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Saturday, April 11, 1998

Little heroes join the big league

Saibal Bose  
CALCUTTA, April 10: The Second Division of the Philips National Football League threw up a new group of heroes. Not much was expected from Calcutta's Tollygunge Agragami, but they ended up at the top of the table. They along with ITI of Bangalore will now replace Mahindras and Churchill Brothers in the elite group which forms the 10-team National League proper.

Tollygunge have never really been in the running for any trophies. At best, they have been pretenders, and poor ones at that with very little to show against their names till this year. The irony lies in the fact that Tollygunge qualified at the expense of better known teams like Mohameddan Sporting, Kerala Police, BSF and Sesa.

Sporting, a traditional powerhouse in the game, continued with their dismal performance falling way below the expectations. Sesa were piped at the post by Tollygunge even after drubbing Sporting 7-3 in their last game.

Tollygunge Agragami was known as the Rama Agragami Samity in the first 10 years of its existence. In1952, the club got its current name. They entered the Calcutta League's First Division, which subsequently became the Super Division, in 1970. They have never been relegated since. Tollygunge came into focus in 1971 when they reached the final of the IFA Shield after beating East Bengal. Stunned by the Tollygunge bag of surprises every now and then, the giants of Calcutta have always been wary of this `small' side.Tollygunge has been one of the main nurseries of football in Calcutta. Budding players have used it as a stepping stone for bigger things.

Striker Gaurab Sengupta is surely one of the most sought after among this lot. He scored six goals in the Second Division, including a match-winning header in the crucial match against ITI. Sengupta was the third highest scorer in the Calcutta League with nine goals. Only Dipendu Biswas and Chima Okerie had more than him. Among others, Partha Sarathi Dey, Arunava Sarkar and Chandan Das played commendable roles in the team's fortunes.

ITI of course, are notnew to the National League. They had been relegated in the preliminary round of the first edition in 1996-97. With their qualification, southern India will have three teams in the third edition of the National League, same as the eastern and the western regions of the country.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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