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India to meet Palestine in opening match

Defending champions India will open their campaign in the ONGC Nehru Cup against Palestine, a late replacement for Thailand. The latter were dropped from the tournament after they named their U-19 team for the event.

sports Updated: Aug 06, 2009 23:48 IST
HT Correspondent

Defending champions India will open their campaign in the ONGC Nehru Cup against Palestine, a late replacement for Thailand. The latter were dropped from the tournament after they named their U-19 team for the event.

“This is a senior national tournament and they (Thailand) did not respond favourably. So we looked around for another team and Palestine came in,” Alberto Colaco, general secretary of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), said at a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday.

The postponement of the tournament from August 18 to 19 (owing to Independence Day celebrations at the meet venue) meant that the final, which was earlier scheduled for Sunday, would now be played on a weekday. When asked if the change would translate into a slimmer turnout in the final, Colaco said: “If India make it to the final, there will be no problem in getting people to watch on a weekday.”

Colaco also confirmed that there was no problem with the fitness of India’s star players like Sunil Chhetri and Bhaichung Bhutia. “The players will be on a break after their return. They will resume training in Gurgaon from August 11.” The national team, currently training in Barcelona, is expected to return on Friday.

Praful Patel, working president of the AIFF, reacting to the reports of the BCCI (Board of cricket control of India) being requested by the cash-strapped AIFF for funds said, “Sharad Pawar (former cricket board president) is no longer the office bearer. He is not in a position to talk about giving or taking grants.”

Lebanon, India and Palestine have been clubbed in Group A while the last edition’s runners-up Syria, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan are in Group B.

Syria, Sri Lanka and Lebanon will arrive on August 17 while Krygyzstan will reach on August 16. The top two teams from each group will play the semi-finals slated for August 27 and 28 while the final will take place on August 31. There will be one match every day, kicking off at 6.30 pm.