Team Air India is enigmatic. Year after year, season after season the Airmen have astonished the critics and bewildered the followers of national league football in India. From being a defensive unit, playing for points and fighting relegation battles, Santosh Kashyap’s men this time around displayed some brilliant one touch passing and free flowing build up play which not only suited Ai??the eye butAi??yieldedAi??results too.

“We have played according to the match situation and the opponents. We have had a young squad. I observed that , the long football we were playing, was not fruitful and lackedAi??positioning,Ai??but with short passes, the boys were more confident” Ai??

Santosh Kashyap *

Santosh Kashyap guiding Team Air India


Here is a look at how Air India Football Club performed throughout the 2011-12 season.

Ai??-
Federation CupAi??(September 2011 )

Group Stage | Performance – L D W

Air India started the season in the Fed Cup having been paired in a relatively easy group comprising of Prayag, Sporting and Chirag. The airmen went down fighting to SCG (1-2). Then held Prayag Utd to a goal less draw which sealed their chances of progressing and ended with an emphatic win over Chirag Utd Kerala (3-2).


Durand Cup
Ai??(October 2011)

Group Stage | Performance – W L

Placed in an all Maharashtra Group, Air India got off to a flier by defeating local Mumbai rivals ONGC by three goals to nil. Then in a virtual quarter-final, Air India lead Pune FC in the first half but conceded twice in the last 15 minutes to bow out of the tournament.


Abhijeet Kadam Memorial Football Championship
(March 2012)

Group Stage | Performace – L L

Air India did not participate in the IFA Sheild 2012 and insteadAi??decided to play in the AKMF Trophy. Ai??Grouped with the local side Amanora Deccan XI and Prayag United, the youth team of Air India failed to win any match and lost 0-1 and 0-2 to Deccan and Prayag respectively.

Ai??-
National Football League , The I-League 2011-2012
(October – May)

Position : 9thAi??Ai??Ai??

Performance – Oct LL, Nov WWDWL, Dec LWWWL, Jan LWLDW, Feb LWL, Mar DL, Apr LDW, May L

Air India started the league campaign against arch rivals Mumbai FC at home away from home, at Balewadi. After losing 1-4 in their opening encounter, the Airmen thenAi??traveledAi??to Goa to face Ai??Churchill Brothers and expectedly came back empty handed.

Come November and the golden period for Air India had begun. A win against defending champions Salgaocar, who were struggling then, gave the much needed boost to Santosh Kashyap’s side who then went on to defeat Chirag United in Kerala. A draw in Shillong followed by a win in Banglore against HAL SC gave the assurance that Air India were poised much better than a couple of sides below them.

Air India's Pawan Kumar in Goal

Ai??-
Facing back to back defeats against Pune and Prayag, Air India then managed to gallop Sporing and Dempo in Goa and completed a hat trick of wins by defeating the lowly Pailan Arrows. By the end of round 11, Air India had gathered 19 points and a virtual top 5 position. Santosh Kashyap attributed the success to theAi??adaptabilityAi??of his players by saying:

“Lamine Tamba and Kali Allaudeen hold up very well in defense. Royston D’Souza is young and agile. Takayuki has been excellent. Sandeep Sangha in midfiled, Collin Abranches, Bijoy Basfore, Mohamed Shafi on the wings have been consistent .”

~ Santosh Kashyap *

Air India got the better of Mumbai FC in the return fixture of the league. It just showed how things had changed from the early stages of theAi??competitionAi??and now a more confident Air India were scoring even though the team had lost, and apart from two occasions till round 21, the team had managed to score atleast one goal per game. Once the relegation scare was shrugged offAi??theoretically, the team mangement got the young uncapped players on the board. Striker Prakash Thorat impressed the most.Ai??Ai??Air India finished the I-League campaign with 9 wins and 5 draws gathering 32 points and a creditable 9th place.


Highlights

  • FeatAi??of scoring a record number of 36 Goals in allAi??competitionsAi??in a season.
  • Managerial and coaching skills of Santosh Kashyap got recognized by football pundits.
  • The all Indian striking pair of Manandeep and Sandesh was a breath of fresh air.
  • Top 10 I-League finish.
  • Goal Keeper Pawan Kumar’s tremendous display under the Air India woodwork.

A major high point for Air India has been that, Team Air India have managed to turn up for all their league games with no absentees, cancellations or strikes recorded! Jokes apart, on the other hand , the football team representing Air India have struck a record number of 29 goalsAi??in 26 I-League matches this season, half of which have come from the Indian striking duo of Manandeep Singh and Sandesh Gadkari. Coach Santosh Kashyap has been instrumental in shaping up andAi??molding an average lot of players into confident match winners. Striker Manandeep got an India call up for his heroics during the season and Santosh Kashyap at the end of the season has been offered the top post at Mohun Bagan.

Tall and Lanky Sandesh Gadkari

Ai??-
Air India played the whole season away from home, as the Cooperage was under renovation. Playing at the Balewadi in Pune under lights was excellent for the Airmen as Santosh Kashyap rightly pointed out

“These are the basic needs in Indian Football. Nobody realizes this. Good pitch and stadium with floodlights helps improve the environment and Ai??atmosphere during a match. Overall the game standard and quality improves. If you give this, then the crowds will come in and it would be a win win situation for all. With a 2 pm kick off , I feel sad for my boys.”

~Ai??Santosh Kashyap *

[* Santosh Kashyap had spoken exclusively to TheHardTackle after Air India’s match against Mohun Bagan on the 26th of March 2012 in Pune]

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2 Responses to “Indian Football – Air India Season Review 2011-12”

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  1. Santosh Kashyap says:

    Million thanks Amod & THT team for a such excellent articles on us and acknowledge our efforts & performance. as i told you before you guys are doing excellent job for Indian football by publishing fantastic articles ( Team Review) & news (especially every day news/rumours ) is so interesting i love to read everyday. so guys keep it up doing great job !!

    • Rahul Bhutani says:

      Thanks a lot Santosh sir. On behalf of Amod and THT Team, I would like to thank you for exclusively speaking to HardTackle and also commenting and reading our articles. Your comments are as source of inspiration for us and we hope to continue our work on Indian Football

      Thanks