The connection between BRICS summits and football goes beyond the final of the first edition of the under-17 tournament that will be played between Brazil and South Africa in Goa later on Saturday afternoon. Two years ago, the first full BRICS summit was held in Fortaleza, Brazil, with the invitation to watch the World Cup final being a not-so-insignificant aside. Prime Minister Narendra Modi though didn’t attend the final between Argentina and Germany at Rio’s iconic Maracana Stadium.
This time around, Modi unveiled the trophy of the under-17 football tournament that involved teams from all BRICS nations and was timed to end on the day the eight edition of the summit began. It served the dual purpose of getting India ready for the 2017 under-17 World Cup, both for the team and the organisers. The recent AFC Asian under-16 finals too was held in Goa for the same purpose.
India lost all their games but clouding the defeats is the silver lining of the Komal Thattal’s goal against Brazil. It was a superb effort, one that involved the player going past the Brazilian defence and curling his left-footer past the goalie. Thattal’s goal tied the score at 1-1 and not often are you going to see that in a football match involving India and Brazil. It remains the only goal Brazil conceded so far; they have scored 10 in four games winning them all.
‘Team a work in progress’
Under German Nicolai Adam, the India under-17 team is developing into one that plays with spirit and has the pace to match opponents from countries that have a much better pedigree in football. True, they remain very much a work in progress but draw against Saudi Arabia and leading against the UAE showed that we can expect the boys to put up a fight when the big thing comes around next October. As do the 0-1 defeats to South Africa, China and Russia in this tournament.
Brazil beat China and Russia 2-0 each and South Africa 3-0 before winning 3-1 against India. Barring India, Iraq, Iran, Japan and North Korea have qualified for the under-17 World Cup. The qualifiers from the other continents are yet to be decided and that means for Brazil, South Africa and Russia this tournament too has served as preparation for tougher battles ahead.