KUWAIT CITY, April 6: Holders Kerala Challengers won the prestigious 40th Edition of the United Goans Center (UGC) soccer tournament for the second time in a row at the Bayan Grounds in front of the huge holiday crowd.
The Kerala Challengers won the day by outclassing the Goa Maroons in penalty shootout (4-2) after regulation and extra time ended in a 1-1 draw.
In the U-14 Interschool Soccer tournament which was also organized by the UGC to promote the soccer talent among school students was won by the United Indian School by a solitary goal scored by Nikhil who also walked away with the trophy for being the first to score a goal.
The Goa Maroons and Kerala Challengers from the word go tried to get the better of the other with the Maroons wanting to inscribe their name on the trophy and the Challengers determined to keep the trophy in their closet having won the trophy last year.
Both teams gave their 100 percent, but both failed to break the deadlock in the first half. Challengers a goal down leveled the score just before the final whistle and went on to beat Maroons on penalties after extra time failed to produce a winner.
In the first half the Goa Maroons controlled the midfield and looked set to upset the holders. Jeffrey hit the woodwork as the Maroons looked more and more dangerous and pushed the Challengers, who were without their ace striker Ben, to defend their citadel.
The second half saw a lot of action as both teams had equal opportunities. Jagdesh and Abin of Challengers sent in some fine crosses but the forwards lacked finishing power.
Goa Maroons were once again unlucky when they found the back of the net but the striker was ruled off side. However, a fine header from Steven Rodrigues gave the Maroons the much needed goal.
This was followed by an ugly incident when tempers flared and Biju and Gomes of Challengers and Maroons respectively were involved in a brawl and the referee had no hesitation in showing the red card to both the players.
When Haris came in as a substitute for the Challengers, the entire scenario changed and the Kerala boys went out for the equalizer.
Although the Maroons looked to be in the driving seat lack of concentration and wrong positioning of the keeper gave the Challengers the all important equalizer when Jamsheel’s header found the back of the net following a fine cross by Haris.
Mohammed of Kerala Challengers made some fine saves during the penalty shootout.
UGC Runners-up Cup was given to the captain by the Indian Women’s Association President Mrs Muriel Alphonso and the Winners Trophy was given by former UGC president Tony Gonsalves.
The KIFF referees who officiated in the U-14 finals were presented watches. The referees for the Maroons-Challengers were Robert, Victor, Sami and Rafi.
The inter school Under-14 final was played between the United Indian School (UIS) and Indian Central School (ICS). Both teams were very excited to have a shot at taking home the Winner’s trophy as teams showed up ahead of time on a bright and sunny Friday morning to warm up.
The match opened with ICS attacking the UIS defense fiercely and spending almost the first quarter of the match in the UIS box. Sandip the playmaker for ICS had three shots in the first ten minutes. He had to be substituted early on due to injury and the tide had changed the match for UIS.
The UIS had a few shots on target and they made it count with Nikhil evading the fingertips of Rajesh to give UIS the much needed lead.
UIS was defending in numbers in the box to protect the lead. In the second half, ICS stepped up the pressure and came close a couple of times but the keeper Joshua was up to the task all the times.
In the last minute he made a spectacular save to make sure ICS did not get that all important equalizer.
As the final whistle blew, the UIS celebrated their 1-0 win and won the U-14 football trophy overcoming eight schools in the tournament.
Adam of UIS won the lucky school children draw to win a football table donated by Peter Mendes. All participating schools received a token of appreciation. The chief guest for the day was Hakim, CEO of Al Amaz Shipping Company.
The following awards were distributed during the prize distribution ceremony for the Under 14 Inter School Football Tourney: Best Discipline Team, Carmel School; First Player To Score, Nikhil of the UIS; UGC Man of the Match, Shaheen of UIS; UGC Top Scorer of the Tournament, Shaheen of UIS; UGC Best Goalkeeper, Joshua of UIS and the UGC Best Defender of the Tournament, Anol of Indian Central School.
At the end of the event, following the match between Maroons and Challengers the ball was signed by both teams captains and given as souvenir to the founder members of the United Goans Center Brigido Fernandes and Tony Gonsalves.
The current UGC committee honored the old guard of UGC — Rosario Lawrence, Pascoal Alfonso, Brigido Fernandes and Tony Gonsalves, who for the last forty years have been iconic with their hard work and dedication behind the scenes.
Tony Gonsalves was also honored by Carmo Santos and The Times for his contributions in the establishment of the UGC and making the game of soccer prominent in Kuwait for expatriates over the last forty years.
Brigido Fernandes the star striker of UGC who was a nightmare for every goalkeeper has been helping the current UGC team management. Rosario Lawrence a very dedicated individual who was one of the best goalkeepers continuously imparting his knowledge on the younger generation during training. Pascoal Alfonso, the former president of UGC has been a pillar of strength during the past few decades.
The Best Discipline Team trophy given in memory of late president Joe Fernandes was given away to the AVC Sports and Cultural Association, the Man of the Match was Jamsheel for his crucial equalizer, the Top Scorer of the tournament was Ben.
The vote of thanks was proposed by the UGC president Tony Alphonso and the Guest of Honor Dr Riaz Khan spoke a few words and congratulated the organizers on completing this huge milestone — celebration of 40 years of soccer for expatriate Indians in Kuwait.
Since its inception in 1976, UGC had started the football league along with knockout tournaments and three years later the tournament was played purely on knockout basis to allow other clubs an opportunity to conduct tournaments under the KIFF umbrella.
United Goans Centre was the first football tournament for Indian expatriates in Kuwait and is one of the only clubs that have lasted the test of time and stuck to its original name.
United Goans Centre motto “friendship through sports” has been managed under the leadership of president Tony Alphonso along with vice-president Agnelo D’Cunha who have taken the club to new heights.
To celebrate this huge milestone, the UGC successfully organized the Second Inter School U-14 football tourney to allow the young generation to showcase their skills.
Father Dominic had inaugurated the first football tournament in 1979 and although he could not make it this time, he sent his prayers and best wishes to UGC on the occasion of their 40th Football Edition.
By Paul Francis X. Fernandes – Arab Times Staff