Thursday, August 23, 2012

Nehru Cup - then and now

Okay, a lot has been told, reported, revealed, posted, and tweeted about Nehru Cup. However, looks like we’ve forgot the glorious past of this tourney, which was once touted as the best football tournament in Asia!
Can you actually tell which edition of Nehru Cup is starting today? Well, 15th it is for the statistically inclined folks.

Jorge Burruchaga
and Nery Pumpido members of FIFA World Cup winning team have blessed Nehru Cup. Off-course Carlos Bilardo, Argentine, the great coach, World Cup winner! Who can forget the skills of other world cuppers Francescoli, Rinat Dasayev, and László Kiss

Nehru Cup has definitely lost its sheen, especially of the early years, the 80’s, but then while playing as a host, who doesn’t want to take a chance to improve FIFA rankings. 
And this time, the defending champion is the lowest ranked amongst the participating teams.

Cameroon (59), Syria (147), Maldives (161), Nepal (162), India (168)

Best of luck, India, go for it!

[The following article originally written for IndianFootball.Com during the 2009 edition]

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Drama revolving around Nehru Cup

As India gets ready to defend their title for the Nehru cup, the tournament has now reduced to a mere 5-team competition.

At first, it was Thailand who expressed their inability to send their senior team and requested the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to include their under-19 team for the tournament. However, AIFF rejected the idea, and roped in Palestine as the sixth team.

Now there was more twist in the tale - Palestine Football Association Association had different ideas, rather than fielding their full strength national squad they decided to field a club team. Quite understandably, AIFF dropped the Palestine team from the tournament.

This is an absolute insult to the tournament, which was once regarded as the best football tournament in Asia and ranked 18th in the World.

Nehru Cup was launched in 1982 with much fanfare. In the 80s, Nehru Cup truly lived up to its potential. Football lovers in India got a chance to see quality football from Argentina, Uruguay, Russia (erstwhile USSR), Poland, and Hungary.

World Cuppers like Enzo Francescoli (Uruguay, 1982), Jorge Luis Burruchaga (Argentina, 1984), Neri Pompidou (Argentina, 1984), Laszlo Kiss (Hungary, 1984), Rinat Dasayev (Russia) displayed their football skills in India.

India, though, most of the time was in the receiving end, but played some exemplary football against the tough opponents - against Uruguay in 1983, Argentina in 1984, and Poland in 1988.

Under the tutelage of great Yugoslav coach Ciric Milovan, India perhaps played the best ever football against Argentina in 1984. India was successful in defending the Argentine attack till the 79th minute. World Cup winning coach, Carlos Bilardo, coached the Argentine team. Apparently, it was the same team that formed the nucleus of the successful World Cup campaign in 1986. The Argentina team in the 1984 Nehru Cup had World Cuppers like Jorge Luis Burruchaga, Neri Pompidou, and Sergio Batista.

Another unforgettable match was against the mighty Poland team in 1988. Amal Dutta's team was dominating the proceedings and was leading by a goal in the first half. Poland somehow managed to level score at the later part of second half.

In the 90s, Nehru Cup started loosing its sheen as AIFF settled for relatively lesser known teams. Nehru Cup was an annual event till 1989, later it became a biennial event due to scarcity of funds. The tournament was shelved after 1997 owing to lack of sponsorship and other matters. The tournament resurfaced in 2007 as ONGC Nehru Cup.

It was our current national coach Bob Houghton’s influence that helped to revive the Nehru Cup in 2007 and India emerged victorious. However, the revived version had less ranked teams. Most people had seen this more of a deliberate ploy as to improve FIFA rankings. Rather than fighting and going down to the high-ranked teams, one would expect India to win against teams similar or lesser in FIFA ranking.

Teams like Thailand (117) and Palestine (177) does not have great FIFA rankings, yet AIFF has failed to plan and make use of the FIFA international calendar.

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