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Gift Raikhan

Aizawl FC: Gift Raikhan sets his eyes on the I-League title

11:34 PM EDT 6/6/18
Gift Raikhan Aizawl FC I-League 2017/2018
The Manipuri coach is not willing to settle for anything else other than a title triumph in the next edition of I-League...

After spending almost three years with NEROCA, Gift Raikhan chose to embark on a new journey. On Wednesday evening, it was announced that he will be joining Aizawl FC as the head coach for the upcoming I-League season. 

"Not many thought I would take the daring step of leaving NEROCA. Even the management thought I will continue with them. I am a Manipuri and my family is also here in Manipur. But I needed a change. I am a young coach and therefore I want to try out newer and more difficult challenges," said Raikhan to Goal.

He added, "I was close to joining a club that has been struggling to qualify for I-League for some time now. I have done it with NEROCA and I wanted to do it again. But our thinking and way of working did not match. In Aizawl, everything revolves around football. I will enjoy working here."

After a sensational title-winning season under Khalid Jamil last year, Paulo Meneses took charge at the start of the 2017-18 season as the former coach left for East Bengal. The then-defending champions decided to part ways with Meneses following a seven-game winless run and appointed Santosh Kashyap as the head coach for the remainder of the season. But it was evident that Kashyap was failing to steady the ship as the People's Club collected only seven points from the last five matches. 

With Raikhan searching for newer pastures and Aizawl looking for an able captain to guide their sinking ship, the stage was set for both parties to shake hands. 

"It is a new club but we are from the same region and sharing a common ideology. My main aim is to take Aizawl to the next level. They were champions the previous season but last year there was a dip in performance. So my primary job is to make Aizawl title contenders once again. I am making no promises but I am sure it is possible with the hard work I put in," says the newly appointed coach.  

Aizawl have already made some moves in the transfer market by roping in Mizoram state captain Lalrinchhana Tochhawng and youngster Isak Vanlalruatfela who previously plied his trade with the U-18 squad of Bengaluru FC. The coach admits that although the club management has shared a list of players with him, he will look to make some more signings before the season kicks-off. 

"I have some good players in my mind. But I have to keep the altitude factor while I make any signing. A player can be very good on the plains but it is difficult to adapt to the hills. I will share the names with the management within a few days. 

"Some young talented players have been retained by the club. I am happy with the list I have. There are some crucial positions to be filled. I will do that job of filling up the blank spaces. We need to find some experienced defenders and a good striker while the Mizo boys can fill up the midfield along with Alfred (Jaryan)," states Raikhan.