Delhi Public School (DPS), RK Puram tamed Invincibles FC while Ultimate Warriors prevailed over APJ United as the curtains came down on the fortnight-long Hindustan Times Great Indian Football Action (GIFA) at the DPS, RK Puram ground in New Delhi on Sunday.
In the senior group, it was a battle of nerves between the DPS boys and Invincibles, but ultimately the former triumphed 4-3 (1-1 after regulation time) to stamp their authority in the seven-a-side tournament.
Those who missed Sunday’s enthralling action would have said that DPS had the home advantage, but it was indeed an arduous journey to the top for the hosts, who had to dig into their reserves at crucial junctures in the semifinal and final.
Beginning with the first match of their final-round journey, the DPS boys weren’t the favourites. However, perseverance helped them overcome the stiff challenge posed by GG Boys FC, who dominated a major part of the contest, to enter the top-eight stage.
Before that, DPS had to go through some anxious moments. After struggling in the initial stages, Vineet Chaudhari and Anant Sharma tricked the rival defence to score a goal each and help DPS march ahead.
The challenge in the quarterfinals was tougher as the DPS boys ran into Vishal Megamart Barca Boys, one of the teams fancied to win the title. However, things never went the Barca Boys’ way as they fumbled. Perhaps, it had something to do with overconfidence. On the other hand, DPS managed to hold the rivals goalless in the first half. While it was a morale-boosting win for DPS, it was frustrating for a team that had been tipped to win the event.
The Barca Boys failed to control the ball, and that prevented them from making constructive moves, thus putting paid to their aspirations.
All credit went to DPS for containing the Barca Boys in the second half as well. After a goalless draw, the teams went into the shootout, and again, it was advantage DPS, who exhibited calmness to march into the semis with a 3-2 margin.
The semifinal between DPS and Senco Gold The Frank Anthony Public School also had its share of excitement. Before the match, Gobardhan Sahoo, DPS’ games teacher, said since the boys struck a balance between sport and academics, they had nothing to lose. “We have reached this far, it’s a good sign. If we get closer, it would be great,” he added.
For Frank Anthony, among the favourites to win the title, it was an off-day. Despite the early lead, they failed to put up a united front, paving the way for DPS to stage a comeback. Frank Anthony coach Rajat Guha said his team wasn’t able to recover lost ground.
“The boys weren’t able to control the ball in the second half and that gave our opponents the opportunity to increase the margin.”
After a slow start, DPS pumped in five goals to send a warning to their opponents. Vineet Chaudhari, one of the key players in the forward line, termed the semis win as challenging. Ray Calvert, who was the lone scorer for Frank Anthony, said the team wasn’t able to focus.
The final between Invincibles FC and DPS also turned out to be a thrilling encounter. But few would have put their money on DPS. Going by the Invincibles’ route to the final, the team looked much stronger.
After a goalless first half, the Invincibles took the lead through Sandeep Singh. DPS were quick to restore parity via Samarth Sud. Both teams fought tooth and nail to take control of the game, but failed to break the deadlock in regulation time. Even in extra time, the scoreboard did not change.
In the shootout, DPS goalkeeper Mahier Vir Hora saved the day for his team, and fans erupted in celebration.
Disheartened after the defeat, Invincibles skipper Manish Kumar said his team was under immense pressure to perform. “We made a lot of mistakes,” he said. Earlier, in the semis, the Invincibles had edged past LFA Remi Yoush 3-2.
DPS principal, DR Saini, who witnessed the final, said it was an exciting affair. “The tournament proved to be a golden opportunity for school-going students to exhibit their skills,” he said. Celebrations were put on hold as DPS students had to rush home to study for a Monday home test.
In the junior category, it was a major upset as APJ United failed to tackle Ultimate Warriors. The latter scored thrice to take home the title. Luv Gulati set the ball rolling for the Warriors while Armaan Pant and Vivekanand Das completed the tally.
Swastik Sharma of APJ United was inconsolable after the defeat. “I can’t tell you what went wrong. We simply lost the game,” was all he could utter.
There was something for everyone, as the top-four teams in each category were given attractive prizes.
Former Chelsea player Florent Malouda, who plays for the Delhi Dynamos in the Indian Super League, was present on the occasion. Impressed by what he saw, the former France international said, “The event is good for grassroots development. I hope some of the players find a place in ISL in future.”