I-League 2nd Division: NEROCA FC become first Manipuri club to achieve promotion to the I-League

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Remaining unbeaten throughout the final round, the Imphal-based club make their way into Indian domestic club football's top tier next season...

North Eastern Re-Organising Cultural Association Football Club (NEROCA FC) have won the 2016/17 edition of 2nd Division I-League and are on their way to the I-League for the very first time in their history.

The Imphal-based club beat Lonestar Kashmir 1-4 in Srinagar in the penultimate round on Tuesday to achieve an unassailable seven point lead over second placed Southern Samity, who have a game in hand.

It means the Orange Brigade will be playing top-flight football next season for the first time in 52 years of their existence. Also, they would represent the state of Manipur for the very first time at the highest level.

Having secured the title with a game in hand, NEROCA FC become the latest emerging side from the footballing hotbed of Northeastern India. This season's I-League champions Aizawl FC too followed a similar route three seasons ago when they won the 2014/15 edition of the 2nd Division I-League.

Coached by Gift Raikhan, a former Pune FC academy coach, NEROCA FC emerged as leaders from Group B in the preliminary round. In the final round, NEROCA FC are yet to be beaten, racing to 23 points after playing out seven wins and two draws from the nine games.

This season, the club had strenghtened their roster with the inclusions of Japan born Indian midfielder Arata Izumi and former Bengaluru FC man Malemnganba Meitei among others.
 
Incidentally, in the last game of the season NEROCA FC host second-placed Southern Samity at their 30,000 seater home ground, Khuman Lampak Stadium. Having never dropped points at home, the boys from Northeast India would hope to end the season on a winning note as they lift the trophy and put Manipur on the footballing map of India.

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