When Devangi Maheswari of Cathedral and John Connon (Fort) walked out on the pitch to play the MSSA U-16 girls football final against Dhirubhai Ambani International School (Bandra) at the Cooperage Stadium on Wednesday, all her focus was on revenge, the sporting way. With Dhirubhai Ambani beating Cathedral in last year’s final, all the 14-year-old Maheswari wanted to do was to beat their rivals. And, she did it in style, scoring the match’s only goal late in the first half to give her team the title, and more importantly the bragging rights.
“Every year, we seem confident till reaching the final and realise we have to play Dhirubhai Ambani School. It’s like a mental block. So today (Wednesday), I decided that I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. I’m ecstatic that I was the one to score. When I scored, I just couldn’t stop running and celebrating,” said an elated Devangi. If scoring the lone goal wasn’t enough, Maheswari revealed after the game that she played the match with a deep gash on her right leg. Yes, same the leg with which she scored. She sustained the injury during the ongoing Maharashtra U-18 selection trials on Wednesday morning.
“Somebody stamped on my toe, the nail broke and I got a cut. But it didn’t matter. Nothing was going to stop me from playing the final,” Maheswari said, admitting it was painful during the final.
With the first half failing to produce a goal, the school from Fort won a free-kick near the edge of the penalty box. The Dhirubhai goalkeeper punched the ball away only for it to land near Maheswari, who put the ball past the left of the goalkeeper. “Those opportunities don’t come often. As soon as I realised that the ball was coming to me, I knew I was going to make it count,” she said.
Stopwatch: Div I: The Cathedral & John Connon (Fort) 1 (D Maheshwari) bt Dhirubhai Ambani Int Sch (BKC) 0; Div II: Mary Immaculate Girls (Borivli) 2 (K Pais 2) bt JB Petit HS (Fort) 0
MSSA can’t take the heat
The organising committee of the Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA) don’t seem to learn from their mistakes. Despite players, coaches and parents complaining against matches being held in the afternoon, the school body scheduled the final of the U-16 girls football tournament at 1pm. The final eventually started an hour late. Parents and fans sat on the stands using umbrellas to protect themselves from the heat. The players, however, did have one cooling break in the second half but that wasn’t enough as the heat became worse.
The Cooperage stadium has an artificial turf, meaning the surface contains artificial grass and rubber granules. The rubber granules heat up when temperature rises, making it very difficult to even walk on the pitch, let alone run. “To have just the final at the Cooperage Ground, that too in the heat, was not ideal. I know the MSSA wants to give the girls a chance to play at this iconic venue, but they should think about the conditions. The heat was unbearable,” said Deepak Narwade, coach of Cathedral and John Connon school.
MSSA president Fr Jude Rodrigues said there was nothing that they could do about it. “We are given slots. We have to conduct our games during that time. I agree it was really hot, and I feel for the girls,” he said.