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Meghalaya’s triumph in the Sub-Junior national championship will remain under a shadow of doubt…

Meghalaya fielded a new to the job starting eleven against Odisha in the final of the 35th Sub-Junior National Championship final of the Coca Cola Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy at the Father Agnel Sports Complex on Tuesday.

Seven players from the north east state who started against Karnataka in the semi-finals where they beat them 6-0 en-route to the final were benched for the high profile clash which was attended by chief guests Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Chhetri. Meghalaya won the final 1-0.

The seven players in question, namely Frolicson Dkhar (captain), Kostarlan Lyngdoh, Reson Malngiang, Obadaia Bareh, Khlainbor Knongsit, Marehstarfield Marbaniang and Donald Thangkhiew, were in for a shock when India’s Technical Director Robert Baan and Director of Academies Scott O’Donnell instructed the Meghalaya management not to field the above mentioned players.

The shambolic Dobarwadi grounds in Pune hosted the tournament

The Sub junior national championships are held in order to help identify talent by offering them a chance to be a part of the India U-16 side as well as be recruited for the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) regional academies.

It is reliably learnt that Sajid Dar, the head coach of the AIFF Academy at Navi Mumbai, brought the overage players to the notice of O’Donnell who thereafter took the decision not to allow Meghalaya to field the said players in the final.

Last year in an U-14 festival at Kalyani, O’Donnell shortlisted 104 players of which 91 were found to be overage following an MRI conducted by Dr.Manabendra Bhattacharya, who has attended several courses by FIFA and AFC and hence knows the protocol.

“We did not include the seven players to avoid any problem. Why take risks when we were confident of winning without them,” informed Meghalaya manager Kiran Lal Joshi.

Meghalaya had played their earlier rounds of games at Dobarwadi ground in Pune where they drew goalless with Jharkhand, beat Uttar Pradesh 10-0 and Kerala 1-0 to win their group comfortably.

“We consider all 20 boys on our team to be equal and they kept our faith. I don’t know the reason for asking us to omit seven players when doctors there had examined all our players’ teeth and finger bones. If players were cleared in Pune and since we had submitted municipal certificates, why raise the overage issue here?” he protested against the decision of O’Donnell.

Forty under-15 youngsters have been shortlisted based on the performances in the said competition. The outstanding players from among these will be drafted into the AIFF Academy subject to an MRI scan. Fielding overage players continues to be a major problem in tournaments held across the country where winning at all costs precedes the development of young players, as seen in the case of Meghalaya here.

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