Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bayern Munich discovers India in "South East Asia"

Germany's Bayern Munich FC is participating in the 111th Indian regional IFA Challenge Shield which kicks off on 24 November and concludes on 4 December. Described as a "B" side, the Bundesliga club's squad will showcase "upcoming stars of German soccer" although players with senior team experience like Andreas Ottl, Mathias Zimmermann and Ghanaian Christian Saba may accompany the youngsters.

"As one of the top clubs in the world, we know we have to go to Asia. And in Asia, we cannot confine outselves to China and Japan. But we also need to visit countries like India, Thailand and Vietnam," Martin Haegele, the head of the club's international affairs department, told media. Last year, Bayern toured Japan playing teams FC Tokyo and Jubilo Iwata.

"We have toured Japan previously and that was a wonderful experience. We want to expand our base in South East Asia and India is a big football market,'' he said, as reported drolly by The Hindu and other newspapers. India, however, is in South Asia rather than South East Asia.

He also admitted that the club did not have much idea about Indian soccer. "The only thing I know of India is that it is a country of one billion people. But now from some of my footballer friends I have been told of the passion for the game in Kolkata."

Haegele made an early visit to Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium and said the "ground is okay. Our players are on a goodwill visit and will not complain about anything.''

The IFA Shield is India's oldest football tournament first won, in 1893, by the Royal Irish Rifles who defeated WDRA (1-0). In 1911 Mohun Bagan AC was the first Indian team to win the IFA Shield Trophy, a "beginning for Indian teams" in the British-ruled sub-continent and in mainstream football.

The Indian Football Association is the original football body in India and was directly affiliated to the Football Association of England. It was instrumental in creating the All India Football Federation to govern football on a national basis and still administers football in the state of West Bengal.

In this year's Rs 2.5 million competition, Bayern Munich is directly seeded in the semi-finals with five Indian clubs qualifying for the finals through two groups. IFA secretary Subrata Dutta said East Bengal and Mohun Bagan will be in one group while the other group will comprise Mohammedan Sporting, Eveready and Malaysia's Perlis Club. All the matches will be played under floodlights and the semi-finals and the title clash will be telecast on ESPN-Star Sports.

UPDATE

The Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce Consul General in Kolkata, Agostino Pinna, has announced that an AC Milan junior team will take part in an exhibition match as part of the Festa Italiana 2005 from 20-30 November. The U-19 AC Milan team is being coached by Alessandro Musicco and their opponents, the Bengal U-19 team which is the champion team of India, will be coached by Krishnendu Banerjee. The Italian team, accompanied by Brazilian international Leonardo Nascimento de Araujo, a former AC Milan player, will also play exhibition games in Mumbai on 22 and 26 November. (14 Oct)

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