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Elite Football League of India (EFLI): Pre-season Kickoff on February 8th at Hyderabad

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 08 Feb 2014, 17:47 IST
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February will see football return, of the American kind that is.

The Elite Football League of India (EFLI) is back, and ahead of the upcoming second season later this year, enthusiasts of the game will get a chance to see the Indian teams in action in some exhibition matches.

Titled the ‘Pre-season Kickoff’, the six Indian teams – Bangalore Warhawks, Delhi Defenders, Hyderabad Skykings, Kolkata Vipers, Mumbai Gladiators and Pune Marathas – will face off on February 8, 2014, at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad. The list of fixtures is as follows:

Delhi Defenders vs Bangalore Warhawks

Hyderabad Skykings vs Mumbai Gladiators

Kolkata Vipers vs Pune Marathas

The matches will take place one after the other in the order above and is also set to be televised by Ten Sports in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The first season of the EFLI was held in 2012 featuring these six Indian teams plus one team each from Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The inaugural edition was held entirely in Colombo, Sri Lanka over the course of a month with all the teams being stationed there. This year, however, there are plans to resort to a home and away game format with each of the teams playing in their home cities.

The Pune Warriors were the champions in the first season, but there have been plenty of changes and with teams now having new owners, the Pre-Season Kickoff in two weeks’ time should be a good barometer of how much each of the teams has progressed.

The EFLI has also been attempting increased marketing efforts in a bid to popularise the game and spread word of it around the country.

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Last year, with no league being played, a series of exhibition matches were played out between the Banagalore Warhawks and Hyderabad Skykings in which the Hyderabad team emerged the winner on each occasion.

The first season was a new experience for most of the players involved and as such there were a few struggles in coming to grips with the game. But with the experience now behind them, the players and teams are learnt to be keenly awaiting the start of the second season. The Pre-Season Kickoff will officially mark the countdown to the beginning of the new season. On that note, we look ahead to the three matches in store on February 8th:

Delhi Defenders vs Bangalore Warhawks

The Delhi team were the runners-up of the first edition losing to Pune in the final 6-0. They were led by 27-year-old star rugby player Amit ‘Happy’ Lochab who played a variety of positions. Their squad depth was one of the key components of their final run and they were one of the toughest teams to break down.

The Bangalore Warhawks are one of the reputed outfits in the EFLI led by the MVP of the first season, Roshan Lobo. The team also had the best Wide Receiver in Navaneeth ‘Chamber’ Shanta. The Warhawks were beaten by the Defenders in the first season’s semi-finals and Bangalore will be keen on avenging that loss.

Hyderabad Skykings vs Mumbai Gladiators

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The Skykings under dynamic owner Dr. Venkatesh Movva have made waves in the off-season, not only for their promotional activities, but also their reinvigorated level of play. They emerged victorious in each of their exhibition matches against Bangalore and have laid down an early marker to the rest of the teams. They are led by their quarterback, Ronit Banda.

The Mumbai team, as the name suggests, were true gladiators in every sense of the word in the first season. Despite suffering numerous bruises and i njuries and with a rather thin squad, they battled on till the end and missed out on a trip to the semi-finals by the narrowest of margins. Led by their Linesman, Preetesh Balyaya, the Gladiators are always ready for a battle and will give it their all against the form team in the league at the moment.

Kolkata Vipers vs Pune Marathas

The Kolkata Vipers finished dead last in the first season, failing to win even a single match. The Vipers were a mix of players from different geographies last season and hence had trouble adjusting and playing as a group. Now with a revamped squad, the Vipers are looking to put the disappointment of the first season behind them and try and start off on a winning note in this exhibition game against Pune.

The Vipers’ task though, will not be easy as they go up against the champions fromt the first season, the Pune Marathas. They just lost 2 games through the campaign to end with a win percentage of 75%. They scored the second-highest number of points of all the teams and had the meanest defenses. They are once again amongst the favourites for the title in season 2.

Published 29 Jan 2014, 18:36 IST
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