In what promises to be an exhilarating Sunday in the final day of the I-League season, Aizawl FC have the opportunity to make history as they are on the cusp of their first ever top division title.
As Aizawl face Shillong Lajong away from home, Mohun Bagan limber up to take on Chennai City in what is a last throw of dice for the Federation Cup champions who are hoping against hope that Thangboi Singto and co. pull the unthinkable and defeat the Reds.
Khalid Jamil for his part accepted that Singto is a tough customer and it will be a fierce battle.
"It is always difficult to play against Thangboi’s Lajong. I always find it very difficult to beat Lajong or play against Lajong because it is very difficult. Difficult means it is very tough for us specially to play in their home. They play very compact, defensively they are very strong and when you come to play here attacking wise they are very good again and looking at their striker he’s done a good job; Dicka high scorer of the League. That’s why I say it is very tough, always. Most of the time when I play against him; not successful. Maybe I’ve won once but only once," he opined.
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Singto praised Jamil profusely and said that Aizawl deserve to be in the present position on merit.
"Well, first of all I would like to congratulate the fellow Indian who is sitting beside me. We have a good relationship, a professional relationship. We went to Japan together to do our pro licence, it was an experience. I am very happy that an Indian coach is at this stage where he is on the verge of being I-League Champions. Congratulations Khalid Bhai. This season I think Aizawl FC surprised everybody but if I say surprised, they have surprised people with consistent good performances. You can’t have luck all the time in football, in sports. They are at this stage at this moment because they have done very well throughout the season; playing well against all the teams both home and away," he said effusively.
The Shillong Lajong manager though said that they would be going out to win the match.
"Well, for AIzawl FC with all due respect I wish them all the best but for us as a club, as Shillong Lajong, we are more on to what we can do tomorrow. For us also I think it’s very important to do very well and try our best to win this match. People say that if AIzawl FC win this match it will be a good thing for North East football but for us here in Shillong Lajong, if you see the squad we have, we are 95% based on North Eastern boys so for us also representing North East is very very important. So we look at this game at our own club perspective and where we want to go forward. Aizawl FC winning (the title) will be great but for us also winning is very very important tomorrow," he surmised.
Singto hoped that the pressure would help his players perform better and was happy with the preparation leading up to the titular contest.
"I think like I said, maturity. All the players are now matured enough to understand. Of course this social media thing is very important but it should not buck you in and you know you start checking on what’s going on. It affects your mental preparation going forward. From a coach's point of view there is not much difference in term of preparation. . Pressure will be there for the young boys but we have told them to take the pressure in a very positive way and hopefully they do that," he stated.
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His compatriot Jamil said that there had been no change in preparation particularly for this encounter.
"There has been no change in the preparation. No changes from how we prepared for the first match. Just go, give your best and just keep in your match this is the last match, finish should be good because you are going to play with a solid good team. It is always very difficult, it will be very difficult so you have to be 100 % and not take things very lightly," he said.
The former Indian footballer concluded that it was paramount that as a coach he is in control in spite of the mounting pressure.
"I must say that pressure is there but as a coach you must be in control. If you go out of control everything will go out of control too so pressure is there no doubt. As I said we are playing a good team, it will not be an easy match so in preparation term you cannot change anything," he signed off.