India U-13 team is all set to start its campaign in the Yamaha ASEAN Cup, in Thailand. Opportunities like these are rare in Indian football, especially at under-age levels. India U-13 team produced a wonderful performance in Asian Youth Festival few months back, and Indian football fans will be hoping to see a similar performance from this U-13 team as well. However, in the end winning or losing is not the most important thing in youth level; gaining invaluable experience is more important.

Yamaha ASEAN Cup Fact file

The U-13 teams, participating in this tournament, are organized by Japanese motor giants Yamaha in ASEAN countries, where they have a sizable market-share and production base. This tournament aims to promote their brand image as well as highlight the corporate activities. The third edition of this tournament is going to take place from July 15th to July 17th in Yamaha Stadium Muang Thong Thani, Thailand. First edition of this tournament was held in 2008 with De Nang, Vietnam playing hosts. Vietnam A team were crowned champions in 2008. The second edition took place in July, 2011, in Jakarta, Indonesia. This time Indonesia-2 captured the title by defeating Thailand 3-1.

Qualification

Yamaha organized the U-13 qualifiers in India for the first in 2011. Matches were held from May 15th to 28th as 120 players took part from 8 teams across India. Teams came from Pune, Nagpur, Kerala, Kolkata and Assam.

Mr. Jun Nakata, Director – Sales and Marketing, India Yamaha Motor Pvt. Ltd. said, “Football has always taken a backseat in India in spite of being one of the most popular sports worldwide. With more than 50% of the population below the age of 25, we feel that there lies a huge potential in India to take this game to new heights. By organizing the Yamaha ASEAN Cup 2011, we not only want to capture the right talent but also contribute to the development and promotion of the game in the country.

Matches took place at four locations – Police Ground, Shivaji Nagar (Pune), SE Railway Ground, Moti Bagh (Nagpur), Maharajas Ground, MG Road (Ernamulam), Friends of Stadium Ground, Salt Lake (Kolkata). The final rounds were also held in Kolkata.

The boys from Kolkata came out with all guns blazing in the qualifiers defeating Cochin (0-4), Nagpur (4-0), and Pune (6-0). In the final, the boys once again faced Cochin and repeated their previous performance by grabbing another 4-0 win and emerged as champions. Samir Karmakar scored a hattrick in the final, while Hari scored one goal. Nagpur grabbed the third position after registering a 3-1 win over Pune. Jaybrata Debnath, Tarak Hari, Mohammad Faizen, Jonas MJ (player of the tournament) and Samir Karmakar were few of the players who grabbed attention in this tournament. The core of the India under-13 team, travelling to Thailand, is made up of players from the winning team.

Third Yamaha ASEAN Cup

Six teams will take part in the third edition – Thailand-1, Thailand-2, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and India. Matches will be of 60 minutes duration, with two 30 minutes halves, and will start on 15th July from 2:00 PM (Thai time) onwards. India will open their campaign against Thailand-1 and will also play against Vietnam. The Final will take place on 17th July, 8:00 AM (Thai time).

Indian boys are being mentored by former East Bengal player Mrityunjay Hajra. Saif Hussain, captain of the U-13 team, said that he was feeling nervous as he was travelling outside India for the first time, but he added that his team will be giving its best in the tournament. Other than Hussain, Suman Malakar and Jaybrata Debnath are important players for the team. Goal keeper Subrata Mazumdar, who didn’t concede a single goal in qualifers, is being tipped for greatness by his coach.

Indian team is not free from problems as only eight players have reached Thailand so far. A number of players didn’t have proper identification documents as they come from impoverished backgrounds. Sponsors have struggled to procure visas for these players but it is expected that rest of the team will reach Thailand before the matches begin.

Credit must be given to sponsors, Yamaha, who have extended monetary support to these boys, facilitating their travel to a foreign country. Sadly, the AIFF website hasn’t even mentioned about this event. Encouragement is crucial for footballers at such a tender age, and they at least deserve to be acknowledged by the football body in the country, irrespective of how they fair in Thailand.

The winning team will get medals from Yamaha, while player of the tournament will also get a special prize.

For pictures refer to this link.