-month contract worth Rs 5.4 crore, ignoring earlier approaches from FC Pune City (approx 4.8 crore) and Chennaiyin FC (Rs 4.2 crore).

      Brazilian midfielder Elano Blumer is also among the best-paid players in the ISL, earning Rs 4.8 crore as Chennaiyin FC’s marquee player, a welcome change from his turbulent days at Flamengo in Brazil.

      David Trezeguet asked and got Rs 4.5 crore from Pune City FC, besides nine business-class flight tickets and five-star accommodation for his family of eight.

      Arsenal legends Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg were snared by IMG-Reliance, organizers of the league, for Rs 4.1 crore and Rs 4 crore respectively and then placed in the common marquee pool where FC Goa and Mumbai City made their picks.

      Atletico de Kolkata and NorthEast United FC were among the first two franchisees to sign marquee players on their own.

      Kolkata convinced former Liverpool star Luis Garcia to sign on the dotted line for Rs 2.70 crore while Joan Capedevila settled for Rs 2.25 crore with North-East United. first two franchisees to sign marquee players on their own.

      Kolkata convinced former Liverpool star Luis Garcia to sign on the dotted line for Rs 2.70 crore while Joan Capedevila settled for Rs 2.25 crore with North-East United.


    8. #38
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      Urge fans to be patient and stand by NorthEast United FC, says John
      Abhishek Ganguly
      Guwahati:
      
      
      John Abraham's passion for football and his emotional attachment with North-East United FC (NEUFC), of which he is a co-owner, is deep-rooted. TOI caught up with him before NEUFC's first match against Kerala Blasters FC on Monday, John was bubbling with excitement. Excerpts from an exclusive interview
      Why did you opt for the NorthEast franchise?

      When the ISL came up, I asked myself which is the region in the country where football is the primary sport, not cricket. So North-East emerged as a natural choice. India's first football captain T Aao was also from this region. We have two very good players from Assam * Durga Boro and Alen Deory . Very soon you are going to hear a lot about a young guy named Redeem Tlang. Larsing Ming is a good friend of mine and together we got this franchise. We are a force to reckon with.

      What did you tell the boys?

      I told them that the challenge before them is to be pan regional rather than just a state club. They need to do whatever they can to get the entire region behind them. I told the interna tional players that you may come from different countries but when you walk on to the pitch, you all are one. You are a team.

      What are your plans to develop the sport at the grassroots level?

      Shillong Lajong have a very robust grassroots programme. For Guwahati, specifically , we want to divert money to two verticals. First and foremost, we are looking at charity , hoping to give underprivileged children the opportunity to play football. This needs to be structured. Second, open schools in Assam. We are looking to Ming and Lajong to use their expertise to boost the game in other parts of North-East.

      Are you doing a movie on Mohun Bagan's 1911 IFA Shield win?

      Yes, that is right. It is directed by Shoojit Sircar. It is based on a true story of the1911 IFA Shield. I am playing Sibdas Bhaduri. I am excited. We hope it is commercially successful and wins national awards.


    9. #39
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      Mendoza hopes to form deadly combo with Brazil's Elano
      Chennai
      TIMES NEWS NETWORK
      
      
      John Stiven Mendoza became the second Colombian to join the Chennaiyin FC squad after Jairo Suarez. The 22-year-old striker, who represented Colombia in the U-17 World and U-20 Copa America, is all set to make his debut against FC Goa on Wednesday .
      Mendoza, one of the rising stars in Colombia, who could not make it to the senior national side yet as there is stiff competition, feels he has time on his side and is focusing hard on scoring as many goals as possible in the ISL which will help boost his confidence.

      “Colombia have a great team with quality players all over the pitch, especially in the forward-line. So, it is not very easy to break into the national side. But I'm working hard to improve my game. I'm focused on scoring plenty of goals and helping Chennaiyin FC win the title. Hopefully with time I'll eventually get into the national team,“ Mendoza said.

      Mendoza felt Chennaiyin FC's marquee player Elano, who is known for creating chances for the forwards, will make a big impact.

      “We all know about Elano's class and achievements. He has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world and has also represented Brazil in top competitions. It'll be great to play alongside him and I'm working hard on my game and looking forward to form a good understanding with him,“ he added.

      On the Chennaiyin FC team Mendoza said: “Our team is loaded with plenty of experienced world-class players like Elano, Materazzi, Silvestre and Mendy , along with some of the talented Indians. There is so much to learn from these players. I didn't have much idea about Indian football before I landed here but now I've realised that many of them have the potential to play abroad.“

      Mendoza is also looking to embrace a new culture.

      “After playing in Colombia all my life I knew that I needed to test myself in a foreign environment and it was always going to be difficult to adapt to the new culture and food. I also have to learn English quickly so that I can settle down quickly. I'm planning to take some help from my friend Suarez.However, the entire squad has been very friendly and I'm enjoying my time here,“ Mendoza said.

    10. #40
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