Two years back at the 2019 edition of the SNBP All-India Under-16 Boys Hockey Tournament, SAIL Hockey Academy, Odisha embraced disappointment after losing to eventual champions Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy (MPHA) 2-4 in the semifinals, and subsequently huffed and puffed their way to claim the third spot after sneaking past Jai Bharat Hockey Bhiwani Haryana 4-2 in a shootout after both teams were locked 2-2 in regulation time.
The Odisha academy lads put the 2019 disappointment firmly behind them and played like a well-oiled machine winning the 5th SNBP All-India Under-16 Boys Hockey Tournament humbling equally formidable side Haryana Hockey Academy, Sonepat 2-0 in the final at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune. SAIL Hockey Academy, Odisha rode on strikes from Ritik Kujur in the second quarter and Mukesh Tete in the final quarter to crown themselves in glory.
SAIL team’s march to the summit clash has been nothing short of impressive – they pumped in as many as 24 goals in the lead up to the final. They overwhelmed Regional Developmental Centre, Jharkhand 6-1 in the semifinals – this was after they had inflicted an 8-1 shellacking to RK Roy Academy, Patna. The Odisha outfit hardly had to break their sweat in the league stage, brushing aside Bhilwada Hockey Academy, Rajasthan 3-0 and Smart Hockey Academy, Raipur 7-0 respectively.
“My boys performed consistently throughout the tournament. The final tie against Haryana Hockey Academy, Sonepat was hard-fought and we seized the initiative in the first half and subsequently scored a late goal. The Sonepat side did not make it easy and we had to be at our best to corner glory,” gushes Iswardat Kiro, SAIL Hockey Academy, Odisha coach.
SAIL Hockey Academy has more or less the same boys that were part of the team that finished 3rd in the 2019 edition. And the absence of three-time champions MHPA threw up the possibility of a new champion emerging. “SAIL is a strong team and their absence does not dilute the importance of winning this title. We came here determined to win the championship and I’m delighted with the effort of the boys,” he says.
The SAIL Hockey Academy coach was all praise for fullback Ekka Anmol Junior, who was in prolific form in the tourney. “Anmol was outstanding for us. He finished as the tournament top goal-scorer with 11 goals, including two hat-tricks.”
Kiro was all praise for the organisers of the SNBP All-India Under-16 Boys Hockey Tournament. “The organisers deserve a big pat on their backs. It was a very well-organised tournament from where many exciting young talents will continue to emerge,” he signs off.