Thirty one-time champion Bengal had a disappointing campaign in the 70th Santosh Trophy football championship in Nagpur. Bengal which came with the tag of favourites was knocked out in the group stage, finishing third in the group ‘B’ from which Goa and Tamil Nadu qualified.
However, the silver lining in Bengal’s flopshow was the form and maturity shown by young striker Narohari Shestha. The 19-year-old scored four goals out of the seven managed by his State in the tournament. The India under-19 player was on target against Bengal, Goa and Assam and failed to find the net onyl against Tamil Nadu which so far hasn’t conceded a goal in the tournament. After the league phase, the youngster has finished as the top-scorer.
In Nagpur, Shestha had to shoulder the responsibility of the attack after experienced fellow striker Ashmin Biswas got injured in Bengal’s opening tie against Goa. The youngster from Siliguri, a product of AIFF Academy, scored the consolation goal for Bengal which lost the match 1-3.
Coach Alok Mukherjee the former Indian star relied on Narohari to deliver the goods against Punjab and Narohari responded by scoring the match-winner. The watertight Tamil Nadu defence managed to rein in Naro but not before the youngster gave the defenders a torrid time.
Narohari has impressed everyone here with his sharpness and his natural goal scoring ability. While Alok Mukherjee was finalising the Bengal squad, goalkeeping coach Hemant Dora told him about a young boy who was scoring goals for Salgoacar in the under-19 I-league. Narohari was among the top goal-scorer in the Under-19 I league last season with 10 goals.
"I was returning to coaching after two years and wasn’t familiar with many of the young players. Hemanth told me about Narohari and I picked him for the camp. I had a close look at him and was impressed with his ability to score the goals and I had no hesitation in picking him for the Santosh Trophy. In Nagpur he has shouldered the responsibility of Bengal attack in absence of Ashim. He is a good striker and can become one of the best in India," said the Bengal coach.
Naro was among the goals for Bengal in the Santosh Trophy qualifiers and carried on that form into the main tournament as well. The youngster who idolises Christiano Ronaldo is disappointed that his goals couldn’t help his team progress in the tournament but nevertheless he is wiser with the experience he gained playing while in a senior tournament. "It is a first senior tournament for me. Personally I am happy with the performance and with the goals. It would have been fine if my team had won the championship. My ambition is to play for the senior Indian team and I hope to earn my senior cap soon,’’ he said.
To many coaches, Narohari Shestha is certainly one of the finds of the tournament and has a bright future ahead of him.