From a distance, the Santosh Trophy is bound to mesmerise you. It’s colossal! Hypnotised, you step near to have a better look. The pure silver, its glitter and carvings prompt you to take out your camera. You stand close and admire. Once it sinks in, you remember the names who have lifted it over the years. Goose bumps appear.
The late Sailen Manna lifted it, Sahu Mewalal, PK Banerjee, Tulasidas Balaram won it too; as did Syed Nayeemuddin, Yusuf Khan, Inder Singh, Sudhir Karmakar, Subhash Bhowmick, Parminder Singh, the late Sudip Chatterjee, the late Krishanu Dey, VP Sathyan, Basudeb Mondal, IM Vijayan, Bhaichung Bhutia amongst others. It weighs over 12 kgs.
You search around and spot a passerby, hand him the camera to you and pose for the family album – a collector’s item no doubt which you would cherish over the years.
At the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, Services captain Gordon Zoramchhana lifted it for the first time – Services for the second time (the earlier one being in 1960-61) as they beat Tamil Nadu 3-2 to lift the 66th Santosh Trophy.
Services midfielder Sanju Subba scored the first goal – his right footer curling away from Tamil Nadu goalkeeper Akhil Soman to bulge the net. Subrata Sarkar doubled the lead in the 49th minute while VV Farhad tapped it past an onrushing Akhil for Services’ third goal in the 67th minute. Santa Kumar and M Ramesh reduced the margin for Tamil Nadu in the 82nd and the 89th minute respectively.
The 90 minutes storm and the torrential downpour prior to the kick-off made the Barabati Stadium, perhaps the most pleasant place to be under the lights.
By the time it started to drizzle midway into the first half, Services had already seized the initiative. On slippery underfoot conditions, they kept possession of the ball but not being allowed the width to penetrate into the box, they stayed content in taking snap shots from outside the box.
First, Captain Gordon Zoramchhana’s shot dipped at the last moment to bounce off the crosspiece and then in the 17th minute, ZV Horin’s shot found Tamil Nadu central defender Suman Raj on the way.
As they are wont to do, Tamil Nadu relied on counter-attacks and their first worth-mentioning move didn’t come till the 22nd minute – Jayakumar’s angular shot just going wide. Their best chance of the first half came in the 44th minute when Charles Anand Raj outjumped rival central defender Rary Raj to head Nirmal Kumar’s cross but Services goalkeeper AK Balwant thwarted it in his second attempt.
But Services pressed hard and were eventually rewarded on the counter attack. Sanju Subba’s powerful right-footer from just outside the box curled away from Akhil to bulge the net in the 45th minute as Services went into the interval enjoying a one-goal cushion.
Immediately after resumption, Services doubled their lead. With the drizzle still on, Horin’s grounder came out of a diving Akhil’s palms and Subrata Sarkar tapped it in.
Two goals within 5 minutes of play (of either half) upset Tamil Nadu’s calculations. Frustrated, they tried to come out of their shell and it further helped Services. The raid of attacks earned them their 3rd goal – VV Farhad placing it in past an onrushing Akhil.
However, Tamil Nadu’s young lads didn’t give up. In the 82nd minute, substitute Santa Kumar managed to reduce the margin and then M Ramesh pulled another back in the 89th minute. But it came a bit too late.
Out of the 7 entries into the final, this was Services 2nd triumph in the Santosh Trophy. For Tamil Nadu, who were runners-up in 1972-73, the wait continues.
(AIFF Press Release / Written by Nilanjan Datta)