B D Narayankar
PUNE: They jumped in delight, twirled their shirts, somersaulted, and waved the Manipur American Football Association Flag. All this they did after defeating hosts Maharashtra 3-0 in finals of the First Youth National American Football Championship played at Mathurawala Ground here on Monday.
Maharashtra, who had put up a spectacular show in the championship, could not repeat the same trick in the finals. They were no match to the pacy Manipurians, who kept their attack near Maharashtra endzones constantly. At times, they attempted to score field goals too.
Maharashtra, on the flipside, struggled to break into Manipur defense failing to dodge their burly blockers. Their attack was poor, as their receivers failed to grab the ball near the opponent’s endzones. They also aimed some desperate shots at the goal without much success.
After a point-less first quarter, Manipur picked up pace and forced Maharashtra to do all the hard work to possess the ball in the second quarter. In the process, Manipur’s Lingthou (King) sailed the ball into the post from 20-yards away from the rival’s endzone.
Maharashtra had the only chance in the fourth and final quarter when their receiver slipped and fell flat on the ground attempting to latch on to a pass from the right flank near the Manipur endzone. “We could have earned six points through a touchdown and sailed through. It was a bad day. We are disappointed after doing well in the competition,” Maharashtra captain Khalid Madari told Maharashtra Herald after the match.
In the battle for third place, West Bengal were declared winners as Tamil Nadu was unable to take field due to a couple of injuries in their side.
Earlier in the day, Maharashtra pulled off a spectacular win against West Bengal 5-4 in sudden death of the semifinals of the tournament.
The match extended into the sudden death after both teams drew level with 3-3 scoreline, even after the completion of seven-minute extra time.
As the second West Bengal striker could not convert the penalty kick into a goal, Maharashtra, as per rule, were declared winners.
First three quarters of the match belonged to West Bengal, who played brilliant football, weaving patterns and giving swift passes to their receivers. Soon Ahmad Inamdar scored a field goal (3 points) from 20 yard out in first quarter.
Thereafter, West Bengal made several attempts to score through kicks or touchdowns, but could not succeed.
Maharashtra, on the other hand, were off-color and struggled to get there combination right in first three quarters. The receivers were found wanting in grabbing the pass at key positions. They could not repeat the trick as they had done against Chattisgarh on Sunday, crushing them 63-0.
Maharashtra, however, gathered momentum in the final quarter. Just when it all seemed over for the state team, Kalif Thandari sprinted into the 30-yard zone, lobbed the ball in front of him and kicked the ball high into the net, leveling scores 3-3 in last minute of the match.
In another semifinals, Manipur defeated Tamil Nadu 12-7. The match could not extend upto its full time as Tamil Nadu walked off the field protesting referee Vishal Gore and Anand Gaikwad’s decision in favour of Manipur.
Shanti Kumar and Ranjit Kumar pulled of a couple of touchdowns earning 12 points in third quarter. Tamil Nadu scored seven points from a Hemant Kumar touchdown and Mehboob’s bonus point.
RESULTS: Finals: Manipur bt Maharashtra 3-0; Semifinals: Maharashtra bt West Bengal 5-3; Manipur bt Tamil Nadu 12-7