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AP, Pondicherry need to pull up their socks

Sports Reporter

TIRUCHI: Andhra Pradesh and Pondicherry will have to put up a better show if the ongoing South Zone phase of the National under-21 football championship, conducted by Tiruchi DFA here, is to sustain its interest.

If the first two matches are any indication — the scoreline hardly lies (Karnataka beat Pondicherry 7-0 and Kerala beat AP 11-0), then the future of youth football in South India is something every football fan should be worried about. "Remember these are the boys who might represent India later," says P.K. Rajeev, Kerala coach.

Though the officials and the media knew that Kerala and Karnataka were the contenders for the top spot, such capitulation by AP and Pondicherry was not expected, even given the first day blues.

Flashes of brilliance

Pondicherry did show flashes of brilliance in the first 10 minutes against Karnataka, but soon withered away like autumn leaves. AP team looked clueless against a marauding Kerala.

Says Karnataka coach Aslam Khan, "Nobody wants to come and waste his/her time in a one-sided match. The State Association with all difficulty stages the tournament, and if this is the quality, then, Khan emphasises that the teams should have enough time and practice before the tournament. Concurs P.K. Rajeev, "A minimum preparation of 21 days is necessary for tournaments like this."

Giving special attention to the two AP goalkeepers who had a miserable day against Kerala is coach G.K.V. Subba Rao. He offers no excuses. "This is the team I was given. I took charge only on May 25 and I had only two days to train the boys," he says.

Knowing that his team has to pull up its socks if it has to save face, Pondicherry coach S. Dhanasekar is exerting and exhorting his boys to play beyond their limitations.

The much-anticipated match is the one between Kerala and Karnataka — two of the best teams on view on June 5. This tie in all probability will be the clinching one.

Match Commissioner

Former FIFA referee G. Pentaiah from Hyderabad has been nominated as the Match Commissioner for the football championship final round to be held in Tiruchi from June 7 to 21, according to Mr. J. Venkateshwara Rao, joint secretary of AP Football Association.

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