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Indian ISL 2016: Kolkata Thrash Bharatratna Sachin’s Kerala Blastards – OpEd


India is eager to present itself as a sport giant in contrast to an apathetic looking Pakistan that is without money to promote even joint sport exercises. As such, India seeks strategic partnerships with foreign teams and players in cricket and sports and buys them to make India shine. Since cricket is known as a fake sport, while football has some positive image, India has purchased some foreign football players to play with Indians in ISL. And, the foreign players have also helped India to claim some victory in sports

India, through sponsorship by its top corporate lords, has been able to parade some outside players in football, badminton, hockey etc, for joint sport exercises in Indian towns to make its neighbors especially Pakistan look very small. NATO terrorism operations have ended in disallowing foreign players and crickets to play in Pakistan and Pakistan finds Arab venues to play cricket and other entertainments with foreign teams. India is doubly happy that Pakistan is now a destabilized weak nation though both share corrupt practices. India uses Pakistani cricketers, among others, to praise Indian batboys in order for the government to offer them national awards.

Indian efforts to extend joint cricket exercise to football field have badly failed, though it has managed to present football also as a “fixable” sport with predetermined outcomes.

Notwithstanding all the dirty tricks of BCCI-Sachin mafia to bring the Kerala team to the finals, Kolkata has managed to win the title for the second time this year, drowning the dreams of Sachin Tendulkar and his Kerala Blastards team, though the final was had been in advance fixed for Kerala as Sachin has been given a bungalow the state’s Kochi soon after he built a new bungalow in Mumbai Bandra without obtaining the Corporation clearance.

Of course, Sachin is now big guy with a lot of money made available by BCCI and governments, and also exerts influence in the government and with corporate lords, but Indian Modi government considers cricket batboys as a special category and does not find out his sources and search for black money if any because it has already made him Bharatratna that carries with it immunity at par with president of India. So an officially “safe” Sachin and others like him are safe even without Bharatratna because Indian government does not want to insult itself by punishing the fake celebrities. The ongoing search for black money holders looks like just a pure state gimmick as the Modi government still refuses to take the public into confidence.

Indian corporate sponsors think Sachin’s presence would force other teams to budge and let his favored teams win.

Sachin is supposed to be the owner of Kerala team. Does Kerala have any rich guy to buy the Kerala Blastards team and it hoisted Sachin in Kochi? No one asks this in Kerala because they know everything happens cording to a central scheme and they have to just promote all sorts of fanaticism.

Eight teams, 60 matches, more than two months of joint football exercises selectively promoting team Mumbai and Kerala this time, finally come down to two teams – Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala, playing one last match this year to go for the title itself. Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blastards have both gone wayward on multiple occasions this season. But they have pushed forward with sheer determination and now have the title within touching distance.

Fixing from IPL to ISL

Successful gambling in IPL has led to gambling in ISL, making many billionaires over night. Huge money was on grab that has the backing of corporate controlled Indian regime as well.

Kolkata team players played very seriously and apparently it looked none could play mischief in support for Sachin’s Kerala Blastards team.

On Dec 18, 2016, the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi, where the final drama took place plunged into stunned silence as Atletico de Kolkata’s Jewel Raja sent goalkeeper Graham Stack the wrong way and buried the ball into the right corner of Kerala Blastards’ net with the fifth and decisive penalty of the shootout. To say the Kerala fans turned up in numbers is an understatement.

A popular belief among the supporters of the losing semifinalists of the third season especially Mumbai team is that neither of the two most exciting sides of the league stage qualified for the ultimate showdown, and the two finalist clubs, circumspect as ever, did nothing to denounce that notion.

Kolkata finally won the race 2-1, (in a penalty shoot out Atletico de Kolkata won 4-3) dismantling all hopes of yellow shirtwalas that occupied the stadium as a strategy to threaten the opponents from Kolkata. The strike saw Atletico de Kolkata lift their second ISL crown. On both occasions, the unlucky losers were the Blasters. If it was a goal from Mohammad Rafique in the added-on time which saw Kolkata beating Blastards in the summit clash in the inaugural season of ISL in Mumbai, the shootout left the Blasters heartbroken at home this time around.

It has finally ended and Atletico de Kolkata are the ones that have come out on top against all odds. More than 50,000 people were in the stadium and they were all screaming for their opposition but they stayed firm. They managed to come back into the game as soon as they conceded and gave nothing away after that.

From blue to yellow

The Kerala team chose to wear yellow and Sachin threw away his favorite blue color to sport a yellowish look. The efforts of BCCI and the Sachin mafia to paint the entire Kerala city Kochi in yellow color and Sachin himself removed his favorite blue color shirt and sported yellow color in the hope of winning the title somehow, have brought disgrace to fully literate Kerala state and Malayalees

The bosses BCCI, IPL and ISL had decided to hold the ISL 2016 final in Kochi so that Sachin can celebrate as new god of Kerala state and other teams get the message one again what these hoaxes want form ISL teams. They had fixed the final for Kerala and Mumbai- both belong to Sachin and sought to make Kochi Kerala Blastards team the winners. That did not happened however, though Kerala was promoted meticulously up to the finals stage while Mumbai was crushed by Kolkata at semi finals despite the mischief by a couple of Kolkata players (possibly heavily paid by Sachin mafia) in supporting Sachin Mumbai team.

The stadium was jam-packed in yellow color- a trick Mumbai in blue color while India plays cricket against nay nation, two hours before the match started and stories of thousands queuing up to get tickets because of a mere rumor of extra tickets at the stadium. “It will obviously be a comfortable atmosphere for us because it’s our home crowd but the crowd doesn’t play but our camera focuses on them to encourage the team to hit continuously. They give us huge support. The crowd is nothing more than a great background for us to play against but it won’t give us a goal-start or stop goals going in,” said Coppell.

On a night, when a ‘sea of yellow’ took over the stands at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, which has catered to packed houses through the tournament, the quality of football on display was similar to the one Steve Coppell has witnessed first-hand on a cold Sunday evening during his time in England.

The tone of the game was set as early as the eighth minute when Kerala countered from an Atletico corner through a clever run from Duckens Nazon. CK Vineeth’s poor touch in a 3-vs-3 situation helped Atletico break off the move and devise a counter-attack of their own. Lalrindika Ralte’s pinpoint long ball found Iain Hume (running off the shoulders of Aaron Hughes and Cedric Hengbert) at the edge of the 18-yard-box but Hume’s heavy touch took the ball out for a goal-kick.

Kerala Blasters vs Atletico de Kolkata

Between Kerala Blasters and Atletico de Kolkata there is a big gap as Kerala is no match for the strong Kolkata players who had won the first season. But Kerala and Mumbai teams were favorites of Indian corporate lords because both belong to cricketer Sachin tendulkar. Kerala was supposed to win the title this year but Kolkata eventually decided not to let Sachin enjoy at their expanse.

As Kolkata, for unknown reasons, began very slowly, soon, the Kerala Blastards broke the deadlock against the run of play through a corner in the 37th minute. The goal came due to some sluggish defending from ATK’s Kotal who failed to keep hold of Blasters’ Mohammad Rafi and the Kerala striker rose high above the defender to head Mehtab’s corner past Majumder into goal. But Kolkata didn’t take long to equalise. In the 44th minute, Henrique Sereno headed past Stack from a Doutie corner leaving defender Sandeep Jhingan a spectator.

Display in the final is a mere extension of both club’s footballing ideologies. As soon as Alireza Faghani blew the final whistle at the 90th minute with the scores tied at 1-1, Atletico de Kolkata made history with Jose Molina’s side drawing for the tenth occasion (in seventeen matches). In the brief history of the ISL, no other club had drawn so many matches in a single season.

As speculated, the final match went into extra-time and tiebreaker after the teams was level on 1-1 at the end of regulation time. After Antonio German put Blastards ahead in the penalty shootout, the darling of Kerala fans two seasons ago, Iain Hume, strode out to take the first kick for the Kolkata side. Much to his dismay, the Canadian saw his kick being saved by Blasters keeper Stack, guessing correctly and diving to his left and the yellowish Kochi boys fans rejoiced. But that joy was short-lived as Ndoye hit the ball over the bar with the third spot kick for Blasters and the scores were tied 2-2. The next set of penalties saw Rafique and Lara finding the target for Blasters and Kolkata respectively. But the final penalty in tie-break for Blasters taken by Cedric Hengbart was saved by Kolkata goalkeeper Debjit Majumder. Raja then made no mistake in converting the final penalty to send his team into ecstasy. Kolkata won.

ATK Kolkata gave Blasters a taste of their own medicine as they relied on the speed of the wingers to create chances. Though the home team successfully closed out Postiga and Borja Fernandez, Hume was given a lot of space in the Blasters box and he nearly scored the opener in the 32nd minute. Doutie smartly cut past Ishfaq along the right and received a ball from the centre before giving a low cross to Hume. Though the Canadian forward stretched himself and got past an advancing Stack, he missed the target by inches. Four minutes later, Coppell was forced to substitute injured Aaron Hughes with Elhadji Ndoye. Atletico outshot their opponents, but both clubs registered four shots on target, the visitors’ marquee signing Helder Postiga being particularly wasteful in the final third.

Kerala Blasters preferred to sit back and look for an opportunity to hit on the break, a ploy ATK neutralised with their defensive organisation. This, after routing initial forays through the inside left channel, making the most of Doutie not tracking back. Central defender Tiri prevented one such move from assuming dangerous proportions with a sliding effort.

The Atletico central midfield grew into the match as the game progressed, with Borja and Jewel Raja completing nine tackles, four blocks and five interceptions between them. Mehtab Hossain was stellar in midfield with six tackles and two blocks, apart from 43 passes and four crosses – his immaculate corner had brought in the Blasters’ goal in the thirty seventh minute.

In spite of an underwhelming performance from four key players, ATK had more chances, or half-chances, because of Raja who moved up fearlessly in the first half, stealing possession and, in the 17th minute, making a strong run down the middle.Twice in the next six minutes, Raja created opportunities that ATK might have put away on another night. After two hours of ordinary football, it was fitting that the evening’s best player would have the last word. Or the last shot, as it were.

The fact that the clubs were playing a match of enormous proportion for the third time in a week took a toll on both squads – with Kerala’s Aaron Hughes and Atletico’s Keegan Pereira forced to be substituted in the first half itself.

Kolkata was slow but somehow outsmarted Sachin’s biggy team. Chennai was the champions last time and it appears there was an understanding, and planning, to make Sachin’s Kerala team the winners this time. That did not happen mainly because it is not cricket where India can deadly influence other team s to let it win or get 100 runs for Sachin.

It looked like Kolkata decided to promote god Sachin and his adopted Kerala Blastards. Both teams have had to deal with some unneeded news before the match started with Kerala and Kolkata being fined Rs 6 and Rs 7 lakh respectively for separate disciplinary cases. ATK won’t be able to play the suspended Juan Beloncoso.

Iain Hume the man very important for Kolkata did not make the team happy by missing out his penalty shoot attack. The last time he was in the ISL finals, Iain Hume was in Kerala Blastards colors and lost out against the very team he is playing for now. How much of a stick he is going to receive from the Kerala Blasters finals. The same goes for Mohammad Rafique who was the man who scored the winning goal for ATK in 2014 and is now one of the main cogs in the yellow wheel of the Kerala Blasters.

As Kolkata was slow, Sachin’s Kerala Blastards had their first opportunity in the ninth minute. After Belfort latched on to a clearance from Blasters defence, Kolkata’s back-four successfully stopped Blasters forwards along the wings. The fleet-footed Blasters striker messed u his first touch and gave away the ball easily. But ATK slowly gained the upper hand. It was in the front third that ATK looked lost because Iain Hume and Helder Postiga did little to make the evening memorable.

After a final that tasted like porridge, Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) regained the Indian Super League (ISL) title when Jewel Raja slotted home the last penalty in the tie-breaker. Regulation time and extra-time ended 1-1 after Mohammed Rafi’s goal was cancelled by Henrique Sereno Goalie Debjit Majumder got a leg in time to deny Kerala Blasters’ skipper Cedric Hengbart and that proved to be enough in the ISL final. ATK won 5-4 in what was easily the worst of the three finals but they surely weren’t complaining.

Iain Hume and Stephen Pearson (both of whom played significant roles in Kerala’s amazing run in the first season) experiencing the bitter taste of defeat. Hume, the all-time top scorer of the Indian Super League was bound to have recalled that dreaded feeling moments after he missed the first penalty in Atletico’s shootout. The Canadian (also ATK’s regular penalty-taker) tends to thrive under pressure but came up short against Graham Stack. His team-mates, however, did not miss from the spot with Doutie, Borja and Lara burying each of their penalties.

While a number of counter-attacking maneuvers were orchestrated by both clubs, mostly through the wide channels, the final ball was often lacking. Mohammed Rafi’s thumping header as well as Henrique Sereno’s equalizer came from set-piece situations – due to man-marking errors by Pritam Kotal and Sandesh Jhingan. While the Kerala Blasters forward timed their run perfectly, the Atletico defender overpowered his Indian counterpart with sheer physical strength.

The Indian goalie has been an integral aspect of the Atletico team all through the season and his save off Hengbart in Kerala’s final penalty made all the difference. As history repeated itself, the Yellow Army and their fans were once again destined for heartbreak, but Iain Hume and Stephen Pearson were not.

Observations: A game devoid of individual brilliance

This is Atletico de Kolkata’s only second ISL trophy and they have got the best players. It appears Sachin’s Mumbai and Kerala teams and other owners may have tried to woo or get on extra payment get Ian on their side while playing for the Kolkata team.

Atletico de Kolkata were crowned the ISI (Indian Super League) champions for the second time in three seasons when Jewel Raja’s successful penalty helped Atletico overcome a dogged Kerala Blasters side following a 1-1 draw after extra time. Here are the biggest takeaways from the ISL final.

The final at Kochi did give a lot of extra excitement as a lot of film world celebrities especially from Bollywood were paraded by ISL organizers to lend support for Sachin Kerala team. Amitabh Bachhan and co were being focused by the cameramen. The cameramen always focused on Sachin and film personalities hoping that would do miracle for Sachin’s team.

The final was defined by a distinct lack of superlative footballing moments. With both managers prioritizing to stay compact at the back right from kick-off and the humid atmosphere sapping players of energy as the game progressed, the 54,000-strong crowd was devoid of in-game dramatic occurrences.

Sure of a win, the Kerala Blastards went in with a 4-1-4-1 formation to counter Atletico’s two deep central midfielders who had taken the game away from Mumbai City FC just a few days back. As Coppell’s side pressed Borja and Jewel Raja high up the pitch, forcing them to misplace passes, the supply for Atletico’s front four was severely hampered. The penalties were neck to neck and ATK managed to come back after going one goal down due to Stack saving Iain Hume’s shot. Atletico de Kolkata are champions of the Indian Super League once again.

Atletico de Kolkata managed to come from behind to beat Kerala Blasters on penalties. Unlike a popular myth, penalty shootouts are more than sheer luck and spot kicks, their success depends mainly on how far the shooter is able to fool the goal keeper. Kolkata team has managed to brave the giant yellowish crowd screaming down their ears and have picked the ISL trophy a second time. They won the inaugural edition in 2014 as well. It has finally ended and Atletico de Kolkata are the ones that have come out on top against all odds. More than 50,000 people were in the stadium and they were all screaming for their opposition but they stayed firm. They managed to come back into the game as soon as they conceded and gave nothing away after that. The penalties were neck to neck and ATK managed to come back after going one goal down due to Stack saving Iain Hume’s shot. Atletico de Kolkata are champions of the Indian Super League once again.

Iain Hume has been the key to Kolkata successes. The last time he was in the ISL finals, Iain Hume was in Kerala Blasters colors but not found lucky and lost out against the very team he is playing for now. How much of a stick he is going to receive from the Kerala Blasters finals. The same goes for Mohammad Rafique who was the man who scored the winning goal for ATK in 2014 and is now one of the main cogs in the yellow wheel of the Kerala Blasters. Apart from Ian the other player who was a let-down for ATK was skipper Borja Fernandez. The central midfielder perhaps made more errors on Sunday than he had in all of the ISL. Maybe being booked early -– ATK’s only card in the game — affected his composure.

Kolkata struggled to win the trophy this time. .

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Dr. Abdul Ruff

Dr. Abdul Ruff is a columnist contributing articles to many newspapers and journals on world politics. He is an expert on Mideast affairs, as well as a chronicler of foreign occupations and freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.). Dr. Ruff is a specialist on state terrorism, the Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA), commentator on world affairs and sport fixings, and a former university teacher. He is the author of various eBooks/books and editor for INTERNATIONAL OPINION and editor for FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES; Palestine Times.

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