Indian teams score on cyberspace
It may be a virtual playground but the goals scored on the IndianFootball.Com website are quite real as India's top soccer clubs are subjected to a cyber rating.
When the site - which calls itself India's premier football site - announced its 2005 winners, Goa did surprisingly well, sharing honours with teams from India's traditional football powerhouse, West Bengal.
Conceived and organised through the internet, these awards - launched by an expat Indian based in Germany - are the only ones for football in this country where fans, officials, players and the media can cyber vote for top performers of the season.
Arunava Chaudhuri, an Indian born in Germany who founded IndianFootball.Com on April 10, 1998, sees his site as "the only real source for Indian football information on the web".
Beyond focussing on individual clubs or states, it tries to "bring as much as possible of football from across India to the footballing world".
Begun as a voluntary, one-man venture IndianFootball.Com has grown into a staff of five editors scattered in different parts of the world, with its base in Germany.
Since 2002 summer, the site has been organising yearly awards and reports growing interest.
Voting is held across two rounds for five different categories - Indian player of the year, foreign player of the year, rookie (newcomer) of the year, coach of the year and team of the year.
In the first round, soccer enthusiasts can name their choices for different categories. In the final voting round, the top five of each category are short-listed to enter the voting fray.
Top cyber scorers for the 2004-05 season (awarded in 2006) were Clifford Miranda (Dempo Sports Club Goa), Climax Lawrence (East Bengal) and Alvito D'Cunha (Mohun Bagan) for the Indian player of the year award.
Foreign players voted to the top were the strapping Nigerian star-player MacPherlin Dudu Omagbemi (Sporting Clube de Goa), the Nigerian Ranty Martins Soleye (Dempo SC) and Brazilian Flavio de Oliveira Rodrigues (Mahindra United).
Rookie winners were Clifford Miranda (Dempo SC), Habibur Rehman Mondal (East Bengal) and Jerry Zirsanga (Mohun Bagan). Coaches voted the best were Dempo's Armando Colaco, Sporting Clube de Goa's Clifford Chukwana and East Bengal's Subhas Bhowmick.
Dempo (Goa), Sporting Clube de Goa and East Bengal were rated the best three teams of the year.
Remscheid-based Chaudhuri says the labour of love by his team has been "acknowledged" by world football governing body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation. On certain issues, he adds, their opinion was asked for.
"IndianFootball.Com does not only restrict itself to journalistic work. It also tries to do something for the development of football in India and also to spread the word about Indian football across the globe, especially in Europe," says Chaudhuri.
The cyber venture has organised a training camp for the Indian under-17 national team in Germany and also organised the International Indian Football Series 2002.
Links on its site take football fans to interviews with players, information about the Indian national team, a 'hall of fame', an introduction to football basics, information about the current season's transfers in India, the National Football League and more.
There's also information on star Indian players and news about Kolkata, Goa and other leagues. A hits-counter says the site has received 6,56,317 visits so far.