Aizawl FC create history, become first club from north-east to win I-League
Aizawl FC, a small team from Mizoram, created history on Sunday by becoming the first club from north-east to win the I-League as they beat Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan to the title race by drawing 1-1 with Shillong Lajong. Lajong had taken the early lead when centre-forward Asier Pierrick Dipanda slammed home a header in the ninth minute at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong. That complicated (उलझा हुआ) things for the visitors as they needed at least a draw to win the title. But Aizawl recovered from the setback to dominate(हावी) the game thereafter.
Despite some stout defending(प्रतिवाद करना) by the hosts, William Lalnunfela finally made sure that Aizawl won the title when he found the equaliser in the 67th minute.
Having beaten Mohun Bagan 1-0 last week, Aizawl FC were three points ahead of Bagan on the points table and needed a draw or a win to lift the title.
Mohun Bagan, on the other hand needed to win, which they did by beating Chennai City FC 2-1, but they were dependent on Shillong Lajong's victory for their fate(किस्मत).
Aizawl ended the league on 37 points while Mohun Bagan finished second on 36. They have won the I-League title in their second season, becoming the first club from the Northeast to bag the title.
Aizawl FC and coach Khalid Jamil, with their shoe-string budget and mostly local players, have indeed created Indian football's fairytale like Leicester City did in the Premier League last year.
Jamil said he was happy that the Team has been able to finish the job.
"At half time, I just told the boys that you won't get another such 45 minutes in your life. We knew we were 45 minutes away from being the Champion. We had to be extra special in the second half," he said at the post-match press conference.
"It's not just about me or any individual," he stressed mentioning that it has all been about "teamwork."
"It is about the boys. They played continuously and played well. They deserve the credit.
"This is my biggest victory ever," Jamil pronounced. "I always wanted to win the Hero I-League. Every time at the start of the season, I used to tell myself that this year I should win it. I had to wait. And today we have won," he added.
Meanwhile, Shillong Lajong coach Thangboi Singto congratulated Aizawl FC on the victory. "They were consistent all throughout. They are the deserving champions," Singto said.
Aizawl would not have at all played in the I-League this season as they finished eighth last year but after a few Goan sides pulled out of the country's top-flight league, they got a lifeline to stay afloat.
Their feat is comparable to Leicester City who won the title in 2015-16 season after they were on the verge of relegation the previous year.
A club whose budget is just around Rs 2 crore (Mohun Bagan spend the same amount in buying Sony Norde), it's an achievement of enormous proportion.
The match, the Northeast derby, was though not without controversy as Aizawl played under protest after finding out that the title-deciding game would be conducted by officials from Bengal.
Aizawl protested because Mohun Bagan were also in title contention and playing a simultaneous match. The Northeastern club said that they have earlier requested the AIFF to appoint neutral match officials from other states.