Jharkhand progress too, despite the loss
The hunt is on to find the best youngsters to represent India in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, and the 36th Sub-Junior Coca-Cola Cup is the perfect platform for that.
In the East Zone final of the tournament played at Cuttack yesterday, Bengal defeated Jharkhand 2-0 to march into the finals of the tournament in style.
Avijit Mondal delivered a captain's performance, scoring his side's opening goal in the 20th minute, and Arnab Neogi doubled the lead 10 minutes before the break.
Rahem Ali was awarded the man-of-the-match for his performance, while Tarak Hembrem took away the player of the tournament (East Zone) award. And although Sayad Bin Abdul Kadir didn’t have the best match yesterday, conceding two goals, his showings earlier in the tournament earned him the best goal-keeper of the tournament award.
Despite losing the match to Bengal, the youngsters from Jharkhand also made it to the finals of the tournament as the second team from the East Zone. The finals for North, South and West Zones are scheduled to take place in next few days.
About the Coca-Cola Cup
The Coca-Cola Cup has a rich history of unearthing football talent from India. In 2008 Coca-Cola joined hands with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and signed a sponsorship deal of three years for the Coca-Cola Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy (the National Under-16 football championships).
In 2012, the championship was re-named as ‘The Coca-Cola Cup’. The competition has grown tremendously in the last few years, with the number of participating players rising all the time.
The event has helped football in India grow from the grassroots and has raised awareness about the importance of a healthy lifestyle among youngsters.
The Coca-Cola Cup is played at three different levels - the district level, the state level and the national level.
District level: At the district level, inter-school matches are held across 106 cities, and the best players from these matches are given a chance to play at the state level. Camps are held for these select talented players, who then go on to form the respective state teams.
State level: The state teams, selected in part from matches held at district level, compete in the Zonal Finals (North, West, South, East and North-East). The top two states from each zone progress to the National Finals.
National level: The top 10 state teams from the five zones play in a group format. The top two teams from each group then qualify for the semi-finals of the tournament, ultimately leading to the crowning of the National Champion State.
The U-15 Coca-Cola Cup acts as a talent scouting ground, with AIFF officials carefully monitoring the progress of the players at the state and national levels. The hand-picked players are enlisted as probables for the Indian national U-16 team, which is a dream-come-true for any aspiring professional footballer in India.