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NST Online: Sports

An eye-opening City experience for five

Posted: 25 Feb 2011 10:33 AM PST

 (From left) N. Dinesh, V. Vimal Kumar, M. Sri Sagis Kumar, M. Parameswaran and M. Nithyanan  with their certificates  at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur  yesterday. — Picture by Fariz Iswadi Ismail

(From left) N. Dinesh, V. Vimal Kumar, M. Sri Sagis Kumar, M. Parameswaran and M. Nithyanan with their certificates at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. — Picture by Fariz Iswadi Ismail

FIVE schoolboys who had a treat of a lifetime when they underwent a month-long training stint with Manchester City last December, have returned with a resolve to become full-fledged footballers.

The trip was a reward for winning the Road To England footskills tournament involving 523 primary Tamil schools from Peninsular Malaysia organised by the Ken Barnes Football Club (KBFC) last year.

S. Kanes, coach of the winning team, SJK (T) Methodist Kapar, Perak, said the training stint was an eye-opener and educational experience for his players -- V. Vimal Kumar, M. Parameswaran, M. Sri Sagis Kumar, N. Dinesh and M. Nithyanan.

"They saw snow for the first time there, which was also a highlight for them, but more importantly they picked up some pointers to improve their skills.

"They joined Manchester City's Under-12 players to train but even at that age, the English boys were bigger and stronger for our players.

"While they adapted well to the cold conditions, they lacked fitness which is understandable since the City players train all-year round and started from an early age," said Kanes after a certificate presentation ceremony for the players in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

While in England, the players also visited Old Trafford and Anfield -- the home venues of Manchester United and Liverpool.

They also watched City's 1-0 Premier League win over Bolton and the 3-0 Europe League victory against Salzburg.

"It was fun, especially playing with the snow. We also learnt some skills," said Sri Sagis, who along with his teammates, expressed a desire to play for Malaysia someday.

P. Subramaniam, the KBFC chief operating officer, said the players' talent will not be going to waste

"We have identified these players as the ones to watch and we are planning to send them to our academy (Ken Barnes Soccer Skills Academy) in Perlis where they will be housed in boarding schools while undergoing training daily," he said.

The tournament, sponsored by Oms Foundation to the tune of RM300,000, will be an annual affair following the success of last year's inaugural edition which culminated with the Grand Finals in Kota Raja, Klang.

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Westwood, Mickelson ousted

Posted: 25 Feb 2011 07:54 AM PST

MARANA (Arizona): World No 1 Lee Westwood of England and US fourth seed Phil Mickelson were among Thursday's surprise losers in the second round at the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship.

Westwood and Mickelson weren't the only big guns spiked as two-time runner-up Paul Casey of England, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and South African Ernie Els also were ousted on a day of drama at Dove Mountain course.

Following the first round elimination of third seed Tiger Woods, it left the US$8.5 million (RM26 million) event somewhat lacking in star power with 16 players still standing.

Only three of the top 10 overall seeds are still standing, all of them Europeans -- No 2 Martin Kaymer, No 5 Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and No 9 Luke Donald of England.

And Germany's Kaymer barely survived, outlasting Englishman Justin Rose 1-up at the second extra hole.

Perhaps the most intriguing winner was Italian Matteo Manassero, at 17 the youngest player in the field. He fended off South African Charl Schwartzel 1-up.

Westwood did not play badly, but nonetheless continued his poor record in this event, having never advanced past the second round in 11 attempts, edged 1-up by American Nick Watney.

"Nick shot five-under and I shot four-under, so that's pretty good golf," said Westwood, who wasn't entirely correct regarding their respective scores, but close enough.

"I think we were pretty even tee to green. Nick just holed a few more putts than me. I didn't putt particularly well, certainly not well enough but that's the way match play goes."

Watney, the 32nd seed, was relieved to win.

"I played very well, especially at the start," he said. "I got a couple up but he's not the world's No 1 player for nothing and I knew he would come back.

"I know Lee's record and I knew he was going to be tough. It's very satisfying."

Mickelson, meanwhile, was no match for fellow American Rickie Fowler, an emphatic 6 and 5 winner.

"He hit a lot of great shots," said a philosophical Mickelson. "Certainly I got outplayed. That's obvious."

Perhaps the biggest upset was McIlroy's defeat, not so much because the No 7 seed lost as the way he was unceremoniously humbled by American Ben Crane, 8 and 7.

Els lost to J.B. Holmes when his putt at the last horseshoed out while Dane Thomas Bjorn also bowed out a day after eliminating Woods.

The lower seed won eight of 16 matches. Eight Americans advanced to the final 16, along with five Europeans, two Australians and one Korean.

Add Manassero to the list of rising young stars who could be a title threat at the weekend.

"It's a big sense of achievement for me," said Manassero, whose lack of length off the tee has not hindered him so far.

'I'm really confident because I'm driving the ball well, hitting the irons well. If I make a few more putts, it's going to be absolutely perfect. I'm really confident on my game, which is very important." -- AFP

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