A motley bunch of youngsters will take on mighty rivals in a football combat as the 123rd IFA Shield kicks off tomorrow in Kolkata, marking the return of the local game to the city after a break of eight months.
In the opening game tomorrow, the young and enterprising squad of Khidderpore FC will meet top-draw Mohammedan Sporting Club at the Saltlake Stadium. Khidderpore FC coach Dilip Pal said he was planning to expose young players to real-time football, while Mohammedan Sporting coach Jose Carlos Hevia said his team would play attacking football, no way was he undermining his promising opponents.
Defeating seemingly insurmountable pandemic odds, IFA pulled out all the stops to lend fans and players another passionate shot at football in Kolkata, the epicenter of the game.
“This has been a tremendous effort on part of the IFA to revive football in Kolkata despite the pandemic. Working as a team to make this happen, we have efficient measures in place to ensure the safety of players and officials. I offer my special thanks to IFA Secretary, Mr. Joydeep Mukherjee, for taking this courageous decision to conduct the tournament during the pandemic,” Dr. Partha Sarathi Ganguli, Vice-President, IFA said in his opening remarks at a Zoom press conference today, attended by the media, club officials and some players.
“We have developed a standard operating procedure after intense consultations with senior doctors and Covid experts. Only those players who report negative will be allowed to play,” Dr. Ganguli said, adding, “the staging of the 123rd IFA Shield offers a fresh flavour to the sporting community of the city and also renews hopes that normal life isn’t too far away.”
Speaking on the occasion, Shield Committee Chairman Saurav Pal thanked the four I-League teams and eight Calcutta Football League – Premier Division teams for participating in the tournament. “Players and football lovers of the city were lapsing into depression but this initiative has saved football here. I am so glad that the teams have come forward to take part,” he said.
Among others who attended the press conference and spoke highly of the IFA’s untiring efforts to resurrect football in the city were Kalighat FC coach Bastab Roy, Indian Arrows head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh, Real Kashmir FC manager Adan, Kalighat Milan Sangha coach Ahin Mukjerjee, George Telegraph SC coach Ranjan Bhattacharya and BSS Sporting manager Jayanta Chakrabarty.