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Indian football team finishes second in AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers

Indian football team secured its best ever finish in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers by claiming the second spot in Group E as goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh made some spectacular saves to help the side win the shootout against Kyrgyz Republic 4-2 after regulation time ended goalless here. With the match ending in a stalemate, both sides finished the group on four points apiece with the same goal difference (zero) and equal number of goals scored in all the matches (2).

To decide who takes the second and third spots, respectively, in Group E, a penalty shootout was held, which India won 4-2.

Earlier, UAE beat Oman 2-0 to end as the toppers of Group E.

Top teams from each Group qualify directly for next year’s continental showpiece along with the best four second-placed teams across all Groups.

India now need to wait till the conclusion of other Group matches to know if they can qualify for their maiden AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

In the penalty shootout, Dheeraj started with a couple of spectacular saves while Rahul KP, Rohit Danu, Suresh Singh, and Rahim Ali scored from the spot.

Earlier in the match, Apuia tried to hurl the first attack in as early as the fifth minute but his long-ranger could not pose any threat to the Kyrgyz defence. Two minutes later, Rahul, from the left flank, outran Kumarbai Uulu with sheer pace, but eventually Adilet Kanybekov neutralised his effort.

The central Asian outfit sprung into life three minutes later when forward Alygulov Maksat was denied by Narender inside the 18-yard-box, five minutes later, the youngster cancelled Tapaev Temirbolot’s right-footed curler.

Rahim shielded off Artiukov Daniil before rolling it to an onrushing Vikram whose left-footed effort flew away from the target in the 21st minute.

The forward played another pivotal role a minute later as he passed the ball to Amarjit, but the Manipuri midfielder skied his effort after four minutes.

Borubaev Gulzhigit beat the offside trap to outpace Asish Rai from the left, but Dheeraj came up with a spectacular save after the half-hour mark to keep the score unscathed.

Both teams headed to the changing room with the scores unchanged at the lemon break.

Kyrgyz Republic resumed with more intent and came close to breaking the deadlock in the 50th minute but Maksat skied his effort.

India appealed for a penalty on the hour-mark anticipating a handball inside the Kyrgyz box but the Malpian referee Mohamed Javiz paid no attention to it.

India latched on their best possible chance seven minutes later when Deepak Tangri put an acrobatic bicycle kick from handshaking distance, only to be thwarted by Kyrgyz goalkeeper Tokotaev Erzhan.

India’s pursuit for the winning goal could have come three minutes later, but Rahul’s fierce shot from 30 yards out came agonisingly close to breaching the indomitable Kyrgyz defence, only to have ricocheted off the post.

On the rebound, Vikram tried his luck but Erzhan jumped to his left to negate the danger.

At the other end, Kyrgyz broke away on a counter-attack, exploiting a mistake by the defender.

His backpass was anticipated by Sharshenbekov Arlen inside the box and he left it to an onrushing Abilov Ernaz, who snuck into the penalty box unmarked. Dheeraj, however, positioned himself perfectly to save it with his usual composure in the 85th minute.

With just minutes of regulation time left, Suresh lobbed a looping free-kick and Deepak Tangri fired it from close range, only to seen it saved by the opposition goalkeeper.

‘Brand Tendulkar’ has evolved beyond cricket: WSG India chief

NEW DELHI: For over two decades, Sachin Tendulkar has been one of the most coveted ‘brands’ in India, but as the maestro gears up for his historic 200th Test match, it seems that ‘Brand Sachin’ is ready to evolve beyond the realms of cricket.

“Sachin Tendulkar’s brand has transcended beyond the cricket field. It is a brand that has more than enough credibility in the collective consciousness of the Indian public. Therefore, I believe, that you can’t pinpoint on one particular event (200th Test match) for celebration. Each of Sachin’s achievements has been unique in itself,” World Sport Group (WSG) Senior Vice-President and Country Head Harish Krishnamachar told PTI today.

WSG has been managing Tendulkar since 2006, after his contract with World Tel group ended.

Asked about Tendulkar’s brand value, Krishnamachar said that most of senior batsmen’s sponsors have long-term contracts with him.

“Just like us, the commitment that Sachin has had with his sponsors has been long term. Since 2006, when we started managing Sachin’s commercial aspects, his sponsorship contracts have all been long term. Now if the sponsors want activation around the event (200th Test), they are free to do so,” the WSG Country Head commented.

Asked how will Tendulkar maintain his ‘Brand Value’ once he calls time on his career, Krishnamachar said that the “possibilities are fantastic”.

“He will certainly like to give back something to the game in his own way and obviously the connect that he has with Corporate world wouldn’t also diminish. So far his cricketing commitments have taken a lot of time. May be now he can focus on writing about his phenomenal career, may be a lovely docu-feature that carries on his legacy.”

Apart from managing the most celebrated cricketer in the history of the game, WSG is now dabbling into international football as they are the commercial partners of South Asian Football Federation (SAFF).

“It was a fantastic experience to organize the SAFF Cup in association with ANFA (All Nepal Football Federation). The packed houses during Nepal’s game and also the sizeable crowd that we saw in the final was indicative of game’s popularity in the region.”

The SAFF committee has proposed a Club Championship and WSG will be more than happy to make the event a success.

“We definitely are interested in helping SAFF in organising the Club Championship. The kind of following that club football has in this region gives us confidence that it has the potential to succeed,” Krishnamachar said.

Cricket losing its charm, sponsors bat big time for hockey, football, says GroupM ESP report

KOLKATA | NEW DELHI: Cricket, which has ruled the hearts of millions of Indians for years, may be losing just a little bit of its magic. In 2014, other sports — football, tennis, hockey and even kabaddi — gained in popularity, according to a report by GroupM ESP, the entertainment, sports and content arm of media agency GroupM.

Value of ground sponsorship for cricket fell to Rs 464.7 crore in 2014 from Rs 508.3 crore in 2013 while team sponsorship fell from Rs 389.2 crore in 2013 to Rs 347.8 crore, even as the sports industry grew 10 per cent.

Ground sponsorship is the money central sponsors in any sport pay to the organisers of a tournament. Team sponsorship is the money each team earns from selling the real estate on its apparel. The report compares calendar years. The 10 per cent growth in the sports industry, from Rs 4,372.5 crore in calendar year 2013 to Rs 4,809.69 crore in 2014, is due to the emergence of new tournaments.

Indian Super League for football, two tournaments each for hockey and kabaddi as well as the International Premier Tennis League, among others. The size of the sports industry by revenue includes a number of components: ground and team sponsorships, franchise fees, endorsements and on-air revenues of advertisers.

For cricket, the numbers seem low in 2014 because India played host to fewer international games than in the previous year, says Vinit Karnik, national director (sports and live events) at GroupM ESP. “But it is a fact that there was a price correction in the payouts to BCCI from title rights holders in 2014.”

The Indian cricket team’s sponsorship price dipped to Rs 2 crore per match in 2014, the amount Star agreed to pay, from Rs 3.33 crore per match in 2013 that Airtel was paying. The downward trajectory in the level of interest in cricket can be gauged by the fact that only two companies — Star and Micromax — showed interest in obtaining title rights compared with the last bidding cycle when over 10 contenders were in the fray.

Other sports are starting to attract serious money. Football, for instance, saw a 227 per cent year-on-year increase in the total value of team sponsorship from Rs 26.5 crore in 2013 to Rs 60.3 crore on the back of the new Rupert Murdoch and Mukesh Ambani-backed Indian Super League. Other sports leagues — kabaddi, tennis and others — saw a massive jump of 1,064 per cent in team sponsorship, from just Rs 7 crore in 2013 to Rs 74.5 crore in 2014.


GroupM ESP says in the report that overall team sponsorship across all sports rose a healthy 14 per cent from Rs 432.7 crore in 2013 to Rs 493.6 crore in 2014, despite the 10.6 per cent fall in cricket team sponsorship. And while noncricket sports together accounted for just 10 per cent of the team sponsorship pie in 2013, it has now risen significantly to just under 30 per cent, a startling shift in the course of a year.


IPL, the Twenty20 cricket tournament, still remains a strong franchise with Pepsi committing Rs 80 crore a year to bag the title sponsorship of the league, despite the controversies it has sometimes seen. After a dip in revenues in 2014 because of the Lok Sabha elections and the consequent shifting of a part of the league to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), IPL’s broadcaster Multi Screen Media is expected to make close to Rs 950 crore from the ongoing 2015 edition.

While Pepsi might have grown on the back of non-cricket sports properties globally, here in India, it is one of the biggest spenders on cricket.

Ruchira Jaitly, senior director-marketing (beverages) at PepsiCo India, contends that cricket hasn’t taken any hit. “It’s just that the pool has expanded because of the emergence of other sports in India,” she says. However, as other sports gain in popularity, Pepsi is seriously investing in kabaddi, soccer and hockey. “This is also because international quality of programming has arrived in India,” Jaitly says.

“While cricket continues to be the mother ship, and will continue to be big, brands are slowly opening up to the potential of other sports, especially brands that don’t have massive budgets,” says Indranil Das Blah, CEO of sports management firm Kwan.

For big brands with national campaign plans, cricket and Bollywood are still the preferred platforms, he says, but for smaller brands one can use that money a lot more intelligently by associating with other sports. However, in terms of numbers or reach, no other sport will even come close to cricket in the next five years.

“But the bridge is certainly forming. Five years ago, there were no options, three years ago there were a few options but now there are loads of options. So that gap is slowing being reduced between cricket and other sports,” he says.

Global adspend to reach $561 billion this year

MUMBAI: The global advertising spend is expected to increase by 4.4 per cent to $561 billion this year, with mobile being the prime driver of online growth going forward, says marketing intelligence firm Warc.

However, despite the rapid gains being made by mobile spend, the report forecasts that overall global adspend growth will slow to 3.7 per cent next year, with almost all regions witnessing a slowdown.

“Despite an air of economic uncertainty, consumer spending will rise globally both this year and next, and with it the level of advertising investment aimed at influencing the flow,” Warc research analyst James McDonald said.

While global adspend on desktop Internet has stagnated at around $112 billion and is likely to decline further from this year onwards, Warc calculates that $90 billion will be spent on mobile-specific ads in 2017, or 44 per cent of all online ad investment.

Advertising budgets allocated to both mobile social formats and mobile video are also growing rapidly around the world and they are expected to be worth $28 billion and $10 billion, respectively in 2017.

Meanwhile, adspend on mobile search is on course to reach $40 billion by the end of next year, a near doubling from 2015 level, it noted.

“The allocation of marketing budgets is seen to be mirroring consumer trends, particularly the rise in Internet access via mobile devices and the increasing use of mobile video, social and search platforms,” McDonald said.

“While this digital trend evolves, TV spot, an industry staple, will see record levels of investment this year as brands vie to secure ad space during major events such as the Summer Olympics and Euro 2016 football tournament,” he added.

Piaggio ropes in Alessandro Del Piero as Vespa brand ambassador

NEW DELHI: Italian two-wheeler maker Piaggio has roped in world cup winning football player Alessandro Del Piero as global brand ambassador of its brand Vespa.

Piero, who was part of the 2006 FIFA World Cup winning Italian team, will visit India on September 1 as part of the association with the company.

“We are very excited to have Alessandro Del Piero join the Vespa family here in India. Vespa and Piero have many things in common, two worldwide famous Italian symbols recognised for their successes and profound impact on public opinion,” Piaggio India MD Stefano Pelle said.

Piaggio launched Vespa brand in India in April 2012. The company has a manufacturing facility in Baramati, Maharashtra, where it produces the iconic Vespa alongside wide range of three and four wheeler commercial vehicles.

Pench Tiger Reserve scores conservation goal with football

NAGPUR: In a unique initiative, the Pench Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra, has taken to football to conserve tigers by organizing camps with youth groups from protected areas.

A two-day camp ‘Football for social inclusion’ was organized in collaboration with slum soccer of Krida Vikas Sansthan. Two such camps were held in Kolitmara range of West Pench and Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary on May 19 and 20. Range forest officers Umesh Dhotekar of West Pench and GF Luche of Umred-Karhandla took this initiative and made special arrangements to motivate the youth between 12 to 25 years for this camp.

Nearly 40 youths from nearby villages participated in each camp. The camp was conducted in a manner so that many social and important message of conservation could be sent. They were also told about importance of social grouping, food and nutrition, health and hygiene, importance of having a positive attitude and most of all staying physically and mentally fit to face all challenges of life.

All these messages were passed in the form of various games and activities which were grasped by the village youths some of whom had never played football before. The most important of all messages was to shun bad habits, tobacco and liquor which is a big trap for the progress of such youth from these areas.

The office of Maharashtra Pench, headed by chief conservator of forests (CCF) & field director MS Reddy, has been making consistent efforts to involve communities towards conservation of forests. “My mantra is of inclusive growth and protection. In this strategy it is notable to see the improved health of the forests and the protected areas,” he said.

The two-day camps concluded with a round of football matches among teams formed within the participants. The whole event was supervised by special coaches and trainers provided by Krida Vikas Sansthan at each location. The youths were in for a surprise when they were then gifted footballs by the coaches. These footballs were specially manufactured by Chevrolet company which sponsors such ideas worldwide.

Livelihood expert from Pench Tiger Foundation Jaydeep Das said that more such events are being planned across other villages in all protected areas to bring youths together and spread positive message for a better future through football. “It is a unique way indeed to score a goal,” he says.

First derby goes to Bagan

Fijian striker Roy Krishna continued his prolific goal-scoring form as he helped ATK Mohun Bagan prevail over SC East Bengal 2-0 in the first-ever Indian Super League (ISL) derby on Friday.

Krishna, who had scored ATKMB’s lone goal against Kerala Blasters in their campaign opener, struck in the 49th minute before Manvir Singh killed the contest in the 85th minute with a solo effort.

With two wins on the trot, ATK Mohun Bagan are leading the table with six points, followed by Northeast United FC.

It was a typical Antonio Lopez Habas’ style of play that panned out on the field as ATKMB were slow to get off the blocks before taking control of the game.

Their defence, helmed by Tiri, put up a disciplined show to return with a clean slate for their second successive match.

For Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler, who built the SC East Bengal in less than a month’s time, it was a disappointing start to his coaching stint in India as he was let down badly by his striker up front.

As the sole striker, Balwant Singh was wayward up front and missed a sitter at the hour mark when he blasted over the bar just in front of the net.

They had the better ball possession but looked thin up front, leaving too much to do for their vice captain and former Norwich City winger Anthony Pilkington.

The red-and-gold brigade wore black armbands in memory of the Argentine legend Diego Maradona who died of heart attack on Wednesday.

Before the kickoff, both the teams observed one minute’s silence in honour of Indian football stalwarts P K Banerjee and Chuni Goswami who died this year.

Iniesta on Pedri: He is in the right place for his development

Former Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta has praised the club’s teenage star Pedro Gonzalez Lopez, known as Pedri, for his maturity on the pitch and tipped him for a long and prosperous future at the Camp Nou.

The 18-year-old midfielder, who was signed by the Blaugrana from Las Palmas for €5 million in September 2019 but joined them in July last year, is widely regarded as one of the best youth products in Spanish football.

In a short period of time he has established himself as one of Ronald Koeman’s most important players, making 37 appearances for the Catalan giants in all competitions this season scoring three goals and making four assists.

“It is clear to everyone that Pedri has the potential,” Iniesta said in quotes shared by La Liga with ET Sport.

“I think he is in the right place for his development and where he can continue to grow.

“The key for him is to stay calm and that people give him the space he needs. He is young and has his whole career ahead of him. I am sure that he will do things well. As a kid he is doing things the right way, and he knows what he has to do.

“When he steps out onto the pitch and looks so comfortable with the ball, he does not look like 18 years old. That’s so important and I hope he continues to grow. I am sure he has great future ahead at Barcelona.”

There is no one better than Iniesta who understands what it takes to be a successful midfielder at Barcelona. Iniesta made 674 appearances for the Blaugrana over in a dazzling career spanning 16 successful years which produced nine La Liga titles and four Champions League trophies.

Surely, it’s a compliment for Pedri’s talent that his playing style has drawn comparisons to that of Iniesta.

“I always loved Iniesta and his way of playing football, because of how he was both on and off the field. He has been my reference and I have tried to model myself on him,” Pedri told Associated Press in an interview earlier this month.

“The truth is that something must have stuck. I think I have seen all his videos on YouTube. I never missed a game of his.”

Pedri, however, faces a spell on the sidelines after pulling the soleus muscle in his left calf during Saturday’s 2-0 La Liga win over Sevilla, the Spanish club said on Sunday.

Barca did not specify how long Pedri would be out for but he will miss Wednesday’s Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Sevilla, who won 2-0 in the opening leg earlier this month.

Germany unveils logo for soccer’s Euro 2024 tournament

Germany has unveiled the logo for soccer’s 2024 European Championship during a ceremony with a light show in the stadium that will hold the final.

Some guests and media were invited to Berlin’s Olympiastadion for the UEFA launch, though no fans were present on a damp evening in the German capita on Tuesdayl.

The logo features an outline of the Henri Delaunay Cup — the bulbous tournament trophy — set on a colored oval outline that resembles the Olympiastadion’s roof. It features colors from the flags of UEFA’s 55 member nations, set in 24 slices around the trophy to represent the 24 teams that will ultimately qualify for the tournament in Germany.

Organisers said the brand will promote a tournament where persity is celebrated, and everyone should feel welcome. The tournament’s slogan “United by Football. Vereint im Herzen Europas” — or “United at the Heart of Europe” — is meant to convey a message of togetherness and inclusion.

Logos for each of the 10 host cities — Berlin, Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich and Stuttgart — were also presented with each featuring a famous local landmark. Berlin’s, for example, features the Brandenburg Gate.

“From now on, the tournament has a brand identity which reflects the ambition we have together with the host association and host cities,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said.

The tournament is due to be played in June and July 2024 with the match schedule to be confirmed next year.

Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, with the final held in the refurbished Olympiasstadion. The stadium was originally built for the 1936 Olympic Games hosted by Nazi Germany.

West Germany also hosted the World Cup in 1974 and the European Championship in 1988.