By GB Bajaj
Bollywood Actor Abhishek Bachchan presided as the guest of honour for 5th The Indian Football Awards 2013 at Bombay Gymkhana. The Indian Football Awards 2013 was hosted by Football Players Association of India in association with The Bombay Gymkhana.
Prior to the awards, at the lush green lawns of the Bombay Gymkhana, an Exhibition Football match was played with top Indian footballers and celebrities, which was anchored by Football expert Arunava Chaudhuri and Ace Mayanti Langer.
The exhibition match was played by the senior and current national team payers like Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chettri, Renedy Singh, Gouramangi Singh, Climax Lawrance, Subrata Paul, Lenny Rodriguez, Abhishek Yadav to name a few.
Speaking on the occasion, Abhishek Bachchan declared that his favourite football team is Manchester United and religiously follows it, having been invited to watch the UEFA Champions League final match in end May 2013. Abhishek having confidence in the Indian team, with his belief that the Indian Football team will be able to make it through with hard work and determination to play for the world football Cup.
“I am a big football fan and I have a small dream that India’s national football team should qualify for the next world cup finals,” Abhishek.
“It’s a very difficult task. There is a rough road ahead, but I really hope that we can popularise the sport enough and when everyone will work hard, we will be able to qualify,” he added.
This years FPAI Awards had six different categories – best Young Player, best Foreign Player, best Indian Player, best Coach, best Organised Venue and Fans Player of the Year plus the special award.
FPAI president Baichung Bhutia started the awards night first up on stage and spoke about the FPAI – its work and progress. Thereafter AIFF president Praful Patel addressed his speech to the attendees, complimented the FPAI for its pioneering work and offered them its full hearted support to FPAI.
After the opening speeches it was down to the awards with Mr. Praful Patel and Bollywood star Abhishek handed out first award Young Player of the Year was handed to Indian international Alwyn George who plays for Pailan Arrows.
‘Foreign Player of the Year’, which saw Ranty Martins Soleye (Prayag United SC, Nigeria) winning the award and a message from the striker was played. Ranty won ahead of Carlos Hernández Valverde (Prayag United SC, Costa Rica), Roberto ‘Beto’ Mendes Silva (Churchill Brothers SC), Pierre Djidjia Douhou (Pune FC, Ivory Coast) and Chidi Edeh (East Bengal Club, Nigeria).
The Coach/Manager of the Year award went to Derrick Pereira (Pune FC) ahead of Subhas Bhowmick (Churchill Brothers SC), Trevor James Morgan (East Bengal Club), Santosh Kashyup (ONGC) and Arthur Papas (Pailan Arrows).
Then the FPAI Special Award was given to Churchill Alemao received by his children Valanka Alemao (Churchill Brothers CEO) and Savio Alemao.
Then the most intense moment, the ‘Fans Player of the year’, won by Afghanistan captain Zohib Islam Amiri, who plays for Mumbai FC in the I-League.
On hearing this Zohib was very happy and cherishing every moment, thanking all with his Hindi accent and called Mumbai and India his home, at this moment, everyone stood up and gave hima roaring applause. “Playing football in Mumbai for the last two seasons, not once have I felt away from home and this accolade from the fans just strengthens my belief and love for the league,” said Amiri on accepting his award.
Zohib won ahead of Lenny Rodrigues (Churchill Brothers, India), Lalrindika Ralte (East Bengal Club, India), Lalkamal Bhowmick (Prayag United SC, India), James Joseph Saeed Moga (Pune FC, South Sudan), Carlos Hernández Valverde (Prayag United SC, Costa Rica) and Izumi Arata (Pune FC, India)
The last and best award of the night was the ‘Indian Player of the Year’, which went to young Lenny Rodrigues (Churchill Brothers SC) ahead of Sunil Chhetri (Churchill Brothers SC), Syed Rahim Nabi (Mohun Bagan AC), Mehtab Hossain (East Bengal Club) and Clifford Miranda (Dempo SC).
Abhishek Bachhan in his true spirits, enchanted the audience with his performance of few lines of his famous “Ek Main Aur Ek Tu Hai” on stage and later praised Bhaichung for his devotion and spreading football in India.
Speaking about football passionately, he encouraged sports fans and most importantly cricket fans to switch to football, saying a fact, that if 1 in 6 people in the world are Indians he would really be proud and happy when 1 in 6 Indians are football fans.
Baichung Bhutia – President, Football Players Association of India and former captain of the Indian Football Team thanked all for the support to football and spoke about partnering initiatives with international Football associations, saying “We are taking various initiatives to popularise the game in India be it the I-league or organising camps at various locations in the country. We want to tap all the potential that exist in our country and give all an opportunity to discover the sportsman in themselves.”
Adding to Baichung’s commitment, Praful Patel – President, Football Federation of India said, “The unfortunate part of our country is we are stuck to one sport and worship it so much that it has led to all that is happening today and it leads to such disappointment for millions of fans. However, in sport like football even today its all about the game and the passion for the sport. And with personalities like Baichung and the continuous efforts that he is putting in, the popularity of the game and the fanfare will surely level any other sport.”
Actor Abhishek Bachchan, Hon’ble Minister and President of the AIFF, Sree Praful Patel, Football Icon Bhaichung Bhutia, President FPAI, Marc Robinson, Dino Morea, Joe Morrison, expert football commentator with Ten Sports, Subrata Dutta, Vice President AIFF were present among other star Indian footballers and administrators.