Manipur on top

Manipur skipper O. Bembem Devi (left) and L. Ronibala Chanu with the trophy.-Manipur skipper O. Bembem Devi (left) and L. Ronibala Chanu with the trophy.

Manipur women stamped their class in the National Football Championship with a 4-1 drubbing of Orissa in the final. The victory ensured their 14th National title.

Manipur continued to rule the roost in women’s football in the country. By winning the 16th edition of the National Championship, annihilating Orissa 4-1 in the summit clash in Haldia, East Midnapore district, Bengal, Manipur ensured its 14th National title, the last 11 of them coming on the trot.

The other state to win the National crown was Bengal in 1992 (Imphal) and 1997 (Haldia). On both occasions, it tamed Manipur in the final. Orissa entered the final for the first time in 2002, defeating Bengal in the semifinals in Siliguri. It eventually lost to Manipur in the final. Kerala made it to the title-round in 2006 in Bhilai, but came a cropper.

For the sizeable Orissa supporters, their team’s 1-4 drubbing at the hands of Manipur came as a big disappointment. But then, the Manipur women were a class apart. Displaying speed, skill and stamina, they ran rings around the Orissa players to lead 2-1 at half-time. Two more goals in the second half gave Manipur its second biggest victory in the Nationals after its 4-0 triumph against Bengal in Daltonganj, Bihar, in 1993. Ng. Bala Devi (2), O. Bembem Devi and M. Bembem Devi scored for Manipur, while Pinky Bompal Magar got the lone goal for Orissa.

The tournament attracted 23 states out of which Rajasthan pulled out even before the start. Manipur, Orissa, Bengal, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Tripura topped their respective clusters, while Chhattisgarh (Cluster 5) came through as the second best loser.

The surprise of the preliminary stage was the elimination of Kerala, which finished at the bottom of Cluster 6.

The tournament was played in four venues: Haldia, Kolaghat, Tamluk and Mahishadal. Apart from Kolaghat, the other three venues drew big crowds. Some of the matches, including the final, were played under floodlights.

Tamil Nadu proved to be one of the most improved sides at the championship. It finished third in its quarterfinal group. It won against Bihar, lost to Goa and held the once mighty Bengal 1-1.

Manipur and Orissa qualified for the semifinals from Group A, while from Group B, it was Bengal and Goa.

* * * Serving the society

Following the success of the Merchants Cup golf competition in bringing a touch of camaraderie amongst the corporates in Kolkata, the Rotary Club of Madras picked up the idea and launched a similar competition in Chennai. The Rotary Club of Madras-Alchemy Corporate Golf Challenge, with The Hindu as media partner, however, was something more. “Service to the society through golf,” said Ravi Katari, a key member of the golf committee, of the maiden venture. The t ournament not only offers the amateur golfers from various corporate houses the chance to mingle with one another but also raises funds through contributions for the various projects of the Rotary Club. In this case, the proceeds went to the Ray of Light Foundation to help cancer patients. Besides, as Katari stressed, there were any number of prizes that good performers could take home, including a car given by Hyundai.

None came up to the level of winning the car, but the competition was keen nevertheless. The tournament attracted 119 contestants from over 50 companies. Popular golfing personality and a senior official of the circuit, Dilip Thomas’s AVT DT (nine points) bagged the team event. Dilip had three points and his partner Sanjeev Mehra posted six points. The team was declared winner on better back-half score, something that reflected the closeness of the competition.

The Murugappa Group (also nine points) finished runner-up (Arun Murugappan scored 8 points, while C. V. Yudhvir had one). The individual honours went to Krishna Prasad (10 points) in the 0-9 category, while Ishwar Achanta (Viking Shipping, three points) was the runner-up. K. Jaganathan (Oriental Capital 12 points) won the 10-18 category, followed by S. Kumar (eight points). Former India cricket captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth was the guest of honour. K. N. Vaidyanathan, CEO, Alchemy, was the chief guest, while Indira Subramanyam, President, Rotary Club of Madras, gave away the prizes.

* * * Penny wise, pound foolish

The gallery that collapsed during the South Zone National Volleyball Championship.-

As if once wasn’t enough, it happened the second time too! A gallery crashing down twice in a five-day championship is just not pardonable — not even in a prolonged event.

The organisers, the J. P. Nagar Sports Club, and the state association, the Karnataka Volleyball Association (KVA), did not pay heed when the western gallery came crashing down on the second day of the 15th South Zone Senior National Volleyball Championship at the Durga Parmeshwari ground in Bangalore. Overcrowding and dancing in the stands was the excuse given for the mishap, but fortunately nobody suffered any injury.

The organisers, however, didn’t seem to have learnt their lessons after this, for on the final day of the tournament the northern gallery collapsed. And this time, quite a few people were injured and a youth had fractured both his thighs.

The final league game between Karnataka and Kerala was delayed for over half an hour, but commenced with gusto. “Two days of heavy rains probably had softened the wood,” claimed the organisers. This was all the more reason to ensure safety which the organisers did not pay heed to.

Volleyball and kabaddi attract huge crowds in the districts and even the suburbs of the city. Invariably the crowd spills onto the courtside, causing a lot of discomfort to the players and the press. But despite warnings and suggestions, the organisers have looked the other way.

In order to save on the construction of a ‘reliable’ gallery, the organisers opt for cheap structures. They don’t realise that, in the end, they would be paying a lot more in case of a tragedy.

* * * Wooing fans

H. SATISH

It was outright ‘Dadagiri’ on Liberty Road, located in the busy commercial area of Hyderabad! Well, it was not by any means street-fighting, but the charisma and crowd-pulling power of the ‘Prince of Kolkata’, Sourav Ganguly. He caused a massive traffic jam even on a holiday. The former India captain was in the city, visiting a sports goods shop as its brand ambassador.

“I love the passionate response of the Hyderabadis every time I come to this city. I still remember the way they cheered me when I played during my comeback in the 2006 Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup at the Gymkhana Grounds,” the ‘Dada’ recalled.

On that memorable occasion, the fans charged on to the field when Ganguly was batting and touched his feet in reverence and admiration. It was symbolic of the former India skipper’s popularity and also Hyderabad’s love for the Bengal cricketer.

Up against the media, Ganguly was very accommodative and was cool as a cucumber while fielding questions that ranged from the recent series in Australia to the IPL and his own fate in one-day cricket.

Ganguly said it was good that celebrities from the film industry and business houses were showing interest in the sport. “It is great to work with someone like Shah Rukh Khan for my Kolkata IPL team,” he said. He did not subscribe to the view that the advent of film personalities would reduce cricket to mere showmanship. “We, cricketers, have a job on hand and we will be focussed on it,” he remarked.

By S. Sabanayakan, V. V. Subrahmanyam, S. R. Suryanarayan and Avinash Nair