The 2015-16 season has been a great time for football at the Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA). The boys have been performing well, ever since the ASA joined hands with Fateh Hyderabad Associated Football Club (FHAFC) to support them in their I-League debut.
It all started when Fateh Hyderabad signed ASA’s senior-most player, S. Bhaskar Reddy to play for their I-League Division 2 team. This was followed by the signing of all the senior U18 ASA boys and U15 ASA boys to play in the IU18 I-League and U15 Youth Leagues for Fateh Hyderabad, respectively.
The on-going zonal phase of the U15 I-League youth competition saw ASA’s youngest lads put on an impressive display of football. Played at the Inventure Academy in Bangalore, the I-League competition for U15 youth brought out the best in the youngest ASA boys. A distinction that the boys achieved, despite being from a rural setting, is that the entire Fateh Hyderabad squad was represented by ASA.
These boys had odds pitted against them after they were drawn in the Rest of India 2, Group F with well established clubs such as Bengaluru Football Club (BFC), Ozone Group Football Academy (OZFA), Boca Juniors Football School (BOCA), Kovalam Football Club (KVFC), and Mahogany Football Club (MHFC). The only previous exposure that the boys got was an exchange camp training with Mahogany FC and Ozone Group Football Academy. This camp was an effort of the ASA Head Coach, Miquel Llado, to give the boys an opportunity to prepare for this league. Apart from this, a few of the boys had also been selected to play for Fateh Hyderabad during the U18 I-League in December in Ludhiana.
The competition was a new experience for the boys since most of them had barely played a major competition prior to this. However, the team moved forward from that, leaving no stone unturned to learn from their experiences as quickly and as effectively as possible.
The U15 ASA boys left for Bangalore on January 16, 2016 as they were scheduled to play the opening game of the league on the 18th against Kovalam FC. They began with a 2- 1 win over KVFC, bringing some much needed delight to the camp. Next up, Fateh Hyderabad were to face off against Mahogany FC, whom they had faced earlier during the exchange camp at ASV, and the game went down to the wire with the teams settling for a 2-2 draw.
Fateh Hyderabad later took on the top guns of the group, Ozone Football Academy, in their third game. After an intense game with as many as six yellow card bookings, the scoreline ended in a creditable 1-1 draw. Next up for the boys were I-League giants, Bengaluru FC, who were expected to play a strong match. The game was a tightly fought contest as Bengaluru began the scoring and later conceded an own goal as chances fell at both ends of the pitch.
Fateh Hyderabad’s last league game was their highest scoring game, which saw them crush Boca 5-1. By this time, the competition had opened up, unexpectedly, after Kovalam FC pulled off a 2-1 win over Ozone Football Academy. This meant that qualifying went down to the last two games, where even a draw from any of the last two fixtures could upset the whole table and put Fateh Hyderabad through to qualify for the next round.
That however was not the case, as Bengaluru overcame Kovalam FC with a 2-1 victory. The last league game between Ozone Football Academy and Mahogany FC began as quite a contest with Mahogany coming from behind to lead the game for the first half hour. Ozone then began to dominate to take the score to 7-2 till the 75th minute, when Mahogany scored to make it 7-3. Five minutes later Ozone scored another one and left the scorecard at 8-3, to finish on top of the table, with Bengaluru finishing second to qualify for the next round. The ASA boys, unfortunately, missed their opportunity to play in the Final Round as they finished fourth.
Speaking to ASA’s Head Coach, Miquel Llado, we were told:
“The boys have learnt a lot from this I-League experience and hopefully next year they bring on a different vigour to the competition. The boys may have missed their opportunity to qualify for the main draws, but the good part, that I would want to boast of, is that the boys came back as the only team in their zone that was unbeaten”.
Contributed by Maxon Sequiera