After their admirable efforts in the earlier matches, Goa stumble at the last hurdle
The 36th Sub-Junior U-15 Coca-Cola Cup continues to gather steam, with the finals of the West Zone being held at the Holy Trinity School Ground in Benaulim today. The match was a one-sided affair though, as Maharashtra cruised past Goa 3-0 to make a grand entry into the National Finals of the tournament.
The first half ended goalless as both teams struggled to make the most of their chances. But Maharashtra looked like a completely different side after the break. Aman Kirnapure opened the scoring in the 57th minute, and he bagged another within seven minutes of that to put his side well and truly ahead.
Aniket Varekar then added the finishing touches as he scored Maharashtra’s third at the very end of added time to ensure that the result was in no doubt. It was a dominant performance by the Maharashtrians, who never looked threatened by the opposition after the first goal was struck.
Kirnapure was adjudged the Man of the Match for his brace, and he certainly gave the spectators a lot to cheer about. Meanwhile, Maharashtra goalkeeper Paurav Vakharia was given the best goalkeeper of the tournament (West Zone) award, as he kept a clean sheet in the final to add to his tidy work in the earlier matches of the tournament.
Despite their loss, Goa have also advanced to the National Finals, and their performance throughout the zonal stage was commendable. The efforts of Boris De Melo in particular were outstanding, and he deservedly walked away with the Player of the tournament award.
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.