Twelve Nehru Cup winners, who represent various city-based I-League clubs, were awarded Rs 50,000 each during a felicitation ceremony by the state government in Kolkata on Sunday.
The 12 players included six from East Bengal, three from Mohun Bagan, two from United SC and one from Pailan Arrows.
Versatile Syed Rahim Nabi, who played a stellar role in India’s hat-trick of Nehru Cup wins recently, on Sunday said the honour would give a huge boost to the budding footballers.
“It will really serve as a huge motivation for the young footballers. We all are proud to win the title for India and now it makes it doubly special that our efforts are recognised,” Nabi said at the felicitation.
The senior pro also urged for more exposure trips for Indian football team to better the FIFA rankings as the national team is placed at 169th position.
“We have to play more on FIFA dates. We are a side on the rise and that has to reflect at the world stage. Surely, we are much better than the FIFA rankings,” the India right-back said.
“It’s on the right track and heading in the right direction. We need to invest judiciously and promote the game. AIFF is doing a great job for sure.”
With the Federation Cup approaching, he is now eyeing to do well for his club in the tournament in Siliguri.
“The focus is now on Federation Cup. We all are friends but when playing for clubs, we vie against each other. That’s just for 90 minutes,” the Mohun Bagan player said with rival club East Bengal’s Mehtab Hossain on his side.
The India playmaker, Hussain, hailed the state government for the intiative and said, “Never before were we given such an appreciation. It indeed feels great.”
India lifted the Nehru Cup for the third consecutive time, beating Cameroon 5-4 in a penalty shootout at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi earlier this month.
Meanwhile, state sports minister Madan Mitra announced that they would select 50 youngsters from a pool of 500 for a residential academy at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan in October.
“It will be a full-fledged academy under Gautam Sarkar. I’m sure it would help scout upcoming talents,” Mitra said.
Stars of yesteryears P.K. Banerjee, Chuni Goswami and Samar Badru Banerjee among others were present at the felicitation.
The players: Mehtab Hossain, Sanju Pradhan, Robin Singh, Gurwinder Singh, Raju Gaikwad and Manandeep Singh (all EB); Syed Rahim Nabi, Nirmal Chhetri and Sheikh Jewel Raja (all Mohun Bagan); Subrata Pal and Gourmangi Singh (both United SC); and Alwyn George (Pailan Arrows).