On the surface it’s (August 10, 2015) just another normal day, a Monday in fact, start of a new week.
On the surface, it was also just another normal day (August 2, 2002), a Saturday in fact, end of a week. By the time it ended a new generation had announced their arrival in Indian Football which went on to dominate for the next decade or even more.
On that day we didn’t have any hashtag; today we create one every minute.
Thirteen years later, 13th anniversary of India’s LG Cup triumph is being hashtaged; after all, it was India’s first International Tournament victory post 1971 where India had finished joint winners with South Vietnam in the Pesta Sukan Cup held in Singapore (apart from SAFF Championships and SAFF Games Gold Medal).
“It is difficult to forget the day,” comments Abhishek Yadav, the scorer of the winner as India had defeated Vietnam 3-2 on the day.
“I was still a Student and it was my first International Tournament. It’s difficult to express how I felt. It’s still so fresh in my mind,” he adds.
Apart from Yadav, Baichung Bhutia had scored India’s other two goals. India were preparing for the 2002 Busan Asian Games and defeated the Vietnam Senior squad in the Final.
“Baichung inspired us and everyone played his part,” former India captain Shanmugam Venkatesh, presently India Senior Team’s Team Manager informs, refusing to be speak much about it.
“Football is not about past tense. We need to live in the present,” he laughs. “The triumph was our small contribution for Indian Football. It gave us the self confidence to believe that we could win beyond the SAFF region,” he echoes.
“I still remember that we had a very light workout in the morning where we worked on our finishing and defending for around 20 minutes.”
When AIFF Media called him up, Joe Paul Ancheri, didn’t remember the significance of the day. When mentioned, he smiled.
“The victory was the result of our extensive preparation. We Camped in Jamshedpur. It was Stephen’s (Constantine) first Tournament as a Coach. It was special for us as he beat the hosts in the Final,” he mentions. “The final was a typical away match. Abuses were being hurled but we didn’t lose focus.”
“In the Hotel and Dressing Room it was total madness,” he laughs.
Yadav sums it up perfectly. “It was no less than a Festival for us. In fact, it was more than a Festival. It didn’t come overnight though. We had trained hard and it only emphasises that if one is honest there will be moments in the match which come your way and you need to capitalise on them.”
(Report & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)