Author: Abhishek Shukla

Manika is the Breakthrough Star and Massimo the Star Coach!

New Delhi, December 12: It had turned out to be a breakthrough year for India’s most celebrated woman paddler, Manika Batra, as she bagged the 2018 Breakthrough Star award at a glittering function at Incheon tonight.

Thus, the Delhi girl became the only Indian athlete to be honoured at the ITTF Star Awards and also the first player from outside of Japan to be named the Breakthrough Star.

Manika, who enjoyed a sensational outing at the Commonwealth Games, earning India its first-ever gold medal in the women singles category and helping the squad win its first ever gold along with medals in women doubles and mixed doubles events, was bestowed with the honour for being the best paddler find of the year in the category.

Her glittering journey which began at Gold Coast continued in the Asian Games at Jakarta where the Delhi girl played her part to perfection in guiding India to its second table tennis bronze medal at the 2018 Games, partnering A. Sharath Kamal in the mixed doubles.

“I couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of the year. The way it has culminated has made me feel happy and more responsible. I have to thank many for such a wonderful opportunity,” said Manika, speaking from Incheon.

“I really want to thank the International Table Tennis Federation for acknowledging my efforts throughout the year.  For me personally, it has been one of the most eventful years of my sporting career so far and this is a just reward for my hard work and training. I would like to thank the Table Tennis Federation of India, Sports Authority of India and the Sports Ministry and, above all, my coach Sandeep Sir and my physio Subodh Sir without whom this wouldn’t have been possible. My thanks are due to my department Indian Oil Corporation Limited for their continuous support. 
I would like to thank my family who supported me and been there as my pillar of strength,” said Manika, recalling the efforts each one of them had put in to shape her career.


In fact, it was double celebration for Indian table tennis as chief coach of the national team, Massimo Costantini, received the Star Coach award after leading the country to record-breaking performances at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games.

India won an astounding eight medals at the CWG in Gold Coast including three gold medals. Besids, India also won their first Asian Games medals in the Men’s Team and mixed doubles at Jakarta.

The Italian, thus, became only the fourth coach to take home the Star Coach award. Earlier, Pedro Rufino, Liu Guoliang and Jörg Rosskopf were bestowed with the honour.

“I can’t thank enough ITTF for the award. But I wouldn’t have been here without the fantastic bunch of players in both sections which TTFI provided me. They were really wonderful and responded well. I must thank all those concerned in India, including SAI, for the wonderful opportunity to serve the cause of Indian table tennis,” said Massimo.

Dushyant Chautala, president of TTFI, in a congratulatory message to Manika Batra said, “she richly deserved the award,” adding, “Manika proved herself in both the Games that a star was born.”

Secretary General M.P. Singh, in his congratulatory message to both Manika and Massimo Costantini, said: “It was a wonderful year for Indian table tennis and Manika epitomized it with her performances. She was the star performer and deserves all the accolades. And Massimo was a worthy coach who made it all possible and I wish him all the success.”

The ITTF Star Awards is the official awards ceremony organised by the international body since 2013. It is the most prestigious award given to recognize, honour and celebrate the stars of table tennis, the athletes who have made table tennis their passion, career and life.

ISL 5: Tight match between Jamshedpur and NorthEast ends goalless

JAMSHEDPUR: Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United FC played out a goalless draw at the JRD Tata Sports Complex in Jamshedpur on Saturday. The match saw only one shot on target over the ninety minutes and it came from the visitors.

The point lifted the Highlanders to the second spot in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) table with 18 points from nine matches. Jamshedpur remained in the fourth spot and have 15 points from their 10 outings.

Both teams made a tentative start to the match and looked to maintain possession of the ball. The first chance fell to the home side on the ninth minute, after Memo found Pablo Morgado with a long pass from the midfield. The Spaniard took the shooting opportunity, but his effort was too high.

NorthEast hit back with a chance of their own on the other half of the field. Ogbeche did extremely well to hold off his marker inside the box, before laying the ball off for an onrushing Rowllin Borges. The midfielder, however, rushed his shot and put it over the bar.

As the half progressed, Jamshedpur started dominating possession, while NorthEast seemed content staying back and playing on the counter. But neither of the goalkeepers faced any serious test. Both defences kept their shape and most of the attacking play were restricted to shots from outside the box. Chances were few and far between in the first 45 minutes, as both teams headed into the break with the score level at 0-0.

The second-half picked up from where the first-half left off, with either team failing to make any definitive inroads into the opposition defence. It took 58 minutes to register the first shot on target in the match. Federico Gallego’s shot forced a regulation save from Subrata Paul.

On the hour mark, Jamshedpur head coach Cesar Ferrando introduced Tim Cahill to the fray in order the shake things up.

With 64 minutes on the clock, NorthEast almost found a way inside the Jamshedpur box after a dangerous backpass by Memo. But Subrata came off his line quickly to bail his teammate out.

The match started to open up a bit after the 70-minute mark. Jamshedpur substitute Mobashir Rahman’s volley from outside the box managed to worry NorthEast goalkeeper Pawan Kumar for the first time in the match. The shot, however, sailed inches over the bar.

The Highlanders have made it a habit of scoring late goals this season and it seemed the trend may continue when Ogbeche found space inside the Jamshedpur box on the 89th minute. The striker tried to bend one inside the far post. A backtracking Bikash Jairu managed to put a crucial block in to deny him.

It was the final piece of goalmouth action in the match as both sides settled for a point.

I-League 2018/19: Lajong and Neroca are all set for a high-octane Northeastern battle

Shillong, 1st December 2018: The 32nd game of the Hero I-League is all set for a super Sunday clash between two northeastern powerhouses of football, Shillong Lajong FC and Neroca FC from Manipur. Both Shillong Lajong and Neroca FC have won just one game so far in this season and this game would be of paramount importance for both the teams for their journey ahead in the league.

The game is scheduled to start from 5 PM at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, Shillong, tomorrow 2nd December 2018.

Hosts Shillong Lajong are currently placed at the 10th place in the Hero I-League points table with Four Points to their kitty (1 win, 1 draw and 4 losses) from six games whereas their opponents Neroca FC have a slight advantage on the overall position on the points tally being placed 7th ( 1 Win, 2 Draws & 2 Losses) having played a game less compared to Lajong.

Shillong Lajong, so far, have played some entertaining football giving troubles to all their opponents, but unfortunately, they haven’t been able to find the back of the net more often. However, the positives from their attacking game have been that six different players have contributed to the 8 goals that they have scored so far from their six games.

Phrangki Buam and Naorem Singh are the only two to have scored a couple for Shillong Lajong and on their day, both of these players can be extremely lethal. However, a major concern for head coach Alison Kharsyntiew would be to organise his defence line which hasn’t been in great shape so far in this season. Defensive lapses have resulted in Lajong conceding 14 goals so far.

“The problem is that we have conceded 14 goals which were just because of silly mistakes. We have to work on those mistakes and we’re doing so. The boys have shown improvements and we’ll continue doing so,” said Alison Kharsyntiew’s, Head Coach, Shillong Lajong FC.

NEROCA FC who have travelled to Shillong at the back of a 2-1 loss to table-toppers Chennai City FC will be eager to add a second win to their kitty. Neroca who had a super run last season finishing second in the Hero I-League, have been a little lacklustre this season.

However, what is to be noticed that the visitors have conceded only 5 goals this season. Neroca FC this season haven’t been very lucky on the scoring front as well with just 4 goals from 5 games. Nigerian Felix Chidi with two goals to his kitty along with Eduardo and Subash Singh has a goal each to their names for the visiting team.

Neroca FC’s Head Coach Manuel Fraile would look at exploiting the weak defence line of Shillong Lajong and use his strike force to full in order to secure a win.

“To be honest, we, at this moment, are growing up as a team. We are working hard and the players need to enjoy football. We are positive about getting a win tomorrow and we just need to keep our focus throughout and execute the plans on the pitch,” said Fraile.

A win for either can help the teams climb up a few positions but a defeat for Neroca FC would trigger a steep fall on the points table.

I-League 2018/19: Mohun Bagan remain winless at home

KOLKATA: Sony Norde’s goal was cancelled out by Nestor Gordillo’s late strike as Mohun Bagan were held to a 1-1 draw by Chennai City FC in their 2018/19 I-League encounter on Saturday at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.

On the balance of play, Mohun Bagan will feel they should have sneaked it as they dominated proceedings and created better goal-scoring chances in front of their home fans.

They will surely be kicking themselves for not burying numerous goal-scoring opportunities they created, especially in the opening stages of the encounter.

But in the end, the result was perhaps a fair reflection of the action on show. Both teams had periods of dominance and both had numerous scoring opportunities.

The game got off to a lively opening five minutes, with Mohun Bagan impressing with some neat football.

Sankarlal Chakraborty’s charges played with verve and used a short, sharp passing style to get beyond the Chennai City defense.

During one such attack, Sony created a moment of uncertainty in the Chennai City penalty area, but, fortunately, Chennai City defenders were able to clear the danger.

But once things settled down, both teams made sure they kept things tight and compact. Both defenses were organised and kept shape, and scoring chances were few and far between.

Nonetheless, Mohun Bagan gave a good account of themselves in the later stages of the first-half, and should have easily went into the half-time break two or three goals up.

Chennai City, on the other hand, sat back and tried to catch them on the counter, but in the end, both teams went into the break locked at 0-0.

The game burst into life after the interval. Chennai City goalkeeper Nauzet Santana was called into action in the first minute of the second-half and pulled off a stunning safe to deny Henry Kisekka.

Mariners were all over Chennai City and asking more and more questions. Santana produced another glorious save to keep Sankarlal Chakraboty’s charges at bay when he denied Pintu Mahata in a one-on-one inside the box, diving full length to stop the ball from going in.

But the pressure eventually told and Mohun Bagan stormed into the lead when Sony slotted from close range in the 50th minute after receiving the ball from midfield.

The setback served to awaken Chennai City from their slumber and they threw players forward with abandon, in search of an equalizer.

Alexander Jesuraj whipped a shot over the bar and Sandro Rodriguez was desperately unlucky when his goal-bound effort was blocked by the Mohun Bagan defense.

In the 74th minute substitute Ameerudeen Mohaideen was denied by the post on the left as hosts Mohun Bagan managed to hold on.

Again, though, the relentless pressure had an effect, and it was Nestor who got the all-important goal in the 81st minute to level the score for Chennai City.

Having scored, Chennai City showed more endeavour in attack and it took everything Mohun Bagan had left in their tank to deny the onslaught from Chennai City. Goalkeeper Sankar Roy also made a number of telling saves to a salvage a point for his side.

Following the draw, Chennai City continued to lead the log standings with 17 points from 7 matches while Mohun Bagan remain on fourth spot with 9 points from 6 matches.

I-League 2018/19: Njoku steals crucial victory for champions against Arrows

1st December, Panchkula: Match 30 of 2018/19 I-League saw defending champions Minerva Punjab FC defeat Indian Arrows by a solitary goal at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula. Philip Njoku of Minerva Punjab FC who scored the winning goal was adjudged the Hero of the match.

The game began with Minerva Punjab FC playing in white and blue while visitors Indian Arrows playing in orange. The young colts of the Arrows showed their intent right from the start pressing hard but the experience and greater physical strength of Minerva Punjab FC’s defensive line ensured that the Arrows could not create much of a threat inside the box.

Arrows, however, were the side with a higher possession but the young forward line wasn’t able to create any good clear opportunity throughout the first 45 minutes.

Both the teams had two shots each on the goal though the defending champions were the ones who had the closest chance at scoring when their Ghanian forward William Opoku failed to find the back of the net in the dying seconds of the first half.

After the break, Arrows’ first clear chance came in the 49th minute when Rahul KP took a deft attempt at the goal but Arshdeep made a valiant save to deny Indian Arrows a lead.

Indian Arrows breached the Minervan defence line a few times after that but weren’t successful in converting those chances.

Nigerian Philip Njoku had the cleanest chance to give Minerva Punjab FC the lead in the 59th minute but his outstretched hand on the face of Indian Arrows goalkeeper Prabhsukan Gill wasn’t overlooked by the referee to rule it a foul on the goalie. Even though the ball found the back of the net, it got cancelled because of the decision.

Rahul KP of Indian Arrows again missed a fine chance when his beautiful run beating Lancine Toure and Columbian Caicedo Rodriguez missed the goal from a handshaking distance in the 68th minute.

The Arrows looked a more composed and organized team today but their defence was breached in the 74th minute when Philip Njoku took an advantage of a muddle between Prabsukhan Gill and the fellow defender to poke the eventual winning goal for the hosts.

The game thereafter saw both teams making numerous attempts on either side but a lack of a good finishing move saw the game wrapping up 1-0 in the favour of the Punjab-based outfit.

Hockey India invites former Australian great Glenn Turner for an 8-day Strikers Camp for Women

New Delhi, 30 November 2018: As part of their preparations for the Olympic Qualifiers, Hockey India has invited former Australian striker Glenn Turner to work with the Indian Women’s Hockey Team strikers in a Special Camp for forwards starting December 1 at the Sports Authority of India, Bengaluru.


The Canberra Hockey star who was part of the World Cup-winning Australian squad in 2010 and 2014, will arrive in Bengaluru on Friday night for the eight-day National Camp.


Speaking about the National Camp, Sjoerd Marijne, Chief Coach of the Indian Women’s Hockey Team said, “It is good for our strikers to use the experience of Glenn Turner. As a striker, his positioning in the circle was critical for his team scoring goals and the positioning of strikers is one of the key areas we want to improve on.”


Marijne further emphasized that the camp will also help build leadership among the players. “Glenn is someone who has experienced the pressure of performing top level hockey and he was part of the Australia’s leadership group and often worked with younger players in his team. We will ask him to share his experience as a leader too and I am sure our strikers can benefit immensely from this camp,” added Marijne.


The players named in the strikers camp includes Skipper Rani, Youth Olympic Games Silver Medallist Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Navjot Kaur, Rajwinder Kaur, Vandana Katariya, Anupa Barla, Priyanka Wankhede, Preeti Dubey, Mumtaz Khan, Jyoti, Poonam Rani and Leelavathy Mallamada.

The camp concludes on December 8.


Strikers in Camp:


–          Rani

–          Lalremsiami

–          Navneet Kaur

–          Navjot Kaur

–          Rajwinder Kaur

–          Vandana Katariya

–          Anupa Barla

–          Priyanka Wankhede

–          Preeti Dubey

–          Mumtaz Khan

–          Jyoti

–          Poonam  Rani

–          Leelavathy Mallamada

I-League 2018/19: Minerva take aim at Arrows

Chandigarh, November 30, 2018: It has not been an ideal start to the I-League for defending champions Minerva FC, having won just one game in five to be placed eighth on the table. However, come Saturday, December 1, 2018, they will look to get back to winning ways against the young Indian Arrows side. The game kicks off at 2 PM IST at the Tau Devi Lal stadium in Panchkula and what would enthuse the champions, even more, would be the fact that they would be playing at home after exactly a month.

The “Warriors” from Punjab have won both the encounters between the two sides so far and that would give new coach for the season, Irishman Paul Munster, a sense of ease. The Arrows coach Floyd Pinto, on the other hand, would be aware that his young side albeit have looked the part but would need to deliver results sooner rather than later if they want to finish anywhere near the top of the league table.

Munster would be happy with the fact that Ghanaian striker William Opoku, a key player for his side having scored five times for Minerva last season, finally opened his scoring account in the last game against Shillong. He would also be happy with the form of Nigerian midfielder Philip Njoku who has been playing with a lot of purpose and penetration in the last two games, as well as the fact that his team while playing the entire second half against Shillong with 10 men, never looked like doing so.

“We are happy to come back home. We have taken the positives from our last game. Our first half was really tough, but even after going down to 10 men, our boys recovered and scored. In my opinion, it’s a very big result, but now, it’s a must-win game for us tomorrow at home,” said Paul Munster, Head Coach, Minerva Punjab FC ahead of the game tomorrow.

“We are creating lots of chances. It’s just the strikers who should believe in themselves and converting those chances. We just have to work harder”, he added.

Minerva would want to have a re-look at their defensive tactics though, as besides conceding five goals, way too many for their style of play generally, they have been caught out on the break too many times.

For Floyd Pinto’s young guns it seems to be getting more difficult with every game. Against Kashmir, in the last game, they were outdone simply by the size of some of their opponents which included the 6ft 7 inches Krizo and similar bigger adversaries like Mason Robertson and Loveday Okechukwu.

It’s not that they have not been moving the ball well or have shown an intention to score, but at times the gulf in professional experience becomes too much to overcome. Also, being a developmental side, it is prone to too many changes and experiments and they never seem to be having a settled eleven or players in set positions.

“It’s always motivational to play against the defending champions. The boys are motivated and we are looking forward to a great game of football. You also need to understand that every season is different. We have changed our style a bit. We were dominating the possession against Real Kashmir and although we didn’t get a win there, I’m happy with the game,” said Floyd Pinto, Head Coach, Indian Arrows.

He further said, “We go to every game to win. The results don’t always reflect the game. They have shown their character in the last match. They have the agility, the zeal and we have to cautious throughout.”

Given the firepower Minerva have at their disposal, they look odds-n favourites for this one. Arrows, on the other hand, will be looking for the kind of upset, which they pulled off three times last season against fancied teams as well as the stunning win they scored against a talented Shillong side earlier in the league this season.

Jamshedpur Football Club sign midfielder from ATK

Jamshedpur, November 30, 2018: Jamshedpur FC are ecstatic to announce that the club has completed the signing of 21-year-old midfielder, Malsawmzuala on loan from ATK. The youngster has penned a deal with the the Jharkhand-based side and is now available to feature for the club for the remainder of the Indian Super League 2018/19 season.

Starting his footballing journey with his local club, Chanmari FC in Mizoram, Malsawmzuala quickly climbed the ladder and impressed the scouts at Bengaluru FC. The youngster joined BFC in 2015 and instantly became a regular in the side.

Malsawmzuala made important contributions for the club in I-League and also in the AFC Cup. He made 15 appearances for the club and scored 1 goal; a 30-yard stunner against East Bengal in a crucial I-League encounter.
Malsawmzuala also has Indian Super League experience under his belt as the boy from Mizoram had joined Delhi Dynamos on loan in 2016. He made four appearances that season for the Dynamos and also scored a goal against FC Pune City.

The youngster joined ATK ahead of the ongoing season but has not been able to garner regular playing time in the Steve Coppell managed side. Malsawmzuala will now be hoping to kick-start his ISL journey with Jamshedpur FC.

Malsawmzuala has also represented India at the U-19 level and was previously included in the Indian senior team squad for the World Cup qualifiers in 2016 alongside his soon to be teammate, Sumeet Passi. The midfielder is touted as a huge talent and is predicted by many to become the Indian midfield mainstay for the years to come.

Malsawmzuala is a defensive midfielder that excels in breaking up play and helping his side win back possession. He is also comfortable when on the ball and has an ability to test the opponents with his long-range shooting. The youngster will surely play a key role in the ongoing season for Jamshedpur FC with his ability to destruct and dictate the game from the centre of the park.

I-League 2018/19: Mohun Bagan face uphill battle against Chennai City

KOLKATA: Mohun Bagan will hope that the loss against Churchill Brothers is water under the bridge when facing  leaders Chennai City FC in 2018/19 I-League this Saturday evening. Kick-off at Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan is at 5 PM.

Mohun Bagan saw their unbeaten run cut short to four games when they were beaten 3-0 by Churchill last week.

Tactically Mariners looked poorer with defenders were exposed and looked incredibly vulnerable. There was no intensity in their play, they kept playing long balls, losing possession cheaply and failed to find the penetration needed to threaten the rival goal.

Despite his disappointment with the result Mohun Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty remains confident that his team will bounce back from their poor performance.

“The previous game was an eye opener for the team. The players have put the disappointment behind and fully focused on the upcoming game against Chennai City.” Chakraborty said.

While Mohun Bagan look to redeem themselves after suffering their worst home defeat since 2008/09 season,  Chakraborty knows it will not get any easier against Chennai City, who are on a 4-match winning streak, but he believes his side is more than capable of turning the corner.

“Chennai City will be very difficult opponents, they play a possession game and they hold the ball well. The key to the match will be the midfield, we need to win the ball in those areas. We have to put up some good work and make sure we take care of their strengths.” Chakraborty continued.

It’s a match Chakraborty will obviously be desperate to get a reaction from his men, but has admitted that he faces a tough task to lift the battered morale of his players.

“As a coach I understand that part of my job entails building character and asking how do we come back from setbacks. It’s never feels good when you lose a match, but we still have a lot of work to do.”  Chakraborty said. “Even in the dressing room we are being realistic because there are still many matches to play and many points to play for.”

Meanwhile, Chennai City coach Akbar Nawas explained that Mohun Bagan will be eager to bounce back from their loss to Churchill and this will make things more difficult for his team.

“We need to respect that the match Mohun Bagan lost against Churchill aren’t a reflection of the quality they possess as a team,” Nawas said. “In football, some days are yours and others aren’t. It wasn’t their day.”

“I believe we will give a good account of ourselves even though we know that Mohun Bagan will be eager to bounce back. It is an opportunity for us to rise to the occasion,” he added.

ISL 5: Chennaiyin, Kerala play out goalless draw

CHENNAI: Chennaiyin FC played out a goalless draw with Kerala Blasters in their Indian Super League clash on Thursday.

Chennaiyin were desperately in need of the maximum points, but they failed to make the home advantage count for them and can only rue their missed chances of which there were many in what was a tough game played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.

The result saw Chennaiyin remain on 9th place with 5 points from 9 matches while Kerala Blasters are on 7th position with 8 points.

Both teams started the game at a frantic pace in the hope of catching their opponents early on but to no avail.

Chennaiyin looked the more likely to open the scoring and almost did so in the 6th minute when Isaac Vanmalsawma crossed in from the left side to Andrea Orlandi inside the box but the Spaniard’s header went straight to keeper.

Jeje Lalpekhlua also came close to break the deadlock for the hosts in the 20th minute when Orlandi made his way into the box from the left flank and cut it back to Jeje who fired his shot off target.

Chennaiyin were attacking with zeal, precision and tenacity in the first-half. They were asking all sorts of questions to the Kerala Blasters defence and could have taken the lead on the 30-minute mark.

Orlandi floated a free-kick in from the left and Eli Sabia head it down for Thoi Singh to shot on goal. However, Dheeraj made fantastic diving save on his left to keep his side in the game.

Kerala Blasters created little in reply, with their only notable attacking effort of the first-half seeing Halicharan Narzary controlling a ball in the penalty area, but any hopes of getting away a shot were quickly crushed by Chennaiyin custodian Sanjiban Ghosh in the 38th minute.

Thereafter, neither side were able to create any further chances in the first-half with the score deadlocked 0-0 as the teams headed for the change room at the break.

The hosts visitors were better after the break, but continued to be frustrated by a disciplined Chennaiyin defense.

Keziron Kizito fored over the target six minutes into the second-half, while a short while after Sahal Abdul Samad saw his goal-bound effort stymied by Sanjiban.

At the other end, Raphael Augusto led a quick counter-attack, but his shot took a deflection and Dheeraj collected the ball with ease.

The embattled goalkeeper needed to make another top save shortly after the hour mark when a free-kick from Orlandi found Jeje who headed on target in the 71st minute.

Seiminlen Doungel should have netted the winner for Kerala Blasters in the 82nd minute when he received a lovely pass from Zakeer Mundampara and went one against one with Sanjiban, who produced a brilliant save to prevent his side from losing two points.

The remainder of the match was a frustrating time for Chennaiyin, who dominated play but were unable to find a way through Kerala Blasters’ resilient defense. Even the introduction of Carlos Salom and Anirudh Thapa off the bench didn’t help the hosts find the breakthrough.