THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

EXCLUSIVE | The last international match in Kerala

2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifier - India 1-5 Oman [2004]

2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifier - India 1-5 Oman [2004]

The Indian national team will take on visiting Palestine in an international friendly match at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on February 6. It the first match of Team India in “God’s own Country” after a long gap of almost nine years. Do you remember the last match in Kerala? No? Well, let me take you down the memory lane…

It’s the year 2004 and the Indian national team coached by Englishman Stephen Constantine is sweating it out in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group 3 along Asian powerhouse Japan, aspiring Oman and an on par Singapore side. India started on a winning note with a narrow 1-0 win against Singapore at Margao’s Nehru Stadium in February courtesy to a penalty kick by Renedy Singh.

The win put India at the top of the table along with top favourites Japan, who also won their first match by a solitary goal. The confidence was high in the Indian camp and the second match was a crucial one against a tough West Asian team from Oman.

The All India Football Federation decided to host the match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi and hopes were high to pull a surprise in front of a fanatic crowd. Stephen Constantine called-up some of the finest names in Indian football in those days and the team led by superstar Baichung Bhutia, experienced Jo Paul Ancheri, Debjit Ghosh, Alvito D’Cunha and of course “India’s very own David Beckham” Renedy Singh.

Stephen Constantine studied the Omanis very well and he even called on my services to get some video footage of the Arabs. I provided Stephen footage of Oman’s matches at the 16th Gulf Cup of Nations 2003 for the video analysis ahead of our match in Kochi. Oman finished 4th in the round-robin tournament held in Kuwait in December 2003 and January 2004 and everyone was aware of their qualities. But it seemed like Team India was well prepared and ready for the challenge.

Malaysian referee Danny Ong Kim Heng was in charge of the game when India faced the West Asians in front of an impressive crowd of 57,000 at Kochi on March 31, 2004. India’s tactic to keep the Omanis away from the danger area didn’t last as long as expected. Imad Ali Suleiman put the visitors in front just eleven minutes into the game and one could feel that this match would be more than the expected tough test for our boys.

The Indian team was quick to react and they equalised through midfielder Renedy Singh just two minutes later and the fans were optimistic about the progress of the game. But Mohammed Mubarak gave Oman once again the lead in the 26th minute and Stephen Constantine had no other option to make an early change in the line-up to strengthen the Indian midfield. Alvito D’Cunha left the pitch and Shanmugam Venkatesh came on as a substitute.

But the Indian team couldn’t handle the pressure put on them by the Omanis and conceded once again minutes into the second half. Mohammed Mubarak made it 3-1 for Oman, while Badr Mubarak Al Maiman scored a brace to put the final nail in the Indian coffin.

So the FIFA World Cup qualifier ended with a heavy 1-5 defeat for the Indian team after a really poor match by Baichung and company. Stephen Constantine was not a happy man after the final whistle and he expressed his disappointment during the post-match press conference.

“I am gutted! They had four chances and scored five goals,” Stephen told. “It was as if my players were playing together for the first time.”

“Getting beaten is one thing, but capitulating is just not acceptable. In my two years here, I can say that they have never played as badly as that.”

“The Oman players were tough and stronger than us physically but there were times when we got the ball on the ground and passed it around when I thought we could give them a real test.”

“My players froze, it’s as simple as that. But they realise they have to take responsibility and understand that they have only themselves to blame. This was a game, in front of our fans, that we could have got something from and they blew it,” the Englishman signed off.

India went on in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers to lose against Japan (0-7 at Saitama & 0-4 at Kolkata) and Singapore (0-2 at Singapore), while managing a draw against Oman (0-0) at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat.

The India v Oman was the last match in Kerala and the Indian national team played their matches to Delhi, Kolkata, Goa, Pune and other parts of the country in the years to come. Football fans in Kerala have been panting for eight years, ten months and five days to see the Indian national team once again in action in the South Indian state.

February 6 will be finally the day for Keralite football fans to cheer for the new stars of the Indian national team like Sunil Chhetri, Gouramangi Moirangthem Singh and Subrata Pal under the guidance of Dutch coach Wim Koevermans. Let’s hope that India will be able to pull off a win against Palestine who are ranked 152nd in the latest FIFA World Ranking – 14 spots above India.

I would like make a humble request to all football fans in Kerala:
Please secure your tickets for the India v Palestine match and support our boys!

Please LIKE www.facebook.com/cpd81 to get all the latest and exclusive updates on the INDIA v PALESTINE match!

DOWN THE MEMORY LANE – THE STATS

2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifier | Group 3
at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi

INDIA 1-5 OMAN

GOALS
0-1 Imad Ali Suleiman (11′)
1-1 Potsangbam Renedy Singh (13′)
1-2 Mohammed Mubarak (26′)
1-3 Mohammed Mubarak (49′)
1-4 Badr Mubarak Al Maiman (59′)
1-5 Badr Mubarak Al Maiman (88′)

LINE-UPS

India
1-Sangram Mukherjee; 2-Muttath Suresh, 4-Debjit Ghosh, 17-Deepak Kumar Mondal (74′ 3-Satish Kumar Bharti), 14-Mahesh Gawli; 8-Potsangbam Renedy Singh, 7-James Singh (53′ 18-Jatin Singh Bisht), 10-Alvito D’Cunha (34′ 6-Shanmugam Venkatesh), 5-Climax Lawrence; 15-Baichung Bhutia [C], 9-Abhishek Yadav

Unused Subs
21-Prasanta Dora; 5-Climax Lawrence, 11-Jo Paul Ancheri, 12-Ashim Biswas, ?-James Lukram Singh, ?-Krishnan Nair Ajayan

Oman
Ahmed Al Khatri, Said Al-Shoon (77′ Khalifa Ayil), Nabeel Ashoor, R Al-Noobi, H Youssouf, Aiyman Suroor, Fouzi Basheer, 12-Mohammed Mubarak, Ahmed Hadid, Hashim Saleh, 10-Imad Ali Suleiman (39′ 16-Badr Mubarak Al Maiman)

Unused Subs

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee
Danny Ong Kim Heng (Malaysia)

Assistant Referees
Saadon Mohamad (Malaysia), Azman Sulong (Malaysia)

Fourth Official
Ravichandran Chappanimutu (Malaysia)

BOOKINGS

Yellow Cards
13′ Potsangbam Renedy Singh (India)

Yellow-Red Cards
none

Red Cards
none

Please LIKE www.facebook.com/cpd81 to get all the latest and exclusive updates on the INDIA v PALESTINE match!