Mohun Bagan created history by winning the Federation Cup, India’s annual major club football tournament, for a record 13th time at Kolkata on the 21st of December 2008, avenging their 2004 defeat to Dempo at Bangalore.
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Apart from SBT and Viva Kerala from God’s own country, there were a few other South Indian Clubs in the picture, including but not limited to ICF-Chennai, HAL SC-Bangalore and BEML-Bangalore. Let’s have a look at their campaigns this year… And before that, for those in the dark, a few words on the two Bangalore outfits.
Arguably the top football club from Bangalore, HAL SC is named after the iconic Hindustan Aeronautical Limited and is known to exist since the 1940s. HAl promotes football locally in the city and is known to have sponsored quite a few events in the past to increase the awareness level about the World’s most followed sport. Incidentally, HAL kicked off a few promotional campaigns during past world cups as a gift to the thousands of fans across the nation. HAL has also organised a few games and events for children to introduce the sport to future players.
BEML is yet another public sector undertaking based out of the city. Its football team is one of the not-so-organised but very-effective-in-set-pieces sides, that has started creating quite a few ripples in the south Indian football scene. We await the waves yet.
A promotional advertisement from HAL during the previous world cup football tournament
BEML Bangalore and Integral Coach factory, Chennai qualified from the South Zone Qualifiers from a pool that also had Sathyabama FC from Pondicherry and Titanium XI from Thiruvananthapuram as the other Semifinalists. ICF routed the Pondicherry outfit four goals to nil, and BEML sent Titanium XI packing. BEML defeated ICF in the finals and both went through to the next group stage, the Fed Cup preliminaries.
BEML saw off the likes of Indian Bank to enter the semifinals in this stage, only to be handed out a defeat by the famous Salgaocar Sports club. Surprisingly, against my expectations, Salgaocar lost to the Football team from the State Bank of Travancore(SBT) in the eventual Group A finals.
ICF was part of Group B, which also featured Bangalore’s golden team HAL SC, Pune FC, Viva Kerala amidst others. ICF defeated the Goan outfit from Sesa Football Academy 3 goals to 2 with a brace from Suresh Kumar, to reach the semifinals. There, ICF found Viva Kerala too hot to handle, as they lost 1 – 2. In the other semifinal of the Group, HAL SC defeated Pune Football Club to set up an interesting clash for the Group B final held at the Bangalore Football Stadium. The home team roared as they ran riot with a brace from Frederick Okwagbe, another goal from Xavier Vijayakumar and a penalty from RC Prakash. HAL SC won 4-0.
Sixteen teams qualified for the group stages and were divided into four groups as each team faced every other team in the group once. HAL SC from Karnataka was part of Group B, also featuring eventual semifinalists Churchill Brothers SC from Goa, Mohamedan Sporting from Kolkata and Mahindra United from Mumbai, all of them playing for I-League. And HAL SC couldn’t go through. Infact, they finished a dismal 4th in the group with 0 points, with a goal difference of -11, including a 7-0 whitewash at the hands of neighbours Churchill Brothers, who’s placed third in I-League at the moment. We just couldn’t get past that single goal against Mohamedan Sporting, thanks to Nabeel.
Location of Bangalore Football Stadium
But, history shows us we can surge forward, with a little more awareness and exposure to Football at the grassroots level. Foreign leagues like EPL, La Liga and Serie-A have become popular in schools and several children are beginning to get their feet dirty on the grounds, which I consider to be the best sign so far for the future of football in this region. All the best to Karnataka Champions HAL SC, whom I’d christen "The Green Dragons" from now on, and other football clubs from the region for future tourneys. We are not very far from the day the Dragons will beat the Green and Maroons (Mohun Bagan) to lift titles. We are behind you, folks.
All match details based on newspaper reports. ⊕ References