Imphal: Cup contenders Bengal, Maharashtra and hosts Manipur sailed into the quarter-finals prevailing over their rivals in contrasting styles in the 58th National Football championship for Santosh Trophy today.Bengal trounced Jammu and Kashmir 5-0 to top cluster one. Bengal, 29 times winner, will now face the winner of tomorrowaÂÂs match in Group V between Assam and Bihar at the first round in the quarterfinals on October 25.Meanwhile, Maharashtra beat Meghalaya 3-2 in cluster two. In the other match of the day, hosts Manipur trounced Pondichery 9-0 to finish as champions of cluster four.Though a record 32 teams have participated in this year's premier football tournament, the Santosh Trophy, the Cup is slowly losing its relevance. This year's Santosh Trophy has thrown up many questions, which if answered could see a future for Indian football.For the first time, states were allowed to call back their players representing various clubs but the stars are yet to arrive."Santosh Trophy is losing relevance because reputed players are interested in the national league, more limelight, more monetary gains. In Santosh Trophy there is nothing," said Robin Ghosh, team coordinator, Bengal.And for teams like Uttar Pradesh it was too late to call their players."Fifteen days is too less for training, we were not informed properly," complained V Dastidar, coach, UP.The reason most of the players leave the state is because of lack of patronage by the state governments. Uttar Pradesh has more than 50 players playing outside for which reason their Santosh Trophy team is so sub standard."In UP there is no scope for employment that is why they are going outside," explained S S Ali, team manager, UP.And for those star players who have come to represent their state, it's been a disappointment."What will you play, look at this match, our office team could have taken them, it hampers your performance," said Debjit Ghosh, Captain, Bengal.But for young teams and upcoming players, it's still an opportunity. "Santosh Trophy will give exposure to young players like ours, to me Santosh Trophy is still very important," said Ropfu Meyase, coach, Nagaland.Though for many states it's a routine to send a team to represent the state, unless the tournament is taken seriously and players provided with minimum benefits, the trophy will soon lose all its relevance and that could be a really bad piece of news for struggling Indian football.
Topics : Football