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On loan, Iberian touch to Indian football

sports Updated: Feb 14, 2013 02:55 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

By the time you read this, it will be known how much impact football's most famous Portuguese player-coach duo made on the match the world wanted to see. For the Iberian country's influence on the I-League, the wait will be a few weeks longer.

Two unrelated events on Wednesday strengthened India's bond with Portuguese football beyond the one-off visit by Luis Figo or the Lusophony Games, a multi-discipline event among Portuguese speaking countries, that Goa will host this year. Both are a first in Indian football.

Shillong Lajong pulled off a coup getting Portuguese centre-forward Edinho Junior, 18, loaned from Blackburn Rovers.

And in Pune, India captain Sunil Chhetri temporarily left Sporting Lisbon B to join I-League contenders Churchill Brothers. Both deals end with the season.


Friendly gesture

"This was a gift from Balaji Rao who is known to the family and we are more than overwhelmed," Larsing Ming Sawyan, general secretary of Shillong Lajong told HT over the phone from Shillong.

Rao is the managing director of poultry giants Venky's (India) Ltd, the company whose London arm brought Blackburn Rovers in November 2010. Sawyan didn't rule out deeper ties with the Lancastrian club before the year's out.

Relegated from the English Premier League last season, Rovers are now eighth in 24-team English second division. They play Arsenal in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Edinho, whose father Edon Neto played for Brazil, is a Portuguese national signed by Rovers from Olhanense a 100-year-old club in Portugal.

Sawyan said he is expected in "the first week of March." That would give Lajong's stand-in coach Thangboi Shingto nearly three weeks before they resume in I-League 6 against Pune FC on March 24.

"Football's a team game and in that time Edinho, the players and I will be able to adjust to each other," said Shingto.

Said to be a gift from their owner Churchill Alemao, Churchill Brothers too will be banking on Chhetri. The club's technical director, Subhas Bhowmick, speaking over the phone from Goa, said he is banking on Chhetri's return to familiar territory and the fact that he's trained regularly at Sporting Lisbon B for over six months.

Speaking from Pune where he is training with the India probables for next month's AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, Chhetri, 28, said lack of game time in Lisbon was beginning to weigh on him.

"They use the B team to promote their academy players. I would really enjoy training with the squad from Monday to Friday but come Saturday, I would be sad because I wasn't playing. I can't wait to get started at Churchill," he said.