Goa’s Kalina Rangers defeated Pune’s Sunny Boys in a hotly-contested final to be crowned India champions of Red Bull Neymar Jr’s Five tournament, and will now represent India at the World Finals in Qatar later this year.
Goa: Mumbai-based Kalina Rangers defeated Pune’s Sunny Boys in a hotly-contested final to be crowned India champions of Red Bull Neymar Jr’s Five tournament in Carambolim’s Ella Ground last week. The Rangers, who made it to the tournament after acing the Goa leg of the qualifiers, led 2-0 in the eighth minute before Sunny Boys forfeited the match in protest.
The format dictates no clear formations, but teams usually assign an attacking defender near the goalmouth. However, once the opposition player enters the tiny D, the defender cannot stay there. Trouble began around the seventh minute, with Kalina, thanks to a strike from skipper Clinton D’Souza, leading 1-0.
Sunny Boys’ forwards pressed for an equaliser, but were denied by the stout Kalina defence. The former appealed for a penalty, claiming that a Kalina defender pulled off a save from inside the D, in contravention with the tournament rule. The referees and the technical officials, however, thought otherwise. In the ensuing mayhem, Kalina scored again, and Sunny Boys left the field in a huff with two minutes still on the clock.
“We are obviously very happy. The referees made their decision and we think it was the right call. It is a big moment for all of us,” said Clinton.
The five-a-side format in this event comprises of ten-minute matches with no halftime. Teams can have squads of up to seven players, allowing for a maximum of two substitutions. The goal box is roughly a 1.5m X 1 m rectangle, and there are no goalkeepers. For each goal scored by a team, a member of the opposition has to exit the field. The team with maximum players on the pitch – which means more goals – wins. In case of a stalemate, the tie is decided by a one-on-one scenario where a player each from the two teams go against each other, and the one who scores first is declared the winner.
The result means Kalina are the national champions of the fifth edition of Red Bull Neymar Jr’s Five tournament and will travel to Qatar later this year to play the World Finals. About 60 countries are expected to participate there, with teams having to qualify from the group stage.
“It is a big motivation for sure,” chuckled Clinton, on the possibility of meeting Neymar.
Into its fifth year now, Red Bull Neymar Jr’s Five tournament is open for players aged 16-35 in men’s and mixed team categories. The national open qualifiers were held across 18 cities, drawing participation from over 2700 teams.
The India leg of the event could not happen last year due to COVID-enforced lockdown, but Kalina Rangers made their presence felt in 2019 too. Then, representing Mumbai, the team won the national finals and travelled to Brazil where they pulled off a win against eventual champions Hungary.
“The backgrounds some of us players come from, we could never dream of playing at this stage in our lives. And here we are, going to represent India on a world platform. We are absolutely pumped and determined to give our best. Neymar is an absolute legend and we are looking forward to meeting him,” said Clinton.
Kalina Rangers (Goa) 1-0 Black & White FC (Kochi)
Sunny Boys (Pune) 1-0 Zak FC (Delhi)
Kalina Rangers (Goa) 2-0 Sunny Boys (Pune)
The writer was in Goa on an invitation from Red Bull