The National Inclusion Cup for underprivileged youth took place for the first time in Mumbai. It was organised at the Andheri Sports Complex from February 13 to 17, 2017. The 14th edition of the competition for men and 5th edition for women included 24 men’s teams and 16 women’s teams from all over India. It was the first time a men’s team from Nepal was a participant.
This year, teams from Maharashtra, West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Vidarbha, Orissa, Gujarat, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttar Pradesh were a part of the tournament.
Popular Bollywood actor and avid football fan Siddharth Malhotra joined the cause and kicked off the tournament. Former Homeless World Cup director Andy Hook of StreetSoccer, Scotland was the tournament director. Anju Turambekar, Grassroots Director, All India Football Federation (AIFF) played the role of referee and oversaw the competition.
“It is a pleasure to inaugurate The National Inclusion Cup. I believe that it is of paramount importance for the underprivileged youth to engage in outdoor activities and there should be equal opportunities available to them everywhere. I am pleased to support such a program that empowers our youth and acts as a catalyst to create a better life for them,” said Malhotra.
Kerala men’s team won their maiden title. Last year’s runners-up team from Jharkhand won the women’s crown. Kerala overpowered Telangana 7-3 after dominating the men’s championship round. R. Gunaalan and M. Mukesh scored three goals each. Best Player Title winner Vignesh completed the tally for the winners, while striker Aiman Ayaz scored the three goals for Telangana. Tamil Nadu beat Vidarbha in the play-off for third and fourth positions.
Jharkhand also dominated the women’s championship round with a 7-2 win over 2014 winners Madhya Pradesh. Sheetal Toppo fired 4 goals, Hemanti Kumari scored 2 and Supriya Menon completed the tally for the winners. Seema Narekar and Nisha Bais scored for Madhya Pradesh. West Bengal beat Assam in the play-off for third and fourth positions.
Earlier, Telangana shocked defending champions Tamil Nadu to enter the men’s final, while Madhya Pradesh stunned West Bengal to enter the women’s final. Telangana edged favourites Tamil Nadu in a 3-2 thriller, via the sudden-death, after the teams were locked 1-1 at half-time and 2-all at full-time where Aiman Ayaz fired a brace for the winners, and Bassan Ahamed scored once in each half for Tamil Nadu in regulation time before Jagadeesh frittered away a last-minute penalty. In the shootout, Jagadeesh’s effort was saved by Telangana’s goalkeeper, before Ahtesham Ali fired the winner.
Men: National Inclusion Cup 2017
Finals: Kerala 7 beat Telangana 3 (Aiman Ayaz, hat-trick)
Kerala 4 (M. Mukesh 2, R. Gunaalan 2) bt Vidarbha 1 (Bharat Chandak)
Telangana 3 (Aiman Ayaz 2, Ahtesham Ali) bt TN 2 (Bassan Ahamed), via sudden-death
Fair Play: Nepal
Women: National Inclusion Cup 2017
Jharkhand 7 (Sheetal Toppo 4, Hemanti Kumari 2, Supriya Menon) bt MP 2 (Seema Narekar, Nisha Bais)
MP 3 (Nisha Bais 2, Alka Nagwanshi) bt West Bengal 2 (Ankona Das, Sucharita Dey)
Jharkhand 6 (Sheetal Toppo 4 (hat-trick), Ankita Kumari 2) bt Assam 2 (Chandni Tirkey, Sheuli Roy)
Fair Play: Tamil Nadu
Following the Nationals, 8 players each from men & women’s teams have been selected to represent India at the 15th Homeless World Cup in Oslo, Norway. It will take place from August 29 to September 5, 2017. The selected players will receive intensive coaching, practice and social skills training. Teams from 63 nations come together every year for the World Championship.
National Championship is the witness of growing players, the inclusion of more & more teams every year and a great platform to connect the grassroots to the world.