News for the month of March:
31. March
Note-1: Some miscreants attacked the house of PK Banerjee, the technical directors of the Indian football team, who went for a holiday trip in Darjeeling. This was the second time in a year that some unidentified people attacked his house in his absence. Although, the miscreants failed to break into the house, they had destroyed his two cars including one Opal Astra. PK, who coached Mohun Bagan club last season, lodged a complaint with local police station and also apprised the state home minister of the incident. Visibly upset PK later questioned the law and order situation of the Saltlake City area. 12 ministers of this state reside here including the state chief minister. "If this is the situation here, what can be elsewhere", he questioned.

Note-2: Against the backdrop of an increasing resentment of club officials to form the football outfit for the next season, Mohun Bagan club today received their money from their sponsor United Breweries. It is to be noted, East Bengal have already received their full money from UB, which has been sponsoring both the teams since last year. Vijay Mallya, the UB-Group chief, today called in Mohun Bagan's assistant secretary Anjan Mitra and assured him that within two or three days the club will get their full quota of money. Mohun Bagan today received Rs 6,500,000 and the rest amount (Rs 3,500,000) will be given within two or three days, according to sources close to the UB-Group.

30. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Cluster II: Goa 6-0 Karnataka

29. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Cluster I: Bengal 4-1 Manipur // Cluster IV: Tamil Nadu 2-0 Delhi

Note-1: The AIFF has released the schedule of the 2.Division National League, starting from 12 April.
Group A, to played in Haldia: 13 April: SBT (Kerala) vs club team of Assam; ICF (Tamil Nadu) v Sagolband United (Manipur). 15 April: Club team of Orissa vs Sagolband United; ICF vs club team of Assam. 17 April: ICF vs club team of Orissa; SBT vs Sagolband United. 19 April: Sagolband United vs club team of Assam; SBT v club team of Orissa. 21 April: Club team of Assam v club team of Orissa; SBT v ICF. Group B (Mumbai): 12 April: HAL (Karnataka) vs IAF (Delhi); Vasco (Goa) vs Railsima Tigers (Andhra Pradesh). 14 April: IAF vs Railsima Tigers; BMFC (Mumbai) vs HAL. 16 April: BMFC vs Railsima Tigers; Vasco vs IAF. 18 April: BMFC vs IAF; Vasco vs HAL. 20 April: Railsima Tigers vs HAL; BMFC vs Vasco. Group C (Haldia): 12 April: CPT (IFA) vs Nongthimai SCC (Meghalaya); TFA (Bihar) va Blood Mouth (Tripura). 14 April: BSF (Punjab) vs Blood Mouth; TFA vs Nongthimai SCC. 16 April: BSF vs Nongthimai SCC; CPT vs TFA. 18 April: Blood Mouth vs CPT; BSF vs TFA. 20 April: Nongthimai SCC vs Blood Mouth; BSF vs CPT.
The winners and runners-up of the 3 groups will be clubbed into groups P and Q in the final round as follows: Group P: Winners of group A and runners-up of groups B and C. Group Q: Winners of group B and C and runners-up of group A.
The final-round matches, to be played in Haldia: 23 April: Winners of group A vs runners-up of group C. 24 April: Winners of group C vs runners-up of group A. 25 April: Runners-up of group B vs runners-up of group C. 26 April: Winner of group B vs runners-up of group A. 27 April: Winners of group A vs runners-up of group B. 28 April: Winners of group B vs winners of group C.
The final will be played between the winners of group P and group Q on a date to be decided later.

Note-2: As the transfer of footballers at the Maidan is heading for a series of intense dramas, particularly between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, a former Tollygunge player has taken the centrestage all of a sudden. After signing the agreement with Mohun Bagan for the next season, Biswarup Bisu has decided to play for his former club Tollygunge Agragami. "I like to play under Amal Dutta's coaching in the Tollygunge Agragami," Bisu said. Meanwhile, Mohun Bagan club has alleged that Biswarup Bisu has endorsed a United Breweries contact form, pledging to play for the club. On the other hand, secretary of Tollygunge Agragami Mantu Ghosh, who is also a joint secretary of Indian Football Federation, pointed out that his club had approached the footballer much earlier than Mohun Bagan. Mohun Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra, however, accused Ghosh of misusing his power (as IFA secretary) on the Biswarup Bisu issue.

28. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Cluster I: Manipur 2-0 Services // Cluster II: Goa 3-0 Chandigarh // Cluster III: Maharashtra 1-2 Kerala

Note-1: A list of 25 national squad probables for the SAFF Cup tournament, to be held in end-April, was announced here today by the AIFF. The probables include three goalkeepers, eight defenders, eight medios and six forwards. Dasmunshi said five stand-by players had also been kept ready for emergency requirement. They would have to attend two camps - at Bangalore and Margao - before the list was pruned to 20, said the AIFF president, Das Munshi.
Probables: GK: Virender Singh, Kalyan Chaubey, Juje Siddi. Defenders: Reazul Mustafa, Prabhjot Singh, Ratan Singh, Daljit Singh, Debjit Ghosh, Roberto Fernandes, Jo Paul Ancheri, Dipak Mondal. Medios: Jules Alberto, Ranjan Dey, Ram Pal, Carlton Chapman, RP Singh, Venkatesh, Basudeb Mondal, James Singh. Forwards: Bruno Coutinho, Baichung Bhutia, IM Vijayan, Dipendu Biswas, Hardip Gill, Shabir Pasha. Coach: Sukhwinder Singh.

Note-2: Roy Miller is, after all, not coming to take charge of the Indian soccer team, citing "family problems", Das Munshi, president of the AIFF said. With the Irishman backing out, India's search for a foreign coach continues. FIFA has suggested Hans Kordic of Croatia for the national team, while Frantz Barriquand's name has been mooted for the youth development programme. Kordic has coached clubs in Switzerland from 1975 to 1984 and in Germany till 1998. I had expected something like this. The matter has been pending since after the Asiad last December.

Note-3: In the pre-Olympic tournament, where India are grouped with Thailand, Singapore and Brunei, the matches are slated for 14, 16, 18 July. Das Munshi said the venue would be either India or Thailand and that the matter would be decided by the spin of coin. According to the AIFF president, the Indian team will play some warm-up matches in Egypt, Ghana or Iran. The preparatory camp will be held in stages in Bangalore, the first commencing April 3. On April 20, the pre-Olympic probables will be trimmed from 40 to 30. The second camp is between May 2 to 21 and the third from June 1 to 15. The last camp will be in Calcutta.

Note-4: The Super Cup match between Mohun Bagan and Salgaocar will be played in Goa on May 3. Das Munshi said that apart from this one match, there will be a "strict football holiday in India from May 2 to 30." Transfers of players for these two teams and those taking part in the 2.Division of the National League will be kept in abeyance till May 3.

Note-5: The 2.Division of the National League will begin on April 10 and the competition must be over by April 20. Five teams, comprising one group, will play in Mumbai from April 10, while 10 teams - in two groups - will play in Haldia from April 12.

27. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Cluster I: Bengal 2-1 Services // Cluster III: Assam 0-3 Kerala // Cluster IV: Punjab 0-0 Delhi

26. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Cluster II: Chandigarh 1-5 Karnataka // Cluster III: Maharashtra 1-1 Assam

25. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Group F: Manipur 2-0 Andhra Pradesh // Cluster IV: Punjab 1-3 Tamil Nadu

24. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Group A: Services 1-0 Jammu&Kashmir // Group B: Kerala 2-1 Nagaland // Group D: Karnataka 1-1 Orissa

Note-1: "I am fed up with the ways of Calcutta soccer. It is time for a change," said Mohun Bagan's ace striker IM Vijayan, who is set to don FC Kochin colours next season. "True, Calcutta has contributed much to my development as a footballer. Unfortunately, it is the sponsors who rule the game there today. This will only harm the interests of the game," reflected Vijayan. The former Indian captain, who was back home after completing his engagements with Bagan in the National League, was referring to the reported "ultimatum" sent by Vijay Mallya, the chairman of UB Group, who sponsors the club. Mallya had reportedly stated that Vijayan will not be allowed to resume his career in Calcutta, unless he apologises for his act of indiscipline. The "act of indiscipline" in question, is Vijayan's refusal to model for a McDowell's liquor brand. "I am being paid for representing the club only. If they want me to model, they will have to pay me separately for it," the striker fumed. Vijayan added that he was not at all disappointed by the decision of Indian Football Association selectors to drop him from the Bengal team for Santosh Trophy. "I knew it was coming. So, it was not at all shocking. I am recovering from my injury and needed rest at this stage. So the decision came as a blessing in disguise." Vijayan, along with his statemate Jo Paul Ancheri and Raman Vijayan will don FC Kochin colours next season, according to FCK sources. I do not understand IM Vijayan. OK, he's in that sense only a player of Mohun Bagan but the UB Group is pumping in a lot of money into indian football, especially into the Calcutta Big Two. I do not know what would happen in Europe if a player turned down a model offer. In my opinion IM is only harming himself. Others in Calcutta say his waage demand is the bigger problem. IM earned around Rs 3,000,000 this season but he is said to be demanding double the amount, around Rs 6,000,000. Lets see if some one pays the price. Mahindras and FC Kochin are said to be interested.

23. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Group B: Kerala 5-0 Bihar // Group C: Delhi 4-0 Gujarat // Group D: Karnataka 8-0 Himachal Pradesh // Group F: Andhra Pradesh 2-0 Haryana

Note-1: The much-touted Bengal Football Academy, a brainchild of film star Mithun Chakravarty, will come into being on May7. "It's a dream come true for me," Mithun said. "If everything goes right, the launching of the academy will give a shot in the arm for Indian soccer, which has been languishing in the shadows of cricket for quite a long time now." The academy will be run by a board of nine former Indian captains from Bengal, including PK Banerjee and Bhaskar Ganguly. Olympian PK Banerjee, presently the technical director of the national team, will be the advisor. The academy will also kick off an extensive campaign to popularise the game all over the country. "We plan to market the game more effectively and more professionally. I feel that Indian soccer badly needs proper marketing in order to compete with the rising popularity of cricket," said Mithun. "First of all, we must realise that soccer, like any other game, is a commodity, which has to be sold intelligently as elsewhere in the World. Professional marketing is the need of the hour. I hope we will be able to sell soccer better with the help of the sponsors." 30 trainees in the age group of 12-16 will undergo training at the academy during the first year. "I was really thrilled by the overwhelming response we got from the boys. There were more than 800 applicants. We had in fact expected only around 150 applications. This points to the fact that the new generation has not lost interest in the game." Of the lot, 82 have been shortlisted from the applicants after the preliminary trials. "This will be pruned further and there will be 30 boys when the academy formally opens on May 7," said the National award-winning hero. Mithun was thankful to the West Bengal government which has permitted the academy to use the Saltlake Stadium for its activities. The academy will have only trainees from within Bengal for the 1st year. "However, we will go for talented boys from outside the state too in future. The government has promised to provide hostel facilities for these trainees. These boys would be given facilities to resume their educatiuon too." The academy hopes to generate Rs 50 lakhs for its functioning. Rs 30 lakhs has already been collected and the rest will come from the sponsors. "Many industrial houses are coming forward to sponsor the boys. For example, Peerless will take care of one or two trainees. The future of the boys, after undergoing the training is very important."

Note-2: The AIFF is seriously considering giving more importance to the National League and its development programmes. Joseph Blatter, president of FIFA, has assured the AIFF president, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, that the game's supreme international authorities put a special emphasis on programmes for the development of football in India. The AIFF chief feels that in the amateur domestic league, a rule should be implemented which will put foreign players out of it. Das Munshi is of the opinion that there should be a system under which a limited number of national players are allowed to play in local leagues. "We have called a meeting to discuss this issue, and I personally feel that not more than three players registered in the National League should be allowed to play for a team in a local league. This will give an opportunity to promising youngsters to utilise local leagues as a stepping stone to the National League," iterated Das Munshi. He admitted that the dates of inter-state transfers should be changed and the calendar for domestic tournaments should be compiled in such a way that footballers got enough time to recuperate between tournaments. Great Idea's!!! Hope these measures are implemented. Maybe the local leagues could be run parallel to the National League.

Note-3: The Governing Body of the Indian Football Association - Bengal approved a budget of Rs 1,60 crore for the next financial year, almost Rs 30 lakh more than this year. This was the present Governing Body's last meeting. Several development projects for the youth, referees and infrastructure have been planned, IFA joint-secretary Ranjit Gupta said. Among other decisions were granting Mohun Bagan permission to prefix sponsors McDowell to the club's name. The club had thus applied apparently after their earlier demand of being recognised as United Mohun Bagan Football Club Private Limited was turned down. IFA also decided to seek a redressal from the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on the Bandana Pal issue. The IOA will also be asked to help in her rehabilitation. The association also promised all possible help to Bandana.

22. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Group A: Mizoram 3-2 Uttar Pradesh // Group B: Bihar 1-1 Nagaland // Group H: Chandigarh 2-0 Indian Railways, Rajasthan 2-3 Andaman&Nicobar Island

3rd National League - Super League: East Bengal 2-1 Churchill Brothers - Goals: 0:1 Somatai Shaiza (7'), 1:1 Baichung Bhutia (71'), 2:1 Suley Musah (84').
26 minutes from time with Goa on course for a 1-2 in the Super League, things were getting out of hand for East Bengal. Desperate situations call for desperate measures and East Bengal coach Manoranjan Bhattacharya sacrificed Raman Vijayan's chance of emerging top scorer for some enterprise in the front third. He introduced Bijen Singh. Seven minutes later, East Bengal scored, Baichung Bhutia, also a substitute, heading home Bijen's cross to neutralise Somatai Shaiza's free-kick goal. Suley Musah's 84.minute penalty-kick, awarded after Baichung was felled while going solo, turned out to be the matchwinner. And East Bengal, who managed 19 pts from 10 Super League ties, beat Churchill Brothers (15 pts) to the 2nd spot. Bijen may have spurred East Bengal on but it was his Manipur statemate Shaiza who provided the first spark to the soporific afternoon's football. Winning a free-kick after central defender Jackson Egypong brought him down just outside the 18-yard box, the hard-working midfielder floated a left-footer that curled away from the 'wall' and went in at the far post. This was in the 7.minute. Almost immediately, Philip Mensah, whose 11 goals fetched him the highest scorer's award, released striker Jose Martin but the player from Portugal ballooned over with only goalie Kalyan Chaubey to beat. Chaubey got beaten again, by a D'Cruz header but the ball went out. East Bengal showed little cohesiveness in the first half. Musah's 25.minute shot that boomed over and his 40.minute header cleared on the goalline by Danzie Ferrao were their only worthwhile chances. They showed a wee bit more purpose after the breather. But with central defender Osumani Hussein and goalie Edward Ansah having a good match, the equaliser wasn't coming. Till the 71.minute that is. Released on the right by Opoku, Bijen fired in a measured centre which curled away from Ansah. Baichung rose and headed in at the near post. Baichung went solo in the 84.minute, off a Carlton Chapman pass, dribbling past Anthony Matthew, regaining his balance even as he continued goalwards. He went past Ansah but then fell. The tackle seemed unfair to referee Sankar, who wasn't always close to the action, and he pointed to the spot. Not everybody, however, agreed.
East Bengal: Kalyan Chaubey, Suley Musah, Jackson Egypong, Anit Ghosh, Falguni Dutta, Carlton Chapman, Emmanuel Opoku, Ranjan Dey, Basudeb Mondal (Tushar Rakshit 57'), Raman Vijayan (Bijen Singh 64'), Dipendu Biswas (Baichung Bhutia 24').
Churchill Bros: Edward Ansah, Danzie Ferrao, Anthony Matthew, Osumani Hussein, Mahesh Singh, Mario Soares, Aqueel Ansari, Anthony Pereira, Somatai Shaiza, Jose Martin (Cyril Barreto 69'), Philip Mensah (Gautam Ghosh 86').

3rd National League - Super League: Mohun Bagan 1-0 FC Kochin - Goals: 1:0 Abebayo Gyadabo (74').
Nothing to be joyous about for last year's champions, but better than what it could have been. Mohun Bagan managed a 4th place from a 1-0 win over bottom team FC Kochin in the Super League. Following a pathetic trail of draws and losses in the Super Six, a victory was refreshing, no doubt, but it came too late. And that too, following misses galore. The misses were to be seen to be believed, from both sides. And FC Kochin have become pretty adept at this. Mohun Bagan were working the left initially, and there was a lot of activity sans any result. RP Singh started the line of misses and IM Vijayan looked a passenger on the side. IM even looked distinctly disinterested. In the 27.minute he failed to position himself for a Paite pass and missed a good opportunity. He did the same to a Jo Paul Ancheri pass eight minutes later. There were Kochin attacks as well. Especially through hardworking winger Karunakar Raj. In the 39.minute he took a fine, powerful volley from the top of the box which Bagan goalkeeper Dinesh just managed to tip over for a corner. Vijayan's ineffectiveness brought Samuel Omollo in the picture in the 41.minute. Following a concerted move, and with goalie Casmiro Palha advancing, Omollo lobbed and Palha jumped to punch. The ball took the crosspiece and went out. Gbadabo, who had entered in the 21.minute of the 2nd half, was in the news eight minutes later. A flag kick by Ancheri reached the goalmouth and the tall Gbadabo outjumped the rest to nod home the only goal of the match.
Mohun Bagan: VN Dinesh, Biswanath Mondal (Riazul Mustafa 46'), Samuel Omollo, Debjit Ghosh, Satyajit Chatterjee (Adebayo Gbadabo 66'), Khemtang Paite (Ranjan Chowdhury 72'), RP Singh, Jo Paul Ancheri, Bassim Yonan, Lolendra Singh, IM Vijayan.
FC Kochin: Casmiro Palha, Prabhjot Singh, Mahesh Gawli, KV Dhanesh, Roque Barretto (Nitin Pradhan 78'), K Noushad, Noah Rozario, Karunakar Raj (Ram Rai 84'), Kaustav Ghosh, Mir Farooq Hyder (Md Shafeeq 28'), AS Firoze.

Note-1: Salgaocar awarded Heroes' welcome back in Goa:
The triumphant Salgaocar Sports Club, the winners of the 3rd National League, received a tumultuous welcome on their arrivalat the Dabolim airport yesterday afternoon. The team arrived with the replica of the NFL trophy and were received by the club's patrons Shivanand and Dattaraj Salgaocar, former chief minister Luizinho Faleiro, chairman of NFL and honorary secretary of the Goa Football Association, Alberto Colaco, Director of Sports Dr Susanne de Souza, and a host of other GFA and DSYA officials. Patrons of the other two Goan clubs which were in the fray of the NFL, Srinivas Dempo of Dempo SC and Joaquim Alemao (former sports minister) of Churchill Bros were also there to accord a warm welcome to the Goan heroes. Salgaocar finished the league much ahead of their nearest pursuer (East Bengal with 19 pts) collecting 23 pts. The 1000-odd slogan shouting fans, who had gathered outside the arrival lounge greeted the team - as Shivanand and Dattaraj, who held aloft the trophy emerged from the terminus - and tried to brush shoulders with the players. The welcome party nearly put into disarray the exit of the other passengers but a sizable number of policemen saw to it that there was smooth flow of traffic. The team members and officials were then hustled into a waiting decorative truck. The motorcade was accompanied by a musical band. The mood was upbeat among the soccer enthusiasts as hundreds of vehicles, including two wheelers formed a long procession of the motorcade as it made its way to port town. However goalkeeper Upendra Mansingh, Shabir Ali Mondal, who scored that championship goal against Mohun Bagan, and Nigerian Jude Odegah did not accompany the team. Mansingh left for his native Nepal, while Mondal and Odegah stayed back in Calcutta. Later in the evening the Governor JFR Jacob hosted a tea party for the team at Raj Bhavan, which was attended besides the team and club management, by Secretary for Sports Archana Arora and Director of Information KV Prabhugaonkar. Talking to the players, the Governor expressed his happiness that a Goan team had won the prestigious trophy. "Well done and good luck as many of you will now feature in the Goan team for the Santosh Trophy at Chennai," said JFR Jacob, and added "this time Goa will certainly win the trophy." The Governor had later scheduled a meeting with the GFA officials and Director of Sports concerning the proposed football academy, which he said is fast turning into a reality. Coach Shabir Ali attributed the victory to team work. "To me all players were important. It was an collective effort that helped us win the most important trophy in Indian football." Shabir, who has been approached by Mohun Bagan, had a word of praise for the team management. "After the loss against East Bengal, Shivanand came to the dressing room to give the boys a pep talk and not to worry of that result." As according to him in the other camps management people only come when the team wins, but it has been a different experience with Salgaocar. Alberto Colaco said it was a proud moment for Goa as Salgaocar winning the much touted title has proved that our state is a front runner in football. Joaquim Alemao said it was a wonderful achievement. It is remarkable, a visibly happy Alemao said. Alemao's own club just missed by a whisker to make it a 1-2 affair for Goa, when they lost to East Bengal, 1-2. Former India captain, and now the most favoured man to lead the National side in the SAFF tournament (22 April-1 May at Margao), Bruno Coutinho was a bundle of joy. "It's great feeling" he said of winning the National title. From here where does the man, who has been credited for scoring the finest goal in the league, go. Well it's the State camp for the Santosh Trophy as Goa begins its campaign in the quarterfinals on 28 March. The team's captain Roberto Fernandes was brimming with joy having led the club to their maiden triumph in the league. He said the victory was possible due to co-operation from all team members. A word of mention must be made of a loyal Francis Coelho. Coelho put up a brave front despite the sudden demise of his mother. The reliable defender, who along with his skipper Roberto Fernandes, Covan Lawrence and Roque Pereira put up a stellar performance in the defence, had to return to Goa (11 Mar) on hearing of the sad news but was back to help the team's cause in time for the match against East Bengal (13 Mar). A fine example of a player's commitment to the team! Congratulations from me to the Salgaocar team for winning the National League!!! It is a great achievement in my eyes but I hope for all teams in the League that the organisation by the AIFF is more professionalized, then the top Indian teams are already working under professional surroundings.

Note-2: Enough, as they say, is enough. PK Banerjee has said he is through with club-coaching. And he's calling it quits. Controversial? Yes. Loquacious? Always. But then, PK once also brought to the rather humdrum job of an Indian football coach an intensity of involvement few among his rivals ever equalled. He was nothing if not passionate. Today, with Mohun Bagan ending their National League placed a heartbreaking 4th, when the titan announced his retirement from club-coaching - not the same thing as leaving the Maidan for the TFA, like he did some years ago - there cannot have been many people who didn'tfeel a sense of loss, even a wrench. At international level, he was never a spellbinding magician. Even his club-level successes were not all that frequent in the recent past - but you knew full well that the peripherals of the game couldn't be bland as long as he was there at the helm of a club. Calcutta's derby battles took on a sharp edge when he joined East Bengal in 1972. He has since tried his best never to dissolve among the also-rans. "No regrets," he said as he made his decision known, and added that he would henceforth be busy with the national team. But didn't he want, just a season ago, to chart out and supervise a national age-specific youth development.

21. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Group B: Kerala vs Bihar // Group C: Delhi 2-0 Gujarat // Group D: Orissa 1-0 Himachal Pradesh // Group F: Manipur 2-0 Haryana // Group G: Assam 4-1 Sikkim.

3rd National League - Super League: JCT Mills 0-2 Salgaocar - Goals: 0:1 Shabir Ali Mondal (37'), 0:2 Bruno Coutinho (80').
In an empty Saltlake Stadium, that perhaps provided the perfect requiem for the tournament, champions Salgaocar ended their National League campaign on a feisty note. Goals from Shabir Ali Mondal and Bruno Coutinho gave them a 2-0 win over JCT. The three pts Salgaocar wanted from their 10th tie today took their tally to 23. JCT wound up with 9 pts and must now await the result of the Mohun Bagan-FC Kochin tie to know where they finish. Mondal celebrated his rare presence in the starting line-up with a 37.minute strike. He exploited JCT left-back Daljit Singh's lax marking inside the six-yard box and stabbed home Bruno Coutinho's lob into the far post. Bruno's goal too resulted from some ordinary defending. Two players converged on Jules Alberto but failed to prevent the medio from floating one goalwards. The cross beat JCT goalie Virender Singh and travelled to Bruno, unmarked inside the penalty-box, who completed the formalities. Like against East Bengal, JCT began on a promising note. Hardip Sangha's 5.minute run down the left culminated in a pass which Surjit Singh couldn't control inside the six-yard box. In the 18.minute, Hardip Gill sped down the middle and set up Sangha but the latter wasn't able to get into a shooting position. After the breather, JCT pushed for the equaliser. But tardy finishing and wayward long-range shooting took the sting out of their domination. Jasbir Singh headed out a 40-yard Dipankar Roy free-kick from close, two minutes into the 2nd half. Then Sukhjit Singh ballooned over after a good run on the right. S Venkatesh ensured that traffic didn't stay entirely one way but shot out with only Virender to beat. Soon after came the insurance goal and that, as they say, was that. Salgaocar manager Leo Fernandes said the Goa Governor would be hosting a reception for the team tomorrow evening. Shabbir Ali said the players will get Rs 10,000 each for the Mohun Bagan match. The team will now play the Police Cup, a local tournament being revived after 10 years.
Salgaocar: Upendra Mansingh (Bharat Morje 81'), Coven Lawrence, Roberto Fernandes, Sanjay Parte, Roque Pereira, Augustine Rodrigues (Jose Esteves 66'), Jules Alberto (Alvito D'Cunha 83'), Habib Adenkule, S Venkatesh, Bruno Coutinho, Shabir Ali Mondal.
JCT: Virender Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Tarsem Lal, Kuldip Singh, Daljit Singh, Jasbir Singh (Bhupinder Singh 75'), Dipankar Roy, Ram Pal, Hardip Sangha (Hardip Saini 44'), Surjit Singh (Sukhjit Singh 52'), Hardip Gill.

Note-1: Clubs in the National League have come together to present their point of view to the AIFF and work in conjunction with it. At a press conference, representatives of six clubs issued a 21-point suggestion. They will meet again during the SAFF Cup in Goa.
THE SALIENT FEATURES: 1. Rules should be amended by AIFF to introduce transfer fees for buying, selling and even getting players on loan; 2. Players' contracts should be a minimum of two years; 3. Clubs should attempt to stop artificial inflation in players' salaries; 4. AIFF shall announce the calendar at the start of the season and notify clubs on players' national duties well in advance; 5. The National League should be held between October and December. AIFF tournaments (like Santosh Trophy) should follow this. All other meets should be held between February and March; 6. The National League should only be played on home-and-away basis; 7. Brand of balls to be decided before League starts; 8. A committee comprising AIFF and clubs' representatives should certify grounds fit before venues are announced; 9. Winners' cheques shall be given after every National League match and the share of the gate sales within a stipulated time; 10. All pending payments from AIFF and local organisers must be cleared immediately; 11. Players at least 10 days rest between tournaments, including the first and second phase of the National League; 12. Uniform foreign-player rule for national and local competitions; 13. Clubs playing the League will meet once in four months; 14. Daily allowance for all League clubs should be raised by at least 50 per cent; 15. Appearance money should be paid to each team midway through the League; 16. Teams should travel only by air for the League and Federation Cup; 17. The AIFF should invite at least two club representatives for all National League and Federation Cup meetings; 18. AIFF should meet the club's representatives at least twice every year; 19. All clubs must be represented in the National League organising committee.

Note-2: President of Mohun Bagan Athletic Club Swapan Sadhan Bose tonight resigned from the Board of Directors of United Mohun Bagan Football Team Private Ltd. In a letter to United Mohun Bagan Football Team Private Ltd's managing Director Anjan Mitra, Bose assured of his support and Cooperation for the smooth functioning of the team. Bose, who will continue to be the President of Mohun Bagan Athletic Club, declined to divulge the reasons behind his decision to resign from the Board of Directors of United Mohun Bagan Football Team Private Ltd.

20. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Group A: Mizoram 1-2 Jammu&Kashmir // Group E: Tamil Nadu 4-1 Madhya Pradesh // Group H: Railways 2-0 Andaman&Nicobar Island

19. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Group A: Services 3-0 Uttar Pradesh // Group E: Tripura 2-1 Madhya Pradesh // Group G: Assam 5-0 Pondicherry // Group H: Chandigarh 3-1 Rajasthan

3rd National League - Super League: Mohun Bagan 0-1 Salgaocar - Goals: 0:1 Shabir Ali Mondal (81') - Salgaocar are the new National League champions!!!
Salgaocar clinched the Coca-Cola National League title today, their 1-0 victory over Mohun Bagan at the Saltlake Stadium putting 2nd-placed East Bengal's title-chances beyond even mathematical possibilities. Mohun Bagan, dominating for almost the entire match, were rudely reminded that, in the end, it's the goals that matter when substitute Shabir Ali Mondal scored in the 81.minute. A Mohun Bagan win would have kept East Bengal's flickering hopes alive, and the men in green-&-maroon should blame only themselves for not carrying the fight forward and improving their own position on the League ladder. They created numerous scoring opportunities only to squander them like a millionaire in a casino. The worst culprit was star striker IM Vijayan, who failed to put the ball into the goal from hand-shaking distance on at least four occasions. He was, of course, unfortunate to see his free-kick hit the left post very early in the match. To add to Mohun Bagan's miseries, Soumitra Chakraborty, who was the fountainhead of quality passes from the midfield, was sent off after he picked up his 2nd yellow card of the match and his team was down to 10 men for over half-an-hour. The goal was scored when the Calcutta giants were temporarily reduced to nine players with Amit Das getting medical attention on the sidelines. It came from a breakaway move that saw Jules Alberto shoot goalwards after some good work on top of the Mohun Bagan box. As the ball came back off a defender, Shabir, a 54.minute substitute, pounced on it and his low right-footer went in off the left upright with goalkeeper Dinesh rooted to his position. Mohun Bagan would have been two goals in arrears the very next minute but Bruno Coutinho's curling left-foot volley came to grief on the left post. The match began very differently, though. Mohun Bagan came tantalisingly close to scoring in the 1.minute when, off a Vijayan corner, Omollo's header was repulsed from the goalline by left-back Roque Pereira. Four minutes later, Khemtang Paite was tripped some 25 yards from the Salgaocar goal and Vijayan curled the freekick nicely to beat the goalkeeper, but the left upright came in the way. Salgaocar's William Inganga and Jude Odegah fired in quick succession in the 18. but Mohun Bagan were back with a fierce left-footer from Jo Paul Ancheri that goalie Upendra Mansingh just managed to keep out and then did well to block the cross from Amit Das who had run in to put the rebound to good use. Vijayan came upon another glorious opportunity after Soumitra had wrong-footed right-back Francis Coelho and curled in a lovely cross to the far post. Vijayan made a mess of what should have been a easy header home. Another Soumitra cross saw Vijayan head straight at the goalkeeper. Omollo's shot off the rebound brought another goalline save by Roque. Mohun Bagan continued in the same vein in the 2nd half, with Soumitra's snap shot sending the Salgaocar goalie diving to his left and Vijayan not being able to control a nice pass from Paite. Disaster struck when Soumitra, who had been booked for a foul in the 7.minute, felled Domingos Vaz to earn his second yellow and, thus, the marching orders. After Bruno had tested Dinesh with a stiff shot in the 70., Salgaocar struck in the 81.. Some nine minutes and injury-time later, it was celebration time for Salgaocar.
Mohun Bagan: VN Dinesh, Reazul Mustafa, Sammy Omollo, Satyabrata Bhowmick (Biswanath Mondal 46'), Jo Paul Ancheri, RP Singh, Amit Das (Adebayo Gbadabo 83'), Bassim Yonan, Soumitra Chakraborty, IM Vijayan, Khemtang Paite.
Salgaocar: Upendra Mansingh, Francis Coelho, Roberto Fernandes, Cowan Lawrence, Roque Pereira, Domingos Vaz, Jules Alberto, Jude Odegah (Savio Medeira 56'), S. Venkatesh (Jose Esteves 43'), Bruno Coutinho, William Inganga (Shabbir Ali Mondal 54').
After the Match: Shabbir Ali is a quiet man, not given to a show of emotions once the battle is lost and won on the pitch. Today, however, he couldn't escape the wave of joy as Salgaocar celebrated their title-triumph in the Coca-Cola National League. As players and officials hugged and did the jig at the Saltlake Stadium after they had become the first team from Goa to land the country's most coveted soccer title, their soft-spoken coach was hoisted on shoulders in a collective show of gratitude. "Yes, we didn't play well today but we got what we wanted." The coach was back to his usual at the post-match Press conference - calm, pragmatic and with a no-nonsense view of things. He was obviously referring to the 1-0 win, which was all Salgaocar needed to clinch the title today. Shabbir, who took charge at the Goa club just before the National League last year and guided them to a 3rd-place finish, reiterated his belief in teamwork. "I'll tell you something that illustrates the tremendous team spirit and sense of commitment in the Salgaocar team," Shabbir said. "Coelho lost his mother before the East Bengal match, but he went to Goa and then rushed back so that he could play that crucial tie." Talking about the League campaign, he said that "we were in a spot of bother when we picked up just one point from three away games in the first stage". "At least, we proved here that Salgaocar can also win away from Goa," he said. The team's record in Goa is, of course, terrific. "The last match we lost there was on January 25 last year, against Mohun Bagan," butted in skipper Roberto Fernandes, who felt that their best show in this year's League was against Mohun Bagan in Goa. Bruno Coutinho, the only real 'star' in the team, showed that he has lost none of his sting. He had crafted a Federation Cup win for Salgaocar in 1997, but said the League was the real thing. "This is the biggest day for me, and for Salgaocar. After all, it's the most sought-after trophy in our country and the quality of players is also very good," he pointed out. Asked about his own form, he said: "I think I've done enough to get back in the Indian team for the SAFF Cup." Shabbir Ali Mondal may not have played a match full-time in the League, but he is hardly new to getting goals on big occasions. Among his 5 or 6 goals for Salgaocar, one was in an Asian Cup Winners' Cup home tie against Beijing's Guoan earlier this season. Shabbir, who turned out for BNR before being spotted by the club's president Shivanand Salgaocar, stands out with his shaven head but it is no attempt at trying to copy Ronaldo, he will tell you. "I am a fan of Ronaldo, but I shave my head because I feel it brings me luck. In fact, I had a shave today too," he says with a shy smile. Well, it surely did bring luck to the youngster from Makardah in Howrah. It was just as well for Salgaocar.

3rd National League - Super League: FC Kochin 0-3 Churchill Brothers - Goals: 0:1 Mario Soares (7'), 0:2 Philip Mensah (35'), 0:3 KV Dhanesh [own goal] (89').
Churchill Brothers had a definite goal today, they wanted to be able to finish 2nd, ahead of East Bengal, in the National League. FC Kochin were expected to try and avoid being the wooden spooners. Both tried, but probably not for the right reasons. Churchill Bros did earn a 3-0 win, but that was neither through spectacular enterprise, nor through hard-nosed strategy. FC Kochin, who raised sweat by the gallons, wasted opportunities aplenty and then even put one into their own goal to assist the winners. Mario Soares and Philip Mensah scored in the 1st half, the latter staying atop the league scorers list with 11 goals, and Kochin skipper KV Dhanesh provided the self-goal assist, two minutes from time. Nine minutes into the match Martin, was up the left with a centre to Ansari. Goalie Akhtar advanced, missing the line of the ball, and a lurking Soares logged home. Meanwhile, Kochin's Dhanesh had sent a volley over from close and K Noushad had an equally bad miss. It did not help matters when Mensah loped up the middle and slotted home past the advancing goalkeeper for his 11th goal. More Kochin misses followed; it seemed they were desperate not to score. Just before time Somatai Shaiza centred an Ansari prompt to the goalmouth and Kochin skipper Dhanesh lumbered to put it into his own netting.
Churchill Bros: Edward Ansah, Danzie Ferraro, Anthony Mathews, Osumani Hussein, Xavier Fernandes, Anthony Pereira, Aqueel Ansari, Mario Soares, Somatai Shaiza, Jose Martin D'Cruz, Philip Mensah.
FC Kochin: Naseem Akhtar, AS Firoz, Prabhjot Singh, Mahesh Gawli, KV Dhanesh, Mir Farooq Hyder, Roque Barreto, Noel Wilson, K Noushad, Nitin Pradhan (Noah Rozario 71'), Md Najeeb (Kaustav Ghosh 46').

Note-1: Anywhere but here? Not quite. Not everyone likes being a big cheese in a small place. Big Boys like the Big League. You can't fault them for that. And, Vikash Dhorasoo (Lyon: French 1st Division), Jas Jutla (Greenock Morton: Scottish 1st Division), Harpal Singh (Leeds - Premiership) and Amrit Sidhu (Derby - Premiership) have made sure that Indians aren't entirely unheard of in European football. But, even though we knew full well he was quite nippy on his feet, Baichung Bhutia's dash from Margao halfway through the National League to England for trials with Aston Villa was real, swell, fast-forward stuff indeed. Stormy teacups the other day. Today at East Bengal Club, he met the Press, thinking aloud about his future career options and declaring that he indeed was awaiting calls from his British agent. He's not going in for an inter-state transfer but any Calcutta team wishing to sign him on for the coming season will have to agree to release him when he's needed seven seas away. He said he had yet to be told if he had got over well at Aston Villa - a club who lost to 3rd Division Fulham in the FA Cup this season - or the other clubs who had seen him in action while he was in England. Indian football's sole pin-up boy is hurt that East Bengal fans have of late seemed ill-disposed - boos, catcalls, the works! - towards him. Told that the trip to England might have been construed by them as a sign of something less than loyalty to the club, he iterated that he'd long before his departure secured the club's permission. He repeated the charge that he hadn't wanted to be in the starting XI for the FC Kochin game which eventually ended in a draw. Told that the club coach, Manoranjan Bhattacharjee, had said something to the contrary, he held firm, saying he had made himself unequivocally clear to a lot of people. He didn't deny intra-squad schisms but added that these things got played up when the chips were down. Asked to explain East Bengal's failure in three of the four finals they had played this year, however, the factor that he appeared to emphasise was luck. East Bengal, the high-price megastar said, had always meant a lot to him. But no more. The stridency that marks the supporters' hostility has caused his mind to take a U-turn. East Bengal can no longer take him for granted. Or, that seemed to be message. And yes, he doesn't mind going - "I'm a professional with no special preferences, not any more" - to Mohun Bagan. He said his prolonged association with East Bengal wouldn't stand in the way of integrating in the rival club. His framed, smiling photograph decorated the wall right behind him. Old-timers may be hard pressed to recall a similar scene from years past. Bhutia said captaining Bengal was an honour all right but it was one that had come at the wrong time. He was too knackered, he said, to be able to do well in the Santosh Trophy or the SAFF tournament. "I've been playing every day since so long and playing these days is like fighting with lions. I feel homesick." He hopes England's pro soccer will beckon him over but, ironically, he also said he should have gone abroad a little earlier. "Age counts" in their scheme of things, he said.

18. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Group A: Uttar Pradesh 2-1 Jammu&Kashmir // Group E: Tamil Nadu 4-1 Madhya Pradesh // Group H: Chandigarh 3-1 Andaman&Nicobar Island, Indian Railways 6-1 Rajasthan

3rd National League - Super League: East Bengal 2-0 JCT Mills - Goals: 1:0 Raman Vijayan (23'), 1:1 Emmanuel Opoku (63').
Scoring once on either side of half-time, East Bengal kept their title-hopes flickering in the National League. Goals from Raman Vijayan - he now joins Churchill Bros Philip Mensah on top of the scorer's list - and Emmanuel Opoku took East Bengal's tally to 16 pts all right, but hopes of a maiden crown now hinge on arch-foes Mohun Bagan managing at least a draw against leaders Salgaocar (17 pts from eight games). JCT began both halves briskly but fell away thereafter, especially after medio Dipankar Roy was taken off. The first quarter saw a mazy run from speedy forward Surjit Singh climax in a powerful right-footer which Kalyan Chaubey blocked. Three minutes later, in the 13.minute, Hardip Saini shot Daljit Singh's corner-kick from the left into a maze of legs. But on Rabindra Sarobar Stadium turf which JCT coach Sukhwinder Singh said had been watered late - perhaps to ensure that his boys don't get a grip of things - the young Phagwara team slipped. Led by Carlton Chapman, East Bengal gained control of the midfield. After five minutes of domination during which Dipendu Biswas was off-target twice and Chapman once, they forged ahead in the 23.minute. Vijayan's precise header to a Chapman centre from the right culminated a three-pass move set off by Dipendu from just inside JCT's half. It was Dipendu's inward turn, after winning a midfield duel, that foxed JCT's defenders and released Chapman down the right. This was Vijayan's 10th goal in the competition. He could have got his 11th six minutes later, but with only a thin-on-confidence Baljit Singh - playing because Virender Singh is unwell - to beat, shot into the goalie. Baljit parried an Emmanuel Opoku drive five minutes in the second half, but it wasn't long before he let in another goal. In the 60.minute, Opoku ran into the defence's blind zone and deftly placed home Vijayan's miskick which rolled his way. Baichung Bhutia, who was denied a penalty when referee Ravishankar ignored Harinder Singh's tackle from behind, collaborated with Bijen Singh to free Vijayan in the 73.minute but again the striker shot into Baljit.
East Bengal: Kalyan Chaubey, Suley Musah, Jackson Egypong, Franky Barreto (Anit Ghosh 44'), Falguni Dutta, Carlton Chapman, Emmanuel Opoku, Ranjan Dey, Basudeb Mondal (Baichung Bhutia 62'), Raman Vijayan, Dipendu Biswas (Bijen Singh 46').
JCT: Baljit Singh, Tarsem Lal, Deepak Mondal, Kuldip Singh, Daljit Singh, Hardip Saini (Harinder Singh 78'), Dipankar Roy (Hardip Sangha 46'), Ram Pal, Jasbir Singh, Surjit Singh, Hardip Gill.

Note-1: Mumbai football fans might witness another football fiesta in the second week of April. The Cooperage Ground is among the venues scheduled to host the 2.Division National League, according to AIFF president Das Munshi. Speaking to The Indian Express in a telephonic chat from Calcutta, Munshi said, "we have three venues in our mind - Mumbai, Bangalore and Haldia (West Bengal) - and it is quite possible that we run the 2.Division National League at all three venues or two of them. The committee will finalise the dates and venues on March 21." He, however, said the event in all probability would be staged between April 7-21. He hinted that the 18 teams from different parts of country will lock horns in three different groups. Earlier, the AIFF had decided to hold the entire event in Goa despite knowing that the state would be playing host to the SAFF Cup from April 22-May 1. Interestingly, all matches were to be held at an open playground since the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Margao would have been busy with the SAFF Cup. "The Goan FA suggested to hold the tourney in an open ground. I refused the proposal because it is quite dangerous to play in an open ground since the tournament features some local teams too. And what about the security of the players?," opined Wali Mohammed, secretary, Western India Football Association. "I proposed the Federation to organise it at the Cooperage as we can provide ground with a stadium and most important,security to the players," he said. Meanwhile, the controversial issue of inter-state transfer has been put on hold, according to the AIFF chief. "The AIFF will defer the transfers till the end of league," he said. The transfer issue has almost resulted in advancing the schedule from May to April. AIFF's decision to conduct the 2.Division league after the transfer raised a furore with Vasco SC (Goa) and Bengal Mumbai FC threatening to go the legal way as both clubs have reportedly spent heavily on their recruits - both foreign and indian players.

Note-2: India coach for the SAFF Cup Sukhwinder Singh today said he wants a 3-Phase preparatory camp. The 1st phase will focus on relaxation and recovery; the 2nd on the probables' physical prowess and the final on combination play. Since time is at a premium - the camp is unlikely to begin before April 5, 17 days before the meet starts in Goa - Sukhwinder said the emphasis obviously will be on current form. And because of the time-constarint, he said he would not like the number of probables to exceed 25-26. As of now, the coach said, the task of shortlisting the probables rest on the AIFF's appointed spotters. "I may ask for reinforcements but only after I go through their (the spotters) list," he said. The camp is likely to be in Bangalore. Sukhwinder said it would help if the squad could move to Goa some time before the meet begins, to acclimatise. The JCT coach did not complain about having to deal with players hit by end-season fatigue. "There isn't any way out of this situation, so what's the point in complaining,"he said.

17. March
55th Santosh Trophy - Group A: Mizoram 0-3 Services // Group E: Tamil Nadu 3-0 Tripura

Note-1: Sukhwinder Singh, current JCT Mills coach, will train the Indian squad for the SAFF Cup, beginning in Goa on 22 April. The preparatory camp will begin after the Santosh Trophy. The AIFF has decided to defer the match for the Super Cup which was scheduled to be played on 24 March. AIFF president Das Munshi said that the Super Cup match will be held after the SAFF Cup. "The decision was taken so that the teams from Goa and Bengal can take part in the Santosh Trophy in Tamil Nadu," said Das Munshi.

16. March
3rd National League - Super League: Salgaocar 2-0 Churchill Brothers - Goals: 1:0 Jules Alberto (56'), 2:0 Domingos Vas (76').
Salgaocar's 3rd victory in their 5th clash of the season against Churchill Brothers proved to be the most significant as it placed the Goa giants within striking distance of the National League title. It came after some ordinary soccer and a goal each by Jules Alberto and Domingos Vas at a near empty Rabindra Sarobar Stadium as Salgaocar took their tally to 17 pts from eight matches. With East Bengal held 1-1 by FC Kochin, Shabbir Ali's men will be in the clear if they win just one of their two remaining matches to take the title to Goa for the first time. With Churchill also in contention for the title before the start of this match, those expecting a cracker of a match between the Goa titans were denied the fire works as the teams refused to go all out in the first half. The goals came after a barren first half during which Churchill had a slightly better share of ball possession. It was an otherwise off-colour Bruno Coutinho who curled one just in front of the six yard box in the 56.minute from which Jules Alberto headed the ball home. The insurance goal came in the 76.minute when Francis Coelho's through caught the Churchill defenders - who expected an offside call - stranded and Vaz ran almost the entire length of the rival half before slotting it coolly past Edward Ansah. Churchill had themselves to blame as it was they who created the chances in the opening session. Philip Mensah came across some good passes from Portuguese forward Jose Martin but appeared to be too anxious to finish them off and was wayward. Churchill stopper Osumani Hussein looked good and apart from the first goal when Alberto beat him in the air, he was impregnable.
Salgaocar: Upendra Mansingh, Francis Coelho, Covan Lawrence, Roberto Fernandes, Roque Pereira, Jules Alberto, Domingos Vaz (Augustine Rodrigues 77'), S Venkatesh (Jose Esteves 51'), Jude Odegah (Savio Madeira 56'), Bruno Coutinho, William Inganga.
Churchill: Edward Ansah, Danzie Ferrao, Anthony Mathens, Osumanu Husseini, Xavier Fernandes, Hercules Gomes (Cyril Barreto 64'), Aqueel Ansari, Mario Soares, Anthony Pereira, Jose Martin, Philip Mensah (Goutam Ghosh 80').

3rd National League - Super League: East Bengal 1-1 FC Kochin - Goals: 1:0 Raman Vijayan (82'), 1:1 Kaustav Ghosh (90').
19-year-old Kaustav Ghosh emerged out of anonymity by bringing East Bengal's title-hopes in the National League crashing to the ground. Waiting for Salgaocar to slip on the homestretch, the Calcutta giants were done in by a 1-1 draw against FC Kochin at the Salt Lake Stadium, Ghosh's stinging left-footer barely a minute before the final whistle neutralising the lead Raman Vijayan had given them in the 82.minute. The difference in pts between East Bengal and the League leaders has opened up to four. Salgaocar will need to lose both their remaining matches if East Bengal are to overtake them (catching up on pts may not be enough because the Goa outfit has a much superior goal-difference). It will need a small miracle for East Bengal to win the big League from here. It was, in fact, almost a miracle that East Bengal should actually take the lead today for it was their opponents who dominated proceedings for the better part of the match and came across most of the chances. The young Kochin side actually played the sort of soccer that made one wonder what they were doing at the bottom of the 'Super Six' table, with just 2 pts from seven matches before today's game. East Bengal's best chance of the match came within a couple of minutes into the 2nd session, and it was an irony that Baichung Bhutia, their best striker, should make a mess of it. Tushar's long pass saw Mahesh Gawli freeze in anticipation of the whistle for offside. In fact, even Baichung turned to look at the assistant referee before he darted into a one-to-one situation with the goalkeeper. However, as the goalie rushed out, Baichung missed the target under pressure. The very next minute, Noel Wilson neutralised a grave threat to the Kochin goal by blocking Basudeb's cross. A couple of minutes later, Baichung put the ball into the goal from a fierce Musah drive but he was ruled offside. The coast-to-coast action brought both goals under threats over the next few minutes before a flurry of substitutions saw Baichung off the pitch too. It wasn't a very popular move, even though Baichung did very little of note today. As the desperation on the terraces and in the East Bengal game crept in, Manoranjan's men produced a goal out of nowhere. Raman Vijayan, Baichung's 62.minute replacement, received the ball in midfield and his turf-hugging 25-yard shot was more a hopeful attempt than anything else, till goalkeeper Akhtar let it pass and the placement proved just right. With less than 10 minutes remaining and a win so important for East Bengal, it was baffling why they did not down shutters. Noah Rozario, after combining with Nitin Pradhan, set Kaustav Ghosh free on the left and the lad from Siliguri made no mistake with his left-footer to bulge the net and send East Bengal title-hopes on a tailspin.
East Bengal: Kalyan Chaubey; Suley Musah, Jackson Egypong, Franky Barreto, Ratan Singh, Carlton Chapman, Basudeb Mondal, Tushar Rakshit (Bijen Singh 59'), Renedy Singh (Saroj Das 72'), Baichung Bhutia (Raman Vijayan 62'), Dipendu Biswas.
FC Kochin: Naseem Akhtar, Prabhjot Singh, AS Firoze, Mahesh Gawli, KV Dhanesh, Roque Barreto, Noel Wilson (Noah Rozario 85'), K Naushad, Mir Farooq Hyder, Karunakar Raj (Nitin Pradhan 65'), Md Najeeb (Kaustav Ghosh 76').

Note-1: It will not come as any surprise if the organisers set some numerical figure as ceiling for Bengal to evict them as the 28 times champions prepare to extend their lease in the Bharat Petroleum National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy which is set commence at two centres - Chennai and Udhagamandalam - from March 17 and at Coimbatore from March 19. Meghalaya is the second team to pull out leaving Cluster C a direct contest between Delhi and Gujarat. Earlier, Daman&Diu (Cluster G), who were to play at Coimbatore, had withdrawn.

Note-2: Had he been an international cricketer, former Indian skipper Mauricio Alfonso's retirement would have made a big splash - national headlines, benefit matches and so on. But the Dempo and former India midfielder, who played top-level football for 18 years, quietly hung up his boots with full satisfaction. "I enjoyed my career very much and the game gave me great joy. I also hope I brought joy to the fans and would like to thank all of them for their support," the 37-year-old player said. Asked what precipitated his retirement when he was quite adequately coping with age, Alfonso explained, "You can only play well up to a certain age. After that you may want to play but the body can't cope up. So it's better to quit while the going is good."

15. March
3rd National League - Super League: Mohun Bagan 1-1 JCT - Goals: 1:0 Satyajit Chatterjee (41'), 1:1 Surjit Singh (59').
Defending champions Mohun Bagan continued their poor form in the National League when they drew with JCT Mills 1-1, bowing out of the contention with two more matches to go. Mohun Bagan have so far secured only 7 pts. Today's result also sealed JCT Mills' fate, as they have 9 pts only. Salgaocar now head the League table with 14 pts followed by East Bengal and Churchill Brothers, both on 12. All three teams play tomorrow and the match between the two Goan teams could indicate who would win. Mohun Bagan haven't done well in the League. This afternoon at Saltlake stadium, the elite Calcutta team took the lead in the 41.minute when Satyajit Chatterjee banged in off a centre from Lolendra Singh. In the 1st half, Mohun Bagan got some scoring chances but the visiting team came strongly on in the 2nd session when JCT Mills not only caught up in the 14.minute after resumption but could also have scored again two minutes later. Surjit Singh scored for JCT Mills and it was he who wasted the day's best chance after Hardip Gill had put him in possession. Hardip had received a diagonal pass from Harinder Singh. Debjit Ghosh went off 40 seconds before close for a second booking - and the automatic red card. Satyajit Chatterjee came to be booked too. There were poor performances from a number of seasoned footballers likely to represent India. The AIFF should ensure that NFL players are rested for at least 10 days before coming to the SAFF preparatory camp.
Mohun Bagan: Sandip Nandy, Reazul Mustafa (Bassim Yonan 85'), Satyabrata Bhowmick, Samuel Omollo, Lolendra Singh (Khemtang Paite 64'), Amit Das (Adebayo Gbadabo 86'), Satyajit Chatterjee, Debjit Ghosh, Soumitra Chakraborty, IM Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri.
JCT: Virender Singh, Tarsem Lal, Deepak Mondal, Kuldip Singh, Daljit Singh, Hardip Saini, Dipankar Roy (Harinder Singh 46'), Jasbir Singh, Hardip Sangha (Rampal 59'), Hardip Gill, Surjit Sigh (Sukhjit Singh 74').

Note-1: Vasco Sports Club, Goa, has threatened to take the AIFF to court if the 2.Division National League is not held before the inter-state transfers, reports PTI from Margao. They are seeking a stay order on the transfer dates. Club secretary Savio Messias accused AIFF of not having a fixed calender and altering dates of tournaments. The AIFF had earlier said the league would start in February. Accordingly, Vasco prepared the team and recruited two foreign players Hugo (Portugal) and Hilario (Germany) on two-month contracts which end in March. "But now we have learnt from that the league is going to start in May after the inter-state transfers," he said. "It makes no sense in conducting the league after the inter-state transfers of players as they will have to build up the team all over again. "Our argument is that either we be given a direct entry into the NFL 1st division as a wildcard or postpone the inter-state transfers which will enable us to prove ourselves," the Messias said. I will question Vasco President Noel da Lima on the matter.

Note-2: Baichung is back in Calcutta and will play the last 3 matches for East Bengal in the National League, here what I found in the Telegraph: In contrast to his headlines-making trials at Aston Villa, Baichung made sure he slipped quietly into Calcutta. At morning practice with his teammates, the star striker was reluctant to discuss the outing before tomorrow's clash against Kochin, but he said enough to indicate that the experience has whetted his apetite for a few more attempts at getting a foothold in English soccer. "It was a dream of an experience for me, and I'm sure I'll get more chances to make an impression there" he told reporters. "I'll tell you all about it after tomorrow's match; that's all I'm thinking about right now. East Bengal haven't won the National League so far. We have a good chance this time, so I want to concentrate on that" he added. Both Baichung and East Bengal officials were mum on the subject of hauling him up for his late return, which forced the club to be without his services during a most crucial stage of the League. It was no time, it seems, for looking back. "It was very cold out there" was all Baichung would proffer about the trials, but he made it clear that the Aston Villa rejection (after 4 days of trials) was not the end of the road as far as playing in England was concerned. There are trials even in May and June at other clubs, and indications are that, having come a long way from the enthusiastic boy of an obscure village in Sikkim, he may now want to continue that journey Westward. During his stay in England, Baichung had a chat with our fanclub member Jas Bains, who send me a mail on talk he had with him. Check out: Jas Bains' chat with Baichung Bhutia .

13. March
3rd National League - Super League: East Bengal 2-1 Salgaocar - Goals: 0:1 Jules Alberto (26'), 1:1 Dipendu Biswas (44'), 2:1 Suley Musah (55').
East Bengal moved closer to National League leaders Salgaocar with a win over the latter at the Saltlake Stadium. East Bengal rallied from a goal deficit to win the fast-paced game 2-1. East Bengal now have 12 pts from seven games, same as Churchill Bros, but have a better goal average. Salgaocar continue to be at the top with 14 pts. Jules Alberto struck the Salgaocar's goal in the 26.minute in peculiar fashion. After snatching the ball from Carlton Chapman near the half-line, Alberto streaked down the right flank, dodged past Falguni Dutta and Jackson Egypong to take a swerving shot past goalie Kalyan Chaubey. The unexpected reversal left the East Bengal players totally stunned. Salgaocar relinquished the lead in the 1st half, a minute before the break. Ghanian Suley Musah, once again overlapping well, dispatched a deceptive floater into the box. Custodian Juje Siddi, playing with an injured hand, charged out too far and even as he leaped,the ball brushed past his fingers. Dipendu Biswas headed in the equaliser. East Bengal went into the lead in the 55.minute through Suley Musah. Tushar Rakshit, who had replaced an injured Emmanuel Opoku, essayed a pass to Carlton Chapman. The midfielder advanced into the Salgaocar box, turned with three defenders surrounding and back-passed to a charging Musah to score. East Bengal had a chance to consolidate with Biswas missed an easy header in front of an open goal.
East Bengal: Kalyan Chaubey, Suley Musah, Jackson Egypong, Franky Barreto, Falguni Dutta, Ranjan Dey, Carlton Chapman, Emmanuel Opoku (Tushar Rakshit 17', Renedy Singh 87'), Basudeb Mondal, Raman Vijayan (Bijen Singh 52'), Dipendu Biswas.
Salgaocar: Juje Siddi (Upendra Mansingh 44'), Francis Coelho (Sanjay Parte 54'), Cowan Lawrence, Roberto Fernandes, Roque Perreira, Jules Alberto, Habib Adekunle, S Venkatesh, Bruno Coutinho, Augustine Rodrigues, Alvito D'Cunha (Jude Odegah 70').

12. March
3rd National League - Super League: Mohun Bagan 0-0 Churchill Brothers - Goals: none.
Mohun Bagan today put up yet another bad performance in the Super League at Saltlake Stadium. The defending champions, having lost to East Bengal in their previous match, played a goalless draw with Churchill Brothers. They are now almost out of the running for the top honour. Mohun Bagan, with three more matches to go, have collected only 6 pts. Salgaocar now head the table with 14 pts, followed by Churchill Brothers (12). Churchill Bros had suffered an ignominious 0-5 drubbing at the hands of JCT in their previous game. Mohun Bagan supporters had come expecting a victory, which would have marked sweet revenge for their 0-2 1st-leg defeat. But the Mohun Bagan coach - who also happens to be the Indian team's newly-appointed technical director, PK Banerjee - failed to bring the best out of his experienced and star players. He said his players had lost their self-confidence and the players were too tired to give of their best. Game-reading is an important aspect of coaching. PK needs to be told that Jo Paul Ancheri is not fit to play in the attacking line as it takes him a perceptibly long time to manoeuvre himself into a shot-taking position. He should play from a deep position, scheming moves. Ancheri today failed to capitalise on an inviting centre from IM Vijayan and five minutes before close Khemtang Paite took his time well inside the box after Samuel Omollo had put the ball on a platter. Churchill Bros played possession football, falling back in time to bolster the defence. But their foreign coach, Danny McLennan, seemed to prefer square and short passes, resulting in the team's attack losing its thrust. It also helped Mohun Bagan get back in time. The Goan team's players were also seen making a number of ill-directed passes. There was no scoring bid by them from outside the box even when the players found enough space.
Mohun Bagan: Sandip Nandy, Reazul Mustafa, Sammy Omollo, Satyabrata Bhowmick, Lolendra Singh (Bassim Yonan 67'), RP Singh (Khemtang Paite 30'), Soumitra Chakraborty, Satyajit Chatterjee, Amit Das, IM Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri.
Churchill Bros: Edward Ansah; Denzil Ferrao, Anthony Matthews, Osumani Husseini, Anthony Pereira; Mahesh Singh (Cyril Barreto 36'), Aqueel Ansari, Mario Soares, Somatai Shaiza, Philip Mensah; Jose Martins (Bitan Singh 79').

3rd National League - Super League: JCT Mills 0-0 FC Kochin - Goals: none.
JCT failed to live upto the expectations and in a rather drab encounter split points with FC Kochin at the Rabindra Sarobar. JCT looked a pale shadow of themselves, following their 5-0 win over Churchill Bros in the previous tie. They now have 8 pts from seven outings while FC Kochin have two. The hard-working Rampal and Surjit Singh were the livewires behind the handful of JCT attacks. In the 30.minute, Surjit essayed a measured cross but Hardip Saini shot straight into the goalkeeper's hands. Midway the 2nd session, JCT tried to pile up the pressure. Three minutes from the final whistle, they lost their best chance when substitute Sukhjit Singh moved up the left, got past a couple of defenders and placed the ball on a platter to Hardip Gill. With only the goalie at his mercy, Hardip shot over from close. A minute later, FC Kochin keeper Naseem Akhtar came to their rescue. Deepak Mondal's dipping volley was brilliantly tipped over by Akhtar.
JCT: Virender Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Tarsem Lal, Deepak Mondal, Daljit Singh, Hardip Saini, Dipankar Roy (Harjinder Singh 19'), Rampal, Hardip Sangha (Hardip Gill 54'), Surjit Singh (Sukhjit Singh 10'), Jasbir Singh.
FC Kochin: Naseem Akhtar, Prabhjot Singh, AS Firoze, Mahesh Gawli, KV Dhanesh, Roque Barreto, Noel Wilson, Mir Farooq Hyder, Mohammed Safique (Kaustav Ghosh 70'), K Naushad, Mohammed Najeeb.

Note-1: The clashing dates of the National League and the Santosh Trophy have created problems for Bengal, Goa and Punjab. A number of promising footballers are likely to miss the chance to represent their states in what is a prestigious soccer tournament. And making matters worse, the Federation bosses have decided to organise simultaneously the coaching camp for the SAFF and pre-Olympic soccer tournaments. Henry Britto, secretary of the Salgaocar SC, said "Our main goal is to ensure that the players do not suffer burn-outs. The Santosh Trophy and the National League are run by the Federation and the camp also has been called by the Federation. The players have already taken a lot of load and it implies both physical strain and mental pressure. We would like to give our players at least a two-week break before they join the national camp for the SAFF tournament." Sukhwinder Singh, the JCT Mills coach, said that he felt that the Punjab team should comprise players from the other clubs in the state with one or two thrown in from his team. "A number of players in our team and FC Kochin are below 23 years of age and may be called for the camp. They can't play everyday. It is in the interests of the country that we have to give them a proper period of rest," said Sukhwinder Singh, the man who plotted JCT Mills' win in the inaugural National League after being well behind the League leaders at one stage.

Note-2:The FIFA Executive Committee made some far-reaching decisions today in Geneva on coordinating the international football calender. From 2005 onwards national leagues all over the world will be played from February to November with 16 teams in the premier league. This will surely change the football scene in India as all over the world. But this plan is not being supported by the UEFA as it thinks national leagues are a matter of national federations. Lets see what further happens!

11. March
The latest from Baichung Bhutia at Aston Villa (a report from The Telegraph):
Baichung Bhutia had his first day of trials with Premier League club, Aston Villa yesterday. His trials will continue for some more days. Villa have showed interest in his skills and seem poised to sign him. Gordon Smith, acting as the player's agent, was quoted in today's The Guardian as saying: "The club has offered him training facilities for a few days to see if he will like it over here and if he feels he can settle", adds AP from Birmingham. "There is a large Indian community within the West Midlands area and the club is keen to search for fresh talent which reflects this," added Smith. The BBC featured Baichung in their Sports Round-Up programme. In a telephonic interview with BBC, Baichung said this was not only a great opportunity for him, but also a major boost for Indian football. Baichung's absence from today's crucial National Super League against Mohun Bagan has left East Bengal unhappy, a Staff Reporter in Calcutta adds. Speaking at the post-match press conference East Bengal manager Swapan Ball said the club will certainly seek an explanation as to why the ace striker failed to return by yesterday as he had promised. Punitive measures too are not ruled out.
From fanclub member Biplav Gautam I got the information that yesterday on the official Aston Villa website manager John Gregory said he is not interested in Bhutia, but that he is letting him train with Villa so other clubs in England can take a look at him. Lets see what happens! Further fanclub member Jas Bains is doing a TV interview with Baichung today for the BBC. He hopes to get a chance to speak with him about India generally, and inform him of our fanclub work.

10. March
3rd National League - Super League: Mohun Bagan 0-2 East Bengal - Goals: 0:1 Dipendu Biswas (32'), 0:2 Carlton Chapman (64').
It was virtually a no-contest. East Bengal simply brushed aside arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in their 2nd-leg match of the Super League. The defending champions suffered a 0-2 defeat at Saltlake Stadium but were lucky not to concede more goals. The red-&-yellow brigade not only clinically dissected a hapless, disorganised Mohun Bagan but also bounced back into the competition. The two Calcutta giants came on to the ground desperately looking for a victory. But as the game progressed, East Bengal found more space in the Mohun Bagan defensive area and the fall of the Mohun Bagan citadel seemed only a matter of time. East Bengal scored their first goal in the 32.minute but, before that, they had launched a series of raids, mostly from the right flank. The main task for defenders is either to cover space or go in for man-marking. But times without number, Mohun Bagan defenders were caught on the wrong foot today. The team never looked like they had been trained by a coach chosen as technical director by the AIFF. PK Banerjee, thanks to efforts made by the AIFF president DasMunshi, was given the honour for the Pre-Olympic Football Tournament. DasMunshi was not present at the ground but a look at a video recording of today's match might set him thinking about a review of his own preferences in the matter of choice of technical director for the national team. The Mohun Bagan defence at times had more players than their rival attackers. But the way they allowed East Bengal right back Suley Musah to overlap and, along with Carlton Chapman and Emmanuel Opoku, outwit their opponents, it seemed Mohun Bagan had no fight left in them. It was not unknown to PK that a favourite tactics to wreck zonal marking is to overload a zone. Raman Vijayan first posed a threat in the 10.minute when he found the target but the referee ruled him offside. A minute later, another move was initiated from the right and Raman again had the world at his mercy but his feeble shot was cleared by Reazul Mustafa, standing near the 2nd post. Three minutes later, Musah dispatched a powerful shot but Dinesh fisted the ball over for a flag-kick. East Bengal finally got ahead when Dipendu Biswas headed in off an inviting centre from the right by Carlton Chapman. East Bengal could have made it 2-0 before the interval when Musah, surprisingly, made his way through the middle and though in modern football we talk of tightening the defence, the Ghanian got past four defenders with ease and comfort. But he hit the side-netting at the end. A minute before the break, all that Raman had to do was to place the ball in the far corner of the net with the rival goalie out of his charge. But the lanky striker ran close to Dinesh and couldn't get the ball past him. Mohun Bagan didn't improve after half-time, contrary to their fans' expectations. Within 10 minutes from resumption, the Mohun Bagan defence was in great trouble no fewer than 3times. At first, Raman shot over; then Opoku's long-range shot hit the post and finally the African medio's pile-driver was tipped over. What was more encouraging for East Bengal was that their coach, Bhattacharjee, fully utilised their midfielders proving it was the hub of his team. He made good use of Chapman as an attacking midfielder who scored the 2nd goal of the day. Chapman covers every inch of the ground and showed his striking ability when, after receiving a pass from Opoku, he ran down the middle of the pitch and then moved towards the right and took a low, angular shot that Dinesh saw but failed to stop standing closer to the first post. Raman once more missed a sitter and he was replaced by Bijen Singh. The way he muffed chances galore, he should have been replaced much earlier. Towards the end, East Bengal appeared to relax a bit.
East Bengal: Kalyan Chaubey; Suley Musah, Jackson Egypong, Franky Barreto, Falguni Dutta, Ranjan Dey, Carlton Chapman, Emmanuel Opoku (Tushar Rakshit 75'), Basudeb Mondal (Saroj Das 82'), Raman Vijayan (Bijen Singh 60'), Dipendu Biswas.
Mohun Bagan: Dinesh Nair, Reazul Mustafa, Adebayo Gbadabo, Biswanath Mondal (Soumitra Chakraborty 46'), Satyajit Chatterjee, Debjit Ghosh, Amit Das, RP Singh (Bassim Yonan 46'), IM Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri.

Note-1: The AIFF will soon strike a deal with Scottish-born Irish coach Roy Miller to train the under-19 and U-23 development teams, according to AIFF president Das Munshi. Das Munshi said Miller, who is one of the five chief instructors of FIFA, would be training the country's upcoming junior level players under FIFA's $ 1,000,000 scheme for various national bodies' junior development programme. He said Miller had visited Bangalore and Calcutta's SAI centres and would soon be submitting his report. "We are negotiating with him and the deal would be finalised soon, Das Munshi said, adding that Miller would be paid a fee of $ 7,500 per month, Rs 10,000 for miscellaneous expenses and medical insurance. After this, the AIFF would be looking for a foreign coach to raise the standard of the senior team also, he announced. Pesek, the Czech coach and Akramov, the Uzbek coach, who were the last foreign coaches here, had done some good work in raising the standard of our footballers in general, said Das Munshi. Das Munshi added the lack of sponsorship from industrial houses due to recession, had set back the clock for AIFF's development programmes to raise the standard of football in the country. However, with assurances in the 1999/2000 union budget for income tax and other concessions to industrial houses, if they take up sports projects, more industrial houses would be coming forward to support football by the month of June or July, he hoped. Hope the talk about developmental plans are not just mere phrases!!!

9. March
3rd National League - Super League: Salgaocar 1-0 FC Kochin - Goal: 1:0 Alvito D`Cunha (45').
An Alvito D'Cunha goal a short while before the break was just about all that marked Salgaocar apart from FC Kochin in the Goan club's 1-0 pressure-cooker win at Rabindra Sarobar stadium. In everything else, the fortune-contrasted teams were more than a match for each other, gifting a very thin crowd a battle-for-every-inch, thrilling game. The table-topping club in the Super League phase, playing their first match in the city in the championship's wrap-up stage, hiked their tally to 14 pts from six games. FC Kochin, on just one point from half-a-dozen matches, gave the title-aspirants goose pimples and, but for their lack of experience, might have come out richer by a point. The young Kerala outfit - the average age of their players is 19 - never allowed Salgaocar to settle into a fluid attacking rhythm with their midfield marking and uncompromising tackling. Salgaocar, who had tweaked the noses of both of the Calcutta elite clubs in Super Six matches at Fatorda with far greater ease, had a hell of a time and the dickens of a job. They improved a little after interval, without, however, finding either the FC Kochin boys being deferential to them or the wretched turf of the stadium any help for good soccer. Salgaocar's initial spurt over, FC Kochin came by at least three scoring opportunities in the early session which were wasted by Naushad, Shafiq and Najeeb. Francis Coelho and Khelendro Singh in the Salgaocar defensive area looked like running up a down escalator and medio Habib Adenkule was getting the jitters instead of getting going. Salgaocar's upfront play was unco-ordinated - these things do happen in first matches in new conditions - and, but for Venkatesh's fluency and Roberto's never-say-die pride, well might they have been up against it. But a Venkatesh-D'Cunha one-two fetched them the goal and FC Kochin, who had twice held Salgaocar before the Super Six stage, eventually couldn't summon the equaliser they worked so hard for. Karunakar Raj and substitute Nitin Pradhan blew two chances. Another substitute, Kaustav Ghosh, lashed a stinging pile-driver over. Salgaocar's substitutions were well-done. Each served the purpose it was called for. Full marks there Shabbir Ali, coach. And yes, they had their own share of missed chances too.
Salgaocar: Juje Siddi, Covan Lawrence, Francis Coelho, Roberto Fernandes, Khelendro Singh, (Sanjay Parte 59'), Jules Alberto, Habib Adenkule, Augustine Rodrigues, S Venkatesh, Bruno Coutinho, Alvito D'Cunha (Jude Odegah 73').
FC Kochin: Naseem Akhtar; AS Firoze, Mohammed Shafiq, Mahesh Gawli, Mir Farooq Hyder, Prabhjot Singh, KV Dhanesh (Roque Barreto), K Naushad, Noel Wilson, Karunakar Raj, Mohammed Najeeb (Nitin Pradhan, Kaustav Ghosh).

3rd National League - Super League: JCT Mills 5-0 Churchill Brothers - Goals: 1:0 Jasbir Singh (19'), 2:0,5:0 Surjit Singh (42',87'), 3:0 Daljit Singh (75'), 4:0 Hardip Saini (79').
Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction. It sure is, at least sometimes; like when an unpretentious JCT Mills knock in five goals - yes, it was 5-0 all right - against the mighty Churchill Brothers. Call it a shock cushioned by nothing; put it down to one of Fate's inscrutable dispensations, you can't help sitting up and polishing your spectacles before pinching yourself! The Goan team, up in 2nd position of the Super League's hierarchy, beaten to a pulp! And, JCT Mills - a no-star, no-hype contingent from Phagwara - apparently only trundling honestly on, barring the occasional sparkle pole-vaulting all of a sudden into adulatory headlines! And those who were there would never forget anything about this absolutely sensational, if totally one-sided, game. For the record, Jasbir Singh, Surjit Singh (2), Daljit Singh and Hardip Saini were the scorers. Churchill Brothers were simply outplayed. The winners were in full command of just about everything in the match and were ahead by a brace in the 1st session. Churchill Bros, unbeaten in the first leg, also had Osumani Hussain, their key defender, and Philip Mensah, the ace striker, flopping badly. The losers had only two scoring chances: one in the 1st half and the other in the 2nd session. Mahesh Singh's right-footed grounder missed the target in the 10.minute and Jose Martin D'Cruz missed the target from close off a pass from Anthony Pereira in the 50.minute. Rampal, Surjit Singh and Jasbir Singh of the winners outwitted Osumani on a number of occasions by dint of sheer speed. Jasbir Singh scored the first goal for the winners off a centre from the left flank by Rampal. Three minutes before the lemon break, Surjit Singh scored the second goal, also off a pass from Rampal. After the breather, JCT scored three more goals. Daljit Singh beat Churchill Brothers goalkeeper Edward Ansah with a left-footed rising shot in the 75.minute and Hardip Singh (79.) increased the margin further following a free-kick. In the 87.minute, Surjit Singh scored his 2nd goal and completed the tally for his team.
JCT: Virender Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Tarsem Lal, Deepak Mondal, Daljit Singh, Hardip Singh, Dipankar Roy (Bhupinder Singh 82'), Ram Pal, Hardip Singh (Harinder Singh 72'), Surjit Singh, Jasbir Singh (Sukhjit Singh 55').
Churchill Bros: Edward Ansah, Denzil Ferrao, Anthony Mathews, Osumani Hussein, Anthony Pereira, Aqueel Ansari, Mario Soares, Mahesh Singh (Cyril Barreto 56'), Jose Martin D'Cruz (Bitan Singh 78'), Philip Mensah, Somatai Shaiza.

Note-1: I can't believe what I read today in a mail from fanclub member Biplav Gautam. English Premier League club Aston Villa is giving a trial to Baichung Bhutia, an international striker for India, the club said on Tuesday. The 21 year-old (as far as I know Baichung is 2 years older) has appeared 31x for India, scoring 21 goals, and has the permission from his club East Bengal to train at Villa Park this week. Villa manager John Gregory plans to access the player's qualities before deciding whether to invest in a forward who would cost only a nominal fee. Gordon Smith, acting as the player's agent, said Tuesday: "Baichung is regarded as India's top footballer and Villa are keen to have a look at him. The club have offered him training facilities for a few days to see if he will like it over here and if he feels he can settle. There is a large Indian community within the West Midlands area and the club are keen to search for fresh talent which reflect this." Another fanclub member Jas Bains has told me that Baichung's manager has been hawking his client around english clubs for a few weeks, among them West Ham United. He has also told me that there is a possibility that Villa Park might host a friendly with the indian national team. The idea has been mooted by both Bhutia's agent and Abdul Rashid - Villa's commercial manager. A damn good idea in my eyes!!! Maybe India's future is much more bighter than we ever thought off.

8. March
Defending champions India will meet Bangladesh in the opening match of the Coca-Cola SAFF Cup at Margao, Goa, on 22 April. Six teams, divided into two groups, are vying for honours in the US $100,000 tournament, the general secretary of the SAFF, JSN Anandarajah, has said. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh comprise Group A, while the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal make up Group B. The teams will play each other in the group once, with the first two moving up to the semi-finals to be played on 29 April. The final and the third-place play-off are scheduled for 1 May. The winners will receive a prize purse of US $ 50,000, and the runners-up will be richer by US $ 25,000. The losing semi-finalists will earn US $ 15,000 and US $ 10,000 respectively. Doordarshan has decided to telecast live all the 10 matches of the tournament. Anandarajah admitted that the SAFF countries' performance didn't match that of other Asian nations. "It is the duty of each national football federation to improve the standard." SAFF president, PP Lakshmanan, and the AIFF president, Das Munshi, also spoke on the occasion. Rahul Dhawan, on behalf of Coca-Cola, said that his organisation was committed to promoting football. Not only was it associated with the Indian National League or the SAFF Cup but it was also looking forward to supporting all football events since it was the most popular game in the world. SAFF general secretary Anandarajah claimed that the SAFF tournament had emerged as a leading event among the countries of the south Asian region on the lines of the Tiger Cup of South East Asia, the Gulf Cup of the Arabian Gulf and the Dynasty Cup of the East Asia. The schedule: 22.Apr: India - Bangladesh; 23.Apr: Sri Lanka - Maldives; 24.Apr: Bangladesh - Pakistan; 25.Apr: Sri Lanka - Nepal; 26.Apr: India - Pakistan; 27.Apr: Maldives - Nepal; 29.Apr: semifinals: winner group B - runners-up group A; winner group A - runners-up group B; 1.May: Final & 3rd-place playoff.

7. March
Note-1: PK Banerjee was today officially made the the Indian National football team's technical director. The AIFF, which held its executive body meeting today, decided to request Banerjee to take up the job from the pre-Olympics preparatory camps, the first of which will start on March 15 in Calcutta. The 15-day camp will have 40 footballers drawn up after assessing the performances in the National Games in Imphal, the under-21 tournament in Rajasthan and the India B team's tour of Sri Lanka. Players who will turn out for their state teams in the Santosh Trophy, due to start from March 17, have been exempted from the Calcutta leg of the camp. They will join the second phase, which will be held in Bangalore from April 4. Meanwhile, negotiations with Roy Miller have been almost finalised and the irishman will shortly take over as the National football coach. In fact, Miller was supposed to arrive in India on March 5, but postponed his journey as his accommodation is not ready yet. AIFF officials indicated today that they have agreed to Miller's conditions and the SAFF Cup in Goa from April 22 is likely to be his first assignment as the Indian coach. India are the reigning champions in this tournament, having won the last edition in Kathmandu quite comfortably under Syed Nayeemuddin. Orissa is being proposed as the venue for the forthcoming Nehru Cup.

Note-2: The AIFF has decided to conduct the 2.Division National League in May, with the last date of filling up forms for the inter-state transfer being April 15. The transfers, technically speaking, signal the end of the football season - in this case April 15. However, with the qualifying matches for the 4th National League to be held in May, a player may find himself playing two division in the same season! For example: A player who may shift his allegiance to the Bengal Mumbai FC following his transfer will play the NFL second division (from May, 1999) for his new team. But if BMFC qualifies for the first division, the player might end up playing both the NFL divisions in the same season! This situation could have been avoided if the qualifiers were held before the transfers. The clubs, moreover, will have less than a month to prepare for the 2nd Division after transfers change their team composition.

5. March
3rd National League - Super League: Salgaocar 3-1 Mohun Bagan - Goals: 0:1 IM Vijayan (22'), 1:1 S Venkatesh (26'), 2:1 Jules Alberto (28'), 3:1 Bruno Coutinho (54').
Salgaocar played havoc with Mohun Bagan while chalking out a convincing 3-1 win much to the delight of a roaring crowd in the last match of the 1st leg Super Six phase of the National League at the floodlit Nehru Stadium. The win was doubly sweet, for, the margin of victory enabled Salgaocar to edge Churchill Bros for the top spot in this leg. Both these teams tallied 11 pts and also had an identical figure of 6 in the goal difference. But having scored more goals, 10 to Churchill's 8, Salgaocar grabbed the top spot as the action now shifts to Calcutta where the 2nd leg gets underway on March 9. Holder Mohun Bagan completed its engagements with 5 pts to come one step behind 3rd placed East Bengal, the last year's runner-up. IM Vijayan put Bagan ahead in the 23.minute with his magical touch. But Salgaocar responded brilliantly with two goals in the space of two minutes through Venkatesh (26.) and Jules Alberto (28.). Then nine minutes into the 2nd session, Bruno Coutinho slammed his 8th goal and the side's 3rd. Bruno had a chance to score another but Bagan keeper Dinesh baulked his spot kick, in the 88.minute. Bagan was without its key player, the Kenyan Omollo, who had to sit out with two yellow cards and the spearhead, Nigerian Chima Okorie (injured). Much depended on Vijayan's ability to spring a surprise. But then, despite getting its moves into flow, Bagan failed to read the determination of Salgaocar. Alvito D'Cunha (who can outfox his marker through sheer speed) and Bruno Coutinho were in their elements, enabling Habib Adenkule in the midfield to mesmerise the Calcuttans with his imaginative distribution. Habib was there to intercept and regulate the ball around. Venkatesh gave him good company while full support came from behind where Roberto Fernandes was the master. Still it took the whole of the first quarter before action heightened. Expectedly, Vijayan was to win the 1st round of cheers when he made the most of goalie Juje Siddi's poor collection. Winning the ball, he chipped a left-footer for a spectacular goal. But then Venkatesh was to match him soon with an outstanding left-footer from just outside the box, evoking a late reaction from goalie Dinesh. Dinesh fell again, this time to Bruno's phenomenal throw-in to which Jules Alberto added a faint header. Salgaocar kept a tight grip. Alvita, Bruno and Venkatesh gave misery to the rival defence. Jules provided the cross for Bruno to score the side's third goal. In comparison, Bagan could do little though Vijayan and Ancheri were busy. In those final moments came the spotkick when Satyabrata tripped Alvito. Bruno's crashing shot was well blocked by Dinesh but then the heroics came too late.

3rd National League - Super League: FC Kochin 1-1 JCT Mills - Goals: 1:0 Mohammed Najeeb (30'), 1:1 Surjit Singh (45').
Earlier, in a match of extended boredom, FC Kochin managed its 1st point with a 1-1 draw against JCT. After Md Najeeb put the Kerala club ahead in the 30.minute, speedy Surjit Singh brought parity in the injury time. JCT totalled 4 pts while with the 1 pt, FC Kochin finished last. In warm daylight conditions, FC Kochin boys began spiritedly but poor finishing cost the team dear. Najeeb must have missed at least four clear chances before scoring the side's only goal even if through a touch of opportunism. JCT took time to settle and it was in the last minute of injury time that success came. A rare lapse in the otherwise tight FC Kochin defence helped swift Surjit Singh to make capital off a long through ball. The contest petered out from there.

4. March
3rd National League - Super League: Churchill Brothers 1-1 East Bengal - Goals: 0:1 Ranjan Dey (22'), 1:1 Philip Mensah (48').
Ace striker Philip Mensah's 2nd half goal enabled Churchill Brothers to hold Calcutta giants East Bengal to a 1-1 draw in the Super League 1st leg match played at Nehru Stadium. With today's goal Mensah's goals tally came to 10, who is the highest goal getter so far in the championship. Table toppers Churchill Brothers finished the leg 11 pts from five matches while East Bengal finished with 6 pts from equal number of outings. Churchill would have won outright had they not muffed a couple of scoring chances specially in the 2nd half after the equaliser. Churchill who played reasonably well in the earlier matches were strangly subdued today. East Bengal shot into the lead in the 22.minute through medio Ranjan Dey with his fine curling shot from the box off a well measured pass from striker Bijen Singh. After the change over, Churchill regrouped well and played with renewed vigour and restored parity in the 48.minute through their mercurial striker Philip Mensah, when Jose Martin failed to head in Denzil Ferrao's floater. However Mensah, who was lurking inside pounced on the chance and shot in 1-1. In the very next minute Jose Martin missed a sitter off a cross from Somatai Shaiza.

2. March
3rd National League - Super League: East Bengal 1-1 Mohun Bagan - Goals: 0:1 Jo Paul Ancheri (77'), 1:1 Saroj Das (87').
East Bengal came from behind to score a hard fought 1-1 draw against Mohun Bagan at the Nehru Stadium, Fatorda. After a barren first half, Mohun Bagan shot into the lead in the 77.minute of play after Jo Paul Ancheri converted a penalty, awarded to them when East Bengal keeper Bibhas Ghosh brought down Amit Das inside the box. East Bengal fought hard to restore parity and in the 87.minute their efforts fructified through substitute Saroj Das who nodded home off a lob by Raman Vijayan. Mohun Bagan and East Bengal with this draw are tied on 5 pts each, placed 3rd and 4th respectively. Mohun Bagan will be handicapped in their next match as defender Samuel Omollo and medio Satyajit Chatterjee were booked twice.

3rd National League - Super League: Salgaocar 1-1 JCT Mills - Goals: 0:1 Hardip Gill (77'), 1:1 Augustine Rodrigues (90').
An injury time goal by substitute Augustine Rodrigues helped Salgaocar hold JCT Mills to a 1-1 draw in the Super League. JCT shot into lead through a counter-attacking move by striker Hardeep Gill in the 77.minute. Salgaocar restored parity through Augustine who came in place of Jules Alberto. Salgaocar hit man Bruno Coutinho was closely marked by Deepak Mondal and that affected the functioning of their forwardline. However, on one occasion Bruno got the better of his marker and essayed a half volley, which was saved by a diving Virender Singh. After change of ends, Salgaocar kept up the pressure on the JCT goal but they missed an easy chance in the 69.minute. Jude Odegah from the right relayed the ball to Bruno, who sent a cross to substitute Shabir Ali Mondal. Mondal in haste headed the ball wide off the mark. JCT gained the upper hand following a flag kick couple of minutes later. The ball came to Sukhjit Singh who relayed it to Hardip Gill. Salgaocar defender Francis Coelho faltered in clearing the ball and Gill, who found himself free, took a stiff grounder past the advancing goalie Juje Siddi. Stung by the goal, Salgaocar brought in William Inganga and Augustine in place of Jude Odegah and Jules Alberto and finally succeeded in restoring parity in injury time. Bruno, who took a flag kick, curled the ball into the goalmouth for Augustine, whose header brushed Virender Singh`s body and entered the net. Bruno, was tightly marked today but he still found a way out, helping his team earn a valuable point in their quest for the National League title. Salgaocar now have 8 pts from two wins and two draws while JCT have 3 pts from three draws and a loss.

1. March
3rd National League - Super League: Churchill Brothers 2-0 FC Kochin - Goals: 1:0, 2:0 Philip Mensah (19',26').
Ghanian striker Philip Mensah's brace earned Churchill Brothers their third successive victory in the Super League Phase in the National League at the Nehru stadium. Mensah scored in the 19' and 26.minute to take Churchill Brothers to the top of the table with 10 pts from four matches. On the other hand, FC Kochin suffered their 4th successive loss. But the match was devoid of any thrills and the 2nd session, was a listless affair as Churchill Bros played a complacent game. Churchill started without midfielder Mahesh Singh, who is carrying an ankle injury. And in his place coach McLennan fielded Gautam Ghosh. The Kochi side had K Naushad back after being red carded against Salgaocar. But the changes didn't make any difference to the fortunes of the two teams. The Kerala side had the first look at the goal but nothing came out of it as Md Najeeb could only put the ball into the goalie in an one-to-one situation. The Goan team took control after 10 minutes with Mario Soares angling his shot into the goalkeeper Naseem Akhtar. The Kochin team had another opportunity wasted as Edward Ansah made a fine aerial collection from Najeeb's flying shot that was goalbound. Churchill's midfield quartet played a so-so game and enable them to go ahead after 19.minute. Mahesh Gawli's clearance off a cross from Somatai Shaiza landed with Philip Mensah. the striker wasted no time in banging it home past the defence, 1-0. Within seven minutes from the first goal, Churchill were up 2-0 when Philip Mensah's powerful left-footer from close to the goal was surprisingly let in by Naseem Akhtar, who failed to close the angle fully. The ball went past Akhtar's right, 2-0. Akhtar then brought off a smart save as he tipped over a fine header from Churchill's Portuguese import Jose Martins from Shaiza's cross. Ansah brought a good save at the other end with a minute left for the interval as he dived to his left to collect a low shot from Prabhjot Singh; the ball coming off Anthony Pereira's legs. The second half was a boring affair with Churchill Bros appearing content with their two-goal lead. The only worthwhile action came from FC Kochin midway into the session. The crossbar came in the way of FC Kochin when Karunakar Raj's shot off Roque Barreto pass struck the horizontal as the entire Churchill defence caught on the wrong foot. Philip Mensah's brace took his tally of goals to 9 in the league, the most by any player.
Churchill Bros: Edward Ansah, Denzil Ferrao, Anthony Mathews, Osumanu Hussein, Anthony Pereira, Aqueel Ansari, Mario Soares, Gautam Ghosh (Cyril Barreto), Jose Martins, Philip Mensah.
FC Kochin: Naseem Akhtar, AS Firoze, Mahesh Gawli, Prabhjot Singh (Kaustav Ghosh), Mir Farooq Hyder, Karunakar Raj (Md Shafeeq), Md Najeeb, Noel Wilson, K Naushad, Nitin Pradhan, Noah Rozario.


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