Sun shines on Delhi football after 59 years

- June 12, 2024

Delhi win the inaugural U-20 championship, their first national title since 1965 

VICTORS: The victorious Delhi U-20 football team after clinching the national title in Chhattisgarh

A resilient Delhi U-20 team that had the flair of players from India’s Northeast ended national capital’s long wait for an AIFF (All India Football Federation) trophy at the just-concluded national tournament in Chhattisgarh. 

Delhi edged out Karnataka 4-3 in shoot-out to bring the inaugural Swami Vivekananda U-20 Men’s National Football Championship to their cabinet. Both the teams were three-all in extra time. The teams went into shoot-out to break the deadlock, as Delhi clinched their maiden U-20 trophy.

This is Delhi’s first national trophy at any level in 59 years, according to AIFF. The last time they won a title was back in 1965 when they clinched the U-19 trophy. 

The major benefit of winning the AIFF U-20 Trophy, Delhi skipper Lamlallian ST said was that at least four members of the victorious Delhi side got a call to attend the national camp in preparation for the upcoming Asian U-20 football tournament. 

“I will be travelling to Goa soon to attend the national camp,” the elated Delhi skipper told Patriot.

Members of the Delhi U-20 team, including the coaching staff, were felicitated by the Delhi Soccer Association (DSA) on Saturday (June 7) at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.  

“This is for the first time Delhi has won the U-20 AIFF Trophy,” said Anuj Gupta, president of DSA. 

“From being a dark horse to winning a trophy will certainly motivate youngsters of the Capital to bring more glory in future.”

The team coach Anup Singh gave credit to goalkeeper Karan Makkar. 

“He did a commendable job under the bar in the final match,” said the football coach. 

According to the Delhi team skipper, the final against Karnataka was exciting from the word go. 

“We came from behind thrice to seal victory,” Lamlallian added. 

The Delhi skipper slotted home the equaliser in the first half to level the score at 1-all. 

“Despite trailing in the initial stages of the final match, we didn’t lose hope. We continued to make inroads into the rival territory and were 3-all in regulation time. The score was the same in extra time,” the skipper added.

In the U-20 national football tournament, Delhi were clubbed with host Chhattisgarh, Pondicherry and Goa. 

The Delhi team topped their group and faced Kerala in the quarter-finals. 

“It was a challenging contest. We were 3-all in the regulation time but were lucky to win 4-3 in the shoot-out against Kerala,” said the Delhi team football coach.

In the semi-finals, Delhi outplayed Mizoram 3-2 to set up the title clash with Karnataka. 

“It was a challenging yet exciting journey to the final. At each step, the players coordinated well and continued to advance and eventually win the trophy,” said Singh, who is also Technical Lead at Bhaichung Bhutia Football Academy in Delhi. 

According to the Delhi team coach, the players had a month-long preparation camp for the national tournament. 

“All the players were fit and there was no injury concern,” the coach added.

The coach also acknowledged the contribution of players from the North East region in Delhi’s win in Chhattisgarh. 

“The players from the North East were eligible to represent Delhi as per criteria of the AIFF which entails a player to be registered with a club in Delhi for a minimum three months,” he added.

Tough journey 

It has been an uphill journey for Lamlallian ST, the Delhi skipper. 

He came to Delhi five years ago and is currently playing for a local Delhi club. 

“I am a professional player and get a chance to play national-level tournaments through the club,” he added. 

“It was challenging for me to cement my position in the Delhi football circle.”

The Manipur player hopes the national camp in Goa will be a good chance for him to polish his skills and move up the ladder. 

“I will give my best in the camp,” he added.