‘Kick-and-run’ order of the day

By sudhakar shanbhag | nt

panaji: Dempo Sports Club are on a high after having tasted their first win of the ongoing Federation Cup in Friday’s Group A encounter against Shillong Lajong, with Clifford Miranda producing the only goal with a curling free-kick at the JRD Tata Complex, Jamshedpur.

The win proved to a be a much-needed result as Dempo were eager to register full points following Wednesday’s 1-1 draw against AIFF’s developmental side Pailan Arrows.

Now that Dempo are sitting pretty atop the group with 4 points against their name, Sunday’s final group clash against Mumbai FC would be crucial in terms of confirming their progress into the semi-finals as group-toppers. Therefore, a win is imperative for the I-League champions and though Dempo assistant coach Mauricio Afonso was happy with Friday’s outcome at the JRD Tata Complex, this ground itself, and the one at Keenan stadium drew flak from the teams, criticising the quality of the pitch. Venues were deemed unplayable in nature after the beating it took due to the rains that lashed this place.

While Mauricio said the ground was "unplayable" and that the players had to literally adopt a "kick-and-run" approach, all complains regarding the grounds seemed to have fallen on deaf ears, including the match commissioner AK Mamukoya and Anthony John D’Costa who turned down requests made by coaches to call off matches at Jamshedpur. Even Shillong coach Bulpin voiced his resentment after the Dempo game.

There were outbursts over the lack of AIFF observers to inspect the Jamshedpur venues, which was even more frustrating to the participating teams. It is ironical that the AIFF in a last-minute decision had shifted the Group A & D matches out of Ranchi, the original venues of Fed Cup, citing that Ranchi was unsuitable to play football. Now that Jamshedpur is proving an awful venue for the teams, it seems that AIFF, which is already in the firing line, has found itself in a quandary. "The Federation Cup should have been played on a astro-turf as the ball was not at all moving, leaving us to play long passes," Dempo’s assistant coach Maurico Afonso had said, adding that he was not happy as far as football was concerned in the prevailing venue.

Pailan coach Papas said though "we have put up good fight the ground (Keenan stadium) turned worst and dangerous for players."

"Four of our players including defender Prathamesh Maulingkar were injured," he claimed.

On Sunday, though, Dempo will have to beat the slushy outfield and overcome the Mumbai FC challenge to seal their progress beyond the group phase. On the eve of the match the on-ground conditions had far from improved and it remains to be seen how Dempos go about their approach in countering their opponents on Sunday, with the kick off slated for 3pm. Mumbai FC on present form seem all at sea as they lost their opening match 2-1 to Shillong and returned with only 1 point in their 2-2 draw with Pailan Arrows, Friday. Therefore, the task seems uphill for Mumbai when they face Dempo on the morrow. In the other Group A fixture, Sunday, Pailan Arrows take on Shillong Lajong.

Meanwhile, asked about the Keenan venue, Salgaocar coach Karim Bencherifa said he can only say that the ground was not good compared to adjoining JRD Tata Sports complex, where all the three matches each of Salgaocar and I-League champion Dempo SC were originally scheduled but one match of the each team was shifted following the appeals to Keenan in view of the soggy and slippery ground condition caused by continuous rains. It seems that AIFF lacked in planning and things are being organised haphazardly.