'Historic', 'monumental' and 'inspirational' are just some of the words that come to mind as Mizoram’s football prowess was finally realized with Aizawl FC gaining promotion to the top division of the I-League, on Wednesday afternoon.
Their opponents on the fateful day, ironically another of Mizoram’s clubs, Chanmari FC, were swept aside in a 4-2 demolition as the home team, playing at Golaghat, Assam, took their tally to 31 points from 13 matches with a round of games remaining. They were aided in part by second place Kashmir FC’s failure to win against Kenkre Sports, subsequently drawing 1-1. Kashmir’s tally of 27 points from 13 games means they will not catch the leaders.
With this win Aizawl becomes the fourth club from the north-east to play in Indian football’s top division but will be the only club from Mizoram to do so thus far, offsetting the football inflow from Shillong who have three clubs to their credit: Lajong, Royal Wahingdoh and the former I-League team, Rangdajied United.
What’s interesting to note is that Aizawl FC was actually established in 1984, starting off as an amateur club, before having to shut shop just a decade into operations. Current owner and President of the club, Robert Romawia Royte, played an almost inimitable part in the clubs success thus far, having won the Mizo Premier League just five years after reestablishment. They had initially bid certification from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to become part of the Indian football fraternity’s second division I-League in January, 2012.
“This is really a great achievement for the club,” proudly expounded Hmingthana Zadeng, who is a team manager, to The Times of India. He was taken aback by the sudden promotion, not expecting confirmation of their I-League status on Wednesday itself.
“Our aim was to qualify for the I-League. The hard work and dedication of the players and the coaching staff are the reasons behind this success,” revealed an exuberant Royte himself.
The I-League’s CEO Sunando Dhar, was quick to offer his compliments. “Aizawl FC have done a great job and it is good to have a team (in I-League) from a new state. They will get a lot of confidence from what Royal Wahingdoh have done in their first season (in the league),” he clarified.
Almost all of Mizoram’s National Games gold winning footballers have emerged from this Aizawl FC team and it’s a virtue that’s helped them immensely, explained coach Dr. Birbal Singh.
“The players have been together for over three months and that helped foster team spirit. We also learnt a lot from our campaign in the second division I-League last year when we failed to gain promotion. These factors played a big role in our arduous campaign starting from the first leg in Siliguri and then coming here,” explained the coach.
He further added, “The Mizoram boys are extremely talented and all they need is proper guidance. We have a good midfield and that allowed us to control most of the games we played,” praising not just the foreign talent at his disposal, which included Alfred Jaryan, Morgan Justice and Emmanuel Chigozie, but also his notable Indian players David Lalrinmuana, the captain, and Rohmingthanga Lengpui.
Refocusing on the task at hand, Royte claimed he is setting into motion the process to have all the financial and managerial tasks in place to ensure the Reds make it in the big time.
“The immediate plan is to have a big celebration back home. As for the team, my aim will be to utilise the immense talent we have in the state and, at the same time, bring in some quality foreigners. I am also confident that we will be able to fulfill the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Club Licensing criteria,” divulged the owner.
“Our main sponsor is NorthEast Consultancy Services (NECS), so we don't have any financial problems. We already have a proper management system in place. There are six Aizawl FC football academies across the state. We have a very strong junior team which acts as a feeder for the senior team,” he concluded.
Coined the sobriquet “The People’s Club”, the Mizoram club have certainly given the natives plenty to look forward to.
Send Regards and Resentments to Nikhil Jitendran on Twitter