Bhutia joins elite list

BHUTIA POSES with the Manchester United Premier Cup in Kolkata.-PTI

The striker joins the likes of Ronaldinho and Rooney as Nike's brand ambassador.

For Indian football, things started looking up commercially after Zee Sports entered into a 10-year exclusive telecast deal with the AIFF last year. Then support came from Nike, the sports accessories major, which became the kit sponsor of the Indian team. The company also launched the Manchester United Premier Cup in the country, the first edition of which will be staged in Kolkata. The tournament, which involves many club from teams around the globe, gives the best under-15 club team of the country a chance to play sides of leading global clubs.

There was good news for the sport's biggest icon, Baichung Bhutia. He was named `Nike Athlete', or the company's brand ambassador. He is the first footballer from the country to receive the honour and will be sharing the precious tag with the leading lights of the world like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry and Wayne Rooney among others. Bhutia waxed eloquent about the deal with Nike. "It's a great privilege for me," he said. "I am confident that Nike will help elevate the sport in the country."

Amitabha Das Sharma

YOUNG SUMANTH is all concentration.-Md. YOUSUF

Sumanth Subramaniam, 12, came all alone from Malaysia to take part in the ONGC Cup international GM chess tournament held recently in Hyderabad. The seventh-standard student is so fascinated with the sport that he felt he should not miss the opportunity of testing out his skills here. His parents are of South Indian origin — father Subramaniam, an estate manager, and mother L. S. Bhama both try to ensure that his talent blooms to the fullest extent possible.

"I love this mentally-challenging sport," said Sumanth, whose favourite player is Garry Kasparov. Sumanth is also aware that it is not easy to succeed in this highly competitive sport. "The problem back home is that we don't have too many chess players. So chess software is my best friend. I also interact with a few chess-loving friends outside Malaysia and then try to solve problems on the board," said the youngster who was runner-up in the Malaysian age-group championship last year.

V. V. Subrahmanyam

Big league sport returned to the coastal town of Mangalore after a gap of nearly three years. The city, which had hosted the national weightlifting championships successfully, displayed its organisational skills yet again by hosting the two-day `Mr. India 2006' Federation Cup Body Building Championships recently.

Vying for top honours in their respective weight categories, and the coveted title of `Mr. India', were 170-odd body builders from 17 states. Bijit Gogoi of Assam was conferred the `Mr. India 2006' title. Ganesh Shenoy of Karnataka was the best poser. The Dakshina Kannada Body Builders Association, affiliated to the Karnataka Association of Body Builders, organised the event.

B. Madhav Poojary, President of the Indian Body Building Federation, said the event proved that "body building is still a very popular sport in India and that we too can do well in this sport."

Jaideep Shenoy

Nasiruddin Ghalib, one of Hyderabad's most popular chess personalities, is going through difficult times. Chess players and fans who witnessed the world championship matches at Sanghinagar near Hyderabad in the mid 1990s will remember that this soft-spoken gentleman with white hair and beard was a hit with one and all. Facing personal problems, and ailing for quite some time, Ghalib is badly in need of help. Ghalib has been a nationally-ranked player in his heyday and has served in the AICF for several years. He has also been a chess writer for various newspapers.

V. V. Subrahmanyam