Ahmedabad: Gujarat drew its opening match against Rajasthan 5-5 in the West Zone qualifiers for the Santosh Trophy that began in Ahmedabad on Monday.
Seven teams are vying for two spots in the 72nd Senior National Football Championship. Gujarat, Rajasthan and Goa have been placed in Group A, while Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Lakshadweep and Daman and Diu form Group B. Gujarat face Goa in its second match on Friday.
Earlier in the day, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani inaugurated the tourney at Arena TransStadia at Maninagar in Ahmedabad, which is hosting Santosh Trophy matches for the first time. Ishwarsinh Patel, Gujarat’s minister of state with independent charge for sports, youth and cultural activities; Gujarat State Football Association (GSFA) president Dhanraj Nathwani; Jagdish Panchal and Suresh Patel, members of the Gujarat legislative assembly (MLAs); Arena TransStadia managing director Udit Sheth and GSFA office bearers were also present at the occasion.
Noting that sports such as football, badminton, tennis and badminton are increasing in popularity in Gujarat, Rupani, quoting Swami Vivekananda, said, “If you want to understand the Gita, first go to the football ground and build your physique. Football (in India) started from Kolkata and now it has spread all over India.”
Gujarat and its youth made a lot of progress in sports under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was chief minister of Gujarat because of the Khele Gujarat and Khel Mahakumbh programmes, Rupani said. “Because of the efforts of the government of Gujarat, the state has jumped in the sports rankings from 25th to 9th and will continue its upward trend in the future as well,” the chief minister said.
Nathwani said national-level tournaments in the state will help in popularizing football in Gujarat. “I am sure such tournaments will create a lot of awareness among people, and budding players will get motivated to perform well,” he said.