Aizwal Keep Date With Destiny Despite Sabotage Attempts

Aizwal Football Club, Mizoram, has kept its date with destiny and has become the first club from the north east to claim the I-League soccer title. This despite some `sabotage’ attempts.

Aizwal Keep Date With Destiny Despite Sabotage Attempts
The Aizawl players celebrate their I-League title

Aizwal Football Club, Mizoram, kept its date with destiny by becoming the first club from the north east to claim the I-League soccer title.

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Aizwal thus joined the now defunct JCT Mills (Phagwara, North), Mohun Bagan and East Bengal (Kolkata, East), now-defunct Mahindra (Mumbai, West),  Salgaocar, Dempo, Churchill Brothers (all Goa, West) and Bengaluru FC (Bangalore, South) as the winners of the top league.

Aizwal Keep Date With Destiny Despite Sabotage AttemptsThis gives them the ticket to figure in the Asian circuit next season and the soccer-mad people of the north east will have the opportunity to witnessing foreign sides come and play at Aizwal.

In a manner of speaking, the champions’ circle connecting different regions of the country is complete. The only glaring fact is that the centre is hollow, much like the policies of the All India Football Federation.

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For, they are building an edifice without a strong foundation and it is bound to collapse after a period of time.

Aizwal Keep Date With Destiny Despite Sabotage AttemptsCentral Indian states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, to an extent Ordisha, have had wonderful players emerging from time to time. They have also hosted many big soccer events. But like the north east, big clubs are yet to take root. Hopefully, Bengaluru FC and Aizwal FC’s feats will inspire them to put up a similar show. But then the AIFF is yet undecided on what will be in store from next season onwards.

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If the appointment of referees for the crucial Aizwal FC vs Shillong Lajong game, in what was essentially the I-League title decider, is any indication, the AIFF is functioning in a very amateurish way and still tries to take decision that could help clubs from Kolkata. Mohun Bagan needed a victory against Chennai FC while Aizwal needed a draw. Both matches were played simultaneously. But in today’s times of instant communication, it is not difficult to provide information to people on the other side. 

Aizwal Keep Date With Destiny Despite Sabotage AttemptsAnd four referees, all from Bengal, walk in to take charge of the Aizwal-Lajong game.

Referee Pranjal Bannerjee, assistant referees Asit Kumar Sarkar, Suman Majumdar and fourth official Tanmoy Dhar  did duty. Even if they were impartial, the needle of suspicion would have pointed at them in case of a disputed decision which might have denied Aizwal the draw or victory; and consequently the title.

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In contrast, Goa Referee T. Nagvenkar and his team of S Dutta, S Panda and P Singh were in charge of the Mohun Bagan vs Chennai tie.

Referees from Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Delhi should have been given the Aizwal game.

But then the AIFF can never refrain from old tricks. Time and again it has happened in the NFL, Santosh Trophy and the Federation Cup where referees have been appointed to serve the interests of someone or the other.

Aizwal Keep Date With Destiny Despite Sabotage AttemptsWhy should the parent body give any scope for a controversy? This only shows that they are not mature enough and still are given to amateur functioning. Money cartels cannot bring in professionalism. It is a question of right and fair thinking.

That Aizwal played under protest perhaps averted a controversy but then the image of the four referees was tarnished before they could even blow the first whistle or wave the first flag.

The AIFF’s Referees Committee too should share the blame. Rather than act like a mere pawn, they should have put their foot down and not cleared this appointment.

Fair play is FIFA’s slogan but certainly not the AIFF’s.  It’s high time they adopt it too.

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S S Shreekumar

Shreekumar S S is a senior sports journalist radio and television commentator as well. Shreekumar has been in print and broadcast journalism since 1984 having worked in the Times of Deccan, Times of India, (Bangalore and Kolkata editions), Indian Express, Deccan Herald and served as sports editor of the Karnataka edition of The New Indian Express in Bengaluru. Shreekumar has covered all major sporting events having specialized in soccer writing and reporting. Shreekumar has been doing commentary for AIR since 1985 and is the only person in the country to have done even the final of every major soccer championship. He has also done assignments for Doordarshan from time to time. Shreekumar has also been doing commentary for the web on the I-Leagie soccer. He has the distinction of having covered every sport.

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