The crowd erupted with joy as Rajib Deb, forward for the army Service Corps (ASC) Boys Bangalore under-16 football team, slipped the ball past the goalkeeper to score a goal for his team. That it happened in the first few minutes of the match, added to the crowd’s resounding cheer. Deb made the most of the penalty kick as he scored the solitary goal of the match, leading his team to a 1-0 victory over Farook Higher Secondary School (FHSS), Kerala.
ASC were playing FHSS at the final match of the inaugural inter-school under-16 Parikrma Champions League football tournament on 20th November, being played at Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) stadium in Ashok Nagar.
The stadium was bustling with hundreds of excited school children as the five day tournament, which had 16 schools participating from across the country, came to a close. While much of the crowd cheered for the "home team", ASC; FHSS had its share of fans in the stands, cheering for them.
ASC made a spirited start as they broke the defence of FHSS consistently. The team appeared considerably fitter than visitors, maintaining the possession of the ball for much of the first half. FHSS’ attempts at scoring were foiled by the home even team, even though their passes were much more accurate. By the end of the first half, FHSS had made four attempts at the goal as opposed to three by ASC.
The second half saw better play by FHSS as they came back strongly. With quick passes, they managed to push the defences of ASC but a goal still eluded them. ASC seemed complacent as they made no serious attempt at scoring a second goal; looking to hold off FHSS for the rest of the game. With the game in the final minutes, FHSS desperately needed a breakthrough and almost got one when they were awarded a penalty kick with only ten seconds to go. The spectators, now at the edge of the seats, watched FHSS miss the goal by a few inches.
As the final bell rang, ASC emerged victors, to lift the Equality Cup.
Star studded closing ceremony
Off the field, the presence of Baichung Bhutia caused a stir as footie fans queued to get his autograph and talk to him. Swimmer Ashwini Nachappa and hockey player Ashish Ballal, too, were present at the ceremony.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Bhutia said he was impressed by the way the tournament was organised and said that under-16 tournament is a good way to get more youth into the game. He added that he saw several promising talents and with a little mroe hard work, they could go a long way.
Bhutia praised the KSFA for installing the artificial astro-turf pitch which requires less maintenance. "I hope the association will make the premises available for anyone, especially those below 16, who want to play football between 6 am and 8 am, so that more people take up the sport," he said.
The inaugural Equality Cup of the Parikrma Champion Football League had 16 under-16 school teams participating. Participation was through invite only (teams were invited based on their performances in the last few years). While most teams were from Bangalore, Regina Mundi High School, Goa and Farooq Higher Secondary School, Kozhikode also took part in the tournament which was sponsored by Menzies Aviation, a UK based company.
Shukla Bose, Founder of Parikrma Humanities Foundation, said that of the three sports emphasised in Parikrma football is one (taekwondo and athletics being the other two). "Football is one of the best sports and is linked with our training programme for athletics. Therefore, we decided to have a football tournament. It was name ‘Equality Cup’ because we invited teams irrespective of whether they were ICSE, CBSE or government schools," she said. Shukla added that the tournament would be a yearly affair, subject to availability of sponsorships.
Vignesh M and Fayaz K, both 8th standard students at Parikrma, who were volunteering as ball boys were among the hundreds of football lovers in the stadium on Saturday. They hope to represent Parikrma in the tournament next year and take up football as a career someday. "The tournament was awesome. I have never seen anything like this," said Vignesh.⊕