Neymar Junior’s Five World Finals: Indians lose but gain valuable experience

Hyderabad Sporting FC bowed out of the World Finals of Neymar Junior’s Five, losing all its four group league matches.

Hyderabad Sporting FC lost to Sweden, Spain, Malaysia and Maldives.   -  Special Arrangement

The dream of seeking an audience with one of the biggest stars of world football ended in disappointment for a group of Indian collegiate players who reached the home address of Neymar Junior here to find their ambitions fading away in a series of defeats.

Hyderabad Sporting FC, which represented the Indian challenge in the Futsal jamboree organised in the name of the Brazil and Barcelona striker, bowed out of the World Finals of Neymar Junior’s Five, losing all its four group league matches. The Red Bull sponsored event drew around 400 youth players from 53 countries in a spectacular contest that tested the skill and organisation of the sides in an innovative format.

It was a major setback for Zubair Sultan and his team as the feisty group of footballers from Hyderabad had been seriously thinking of reaching the knock-out stage of the five-a-side tournament. Hyderabad Sporting had lifted the national crown in a field of more than 2000 teams from 12 cities and looked quite high on confidence ahead of the start of the group league stage. The Indian side also had the advantage of playing in the second half of the fixtures, which meant that it got time to assess the standard of the opponents.

Heartbreak

The target was to remain among the top-three of the five-team group and make it to the knock-out stages or the round of 32. But strangely enough, the Indians found themselves cramped on their feet facing the best sides of the countries like Sweden, Spain, Malaysia and Maldives, who completed the group. The story in the end turned quite heartbreaking as Sultan and his compatriots – Zahid Mohiuddin, Emad Naser, Khasim Mehdi and Salman Alkathery – conceded 20 goals while scoring just three in the four matches.

Standing a few kilometres away from on one of the greatest football clubs of the world, Santos FC, the venue failed to inspire the Indians to the creative approach that lay in the fabled skills of legends like Pele, Pepe and Coutinho, who once roamed this land. With Neymar Junior adding his name to the prodigious list, the place turned nothing less than a pilgrimage to the multitude of international footballers gathering here to showcase their talent in the two-day festival.

The biggest incentive for the winner remains in the opportunity to play a match with Neymar and his friends, which happen after the final. With Futsal still at its infancy in India, Zubair Sultan and his team will return enriched with the experience of playing the shortened version of the game at the highest level while Red Bull prepares the next season of championship to identify the Indian team that will reach this address next year, renewing the dream of playing against Neymar.

The results: India lost to Sweden 5-1, lost to Spain 5-1, lost to Malaysia 5-0, lost to Maldives 5-1.