The Phagwara-Mahilpur belt has been the coaching ground of
football. It’s often said the game of football comes to young people of this
belt as naturally as leaves come to a tree!
This belt has produced more than 25 national and international football
players. The number of state-level players who are from this belt could well be
in the hundreds. Some of these stars are still playing, a few have taken to
coaching while others have retired even though they are still actively
associated with the game in one way or the other.
The three celebrity footballers of Punjab to have so far been bestowed with the
prestigious Arjuna Award in football belong to this belt. They include the
living legend Inder Singh, Gurdev Singh and the late Jarnail Singh. The
Best-Footballer-of-the-Decade Award winner, Parminder Singh, is now the JCT
Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi, a senior coach at JCT, says the football attraction in
this belt could be attributed to the pull of the tradition as well as the
ground realities of this belt. “There’s now a well-entrenched tradition of
football here,” he adds.
The footballers of this area who played for India include Inder Singh,
Ashok Kumar, Sukhwinder Singh “Sukhi”, Jagir Singh, Parminder Singh (Sr),
Parminder Singh (Jr), Hardip Saini, Harjinder Singh (Inder Singh’s son), Ram
Pal, Surjit Rurka, Narinder Kumar, GS Parmar, Deepak Kumar, Surjit Singh,
Kashmira Singh, Gurtek Singh, Amrik Singh, Hardip Gill, Manjit Singh, Sunil
Kumar, and Manjit Singh. While most of them belong to Phagwara city, others are
products of JCT Limited, Phagwara. No wonder, Phagwara is known by JCT and JCT
is known by its football team and fabrics.
The region has a venerable history of sports clubs, too. The Leader Club,
Jalandhar, headed by Lala Dwarka Das Sehgal, was the mother of most of the
clubs in the state. Many veteran players of football have been the products of
the Leader Club. Sometime after the death of Lala Dwarka Das Sehgal, one of the
all-time-great promoters of football, the Leader Club closed down in 1976.
Meanwhile, JCT Limited, Phagwara, had constituted its football team in 1971.
Most of the players from the Leader Club joined JCT. The veteran Inder Singh,
too, was from this club.
The contribution of departmental clubs to Punjab football is significant.
However, JCT is perhaps the only private club in Punjab that has done so much
for state football. The JCT football team won the second oldest football
tournament in the world - Durand Cup – twice, in 1992 and 1996. It also
won the Federation Cup twice. It was the first Indian team outside Kolkata to
win the IFA Shield.
JCT Limited has been managing the Punjab Football Association (PFA) for
the last three decades. Its Vice-President-cum-MD, Mr Samir Thapar, is
President of the PFA, while Inder Singh is the Honorary Secretary. Mr JC Sodhi,
Vice-President, PFA, told Jalandar Plus that JCT distributed one thousand
footballs every year to district football associations.
The JCT coach, Parminder Singh and the SAI coach, Jagir Singh, say that the
state has a tremendous potential in football and that the talent needs to be
tapped in the best possible manner.
The city offers something to budding players, too. Besides JCT, the
International Sports Association, headed by Mr KK Sardana, has also been
contributing to football in its own way by organising the Phagwara Cup Football
Tournament both for the club and the college categories annually. The
association has also constructed a stadium at the cost of Rs 6 lakh. Guru
Nanak College, Phagwara; GNNB College, Narur Panshta, and Mahilpur College are
grooming young footballers.
JCT set up a Football Academy five years ago for training budding players. It
funds these players studying in colleges, especially students from Guru Nanak
College, Phagwara. Jagir Singh is the coach at the academy, while Professor
Sital Singh is the manager.
Perhaps, it would not be wrong to say that the JCT is the Mecca for both,
budding football players and experienced players.