Aizwal Football Club needs just a draw to clinch their first I-League soccer crown, thus scripting history.
Aizwal Football Club, Mizoram, take on another North East club Shillong Lajong on Sunday, April 30, 2017 in what will be a historic day for the entire soccer-mad region.
Aizwal need just a draw to clinch their and the North East’s first I-League soccer crown.
Aizawl, formed in 1984, gained entry into India’s top-tier league, I-League, after winning 2015 I-League 2nd Division title.
But they finished eighth and were relegated. They entered the final of the Federation Cup and did exceedingly well in the league matches as well. The huge crowd support saw the team make a representation to the All India Football Federation to be retained in the I-League first division.
On Sept 27, 2016, the AIFF allowed Aizwal to continue in league in 2016-17 at a meeting in Panaji, Goa.
Now Aizwal are all set to prove that the AIFF was, after all, justified in taking that decision.
The North East has produced many wonderful soccer players. Collectively, their state teams were a force to be reckoned with. But club soccer was not much to shout about.
In fact, way back in 1989-90 and much before the National Football League programme was mooted in 1996-97, I had written about how the North East should be given an opportunity to figure in the Federation Cup.
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A North East league or tournament could be organized and the winners and runners-up could be included in the draw. The then Assam Football Association secretary, the late Kedar Nath Mour, who later became the AIFF secretary as well, was very receptive to the idea and was drawing the frame work for something like that.
Then came the NFL and teams got to play in the 2nd division league with the chance to earn promotion and figure in the top tier.
Aizwal have gone all the way and the region and country will wait with bated breath for them to be crowned champions on April 30.
In fact, the North East has many firsts in Indian soccer right from 1948. So in many ways, Aizwal will only be adding to the list.
Talirman Aao of Assam was the first captain of the Indian football team in the 1948 Olympic Games in London. That was the first time India was figuring in the Olympics after Independence in 1947.
Babul Burmese and Kedar Nath Mour of Assam, were the first FIFA Referees from North East.
Baichung Bhutia of Sikkim, was the first Indian, let alone the North East, to play in Europe when he turned out for English second division side Bury FC. Baichung was also the first player from the North East to bag the Arjuna Award in 1998.
Shillong Lajong was the first team from the North east to play in the I-league during 2007-08. Of course Royal Wahingdoh of Meghalaya also came later.
In 2002-03 Manipur became the first North East state to claim the Santosh Trophy when they defeated Kerala 2-1 in the final, incidentally, at Imphal. In 2013-14, Mizoram defeated Railways 3-0 to emulate Manipur.
In the AIFF elections in 1998-99, Kedar Nath Mour of Assam became the first to person from the North East to be elected as the General Secretary of the AIFF.
Aizwal is now all set to add another feather to the North East cap no matter what the result. Win or come second, they will be the first North Eastern club to figure so high in the I-League first division.
And considering the talk of revamping the I-League from next season onwards, they could well be the last club to do so as well.
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