WITH THE last-minute withdrawal of defending champions Services Sports Control Board from the men’s category of the 21st Federation Cup National Handball Championship, which is due to begin on Wednesday, the chances of other teams to fare well have brightened.
But, once again the battle is expected to remain between the teams like runners-up Chhattisgarh, CISF and Karnataka. Strong Punjab and J&K are two other main teams, who have withdrawn at the last moment. Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, CRPF and hosts UP are the other teams now in the fray in the men’s category, and Arvind Kumar Yadav-led Uttar Pradesh are expected to leave no stone unturned to finish among top four of the prestigious event.
For record books, Uttar Pradesh had finished fourth when they had hosted their maiden Federation Cup Championship almost 15 years ago in 1991. Interestingly, finishing fourth was the best-ever performance by the UP men in the championship so far.
“This is the high time when our players should make full use of the home advantage to fare well in the event,” said UP Handball Association secretary, Anandeshwar Pandey.
The international stars like Faizal Ahmed Khan, Suhail Ali, Syed Zaffar, Ajeet Kumar, Rajkumar, Zameel Ahmed, Neeraj Sharma, Irfan, Shiva etc. in the men’s section, and Anita Yadav, Juliet Lorance, Amita Dalai, Shabnum Bano, Meenakshi, Anjleena Lorance and Jyoti Bala in the women’s section would be seen in action during the championship, being sponsored by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).
In the women’s section too, two main teams i.e. Manipur and Kerala have also pulled out in the last minute for unknown reasons. Now the field is wide open for defending champions Railways, runners up Chhattisgarh and others like Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and hosts UP.
Union Minister of State for Steel Dr Akhilesh Das, who also happens to be the chief of the UP Olympic Association, will inaugurate the six-day championship, at the KD Singh ‘Babu’ Stadium here on Wednesday at 4.00 p.m..