Mizoram: Football

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The heroic Mizoram Santosh Trophy Team 2014 in the City Park a month before their historic victory. Standing (L-R) : Laldinpuia (Physio), V. Laltanpuia, H. Lalmuankima, Zothanpuia, Lallawmzuala, KC Lalchhuanawma, Lalbiakhlua, Lalnunmawia, R. Laldanmawia, Lalfakzuala, David Lalrinmuana, HC Zarzoliana (coach).Sitting (L-R) : Lalawmpuia, C. Malsawmkima, William Lalnunfela, Zico Zoremsanga, K. Lalrinzuala, Ronald Zothanzama, F. Lalrinpuia, Lalruatthara, Ricky Lalawmawma, Vanlalhriata. Photo courtesy: Vanglaini/ ZoFooty
Aizawl Football Club logo


The sources of this series of articles on Football in Mizoram include

Mizoram’s F. Lalrinpuia scores his team’s third goal past Railways’ goalkeeper, Ehtesham Ahmed, in the historic Santosh Trophy final, 2014

Vai, New Delhi compiled this article. However, the authors of the article are

Abhishek Ganguly, Marcus Mergulhao, Saumyajit Basu, Siddharth Saxena

The Times of India The Times of India The Times of India The Times of India The Times of India The Times of India The Times of India Amitabha Das Sharma, The Hindu



The Aizawl Sport Association started in 1945.

It withers away over time.


Sangliana takes the initiative to re-establish the Aizawl Sport Association.


The name of the Aizawl Sport Association is changed to Mizoram Sports Association.


The football unit of the Mizoram Sports Association is hived off into an independent body called the Mizoram Football Association.

2003: first sub-junior (under-16) title

Mizoram won its first sub-junior (under-16) title at Aizawl in 2003 and the Santosh Trophy campaign has borne fruit after a decade-long pursuit.

2012: violence

Mizoram was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2012.

The senior State football team found itself at the centre of a controversy for participating in one of the worst on-field violence in Santosh Trophy history.

The shame it brought upon itself with that incident in 2012 at Bhubaneswar, where the Mizoram players fought with their Tamil Nadu counterparts in a free-for-all and saw five red cards (three from Mizoram and two from TN), apparently put the State into deep introspection.

2012: Mizoram Premier League

Then came the watershed moment when Mizoram launched its first professionally designed league — the Mizoram Premier League (MPL) — a few months after the Santosh Trophy fiasco.

“We had the belief, but we were waiting for the breakthrough, which came on Sunday evening at Siliguri when we lifted the long-aspired Santosh Trophy,” the new and energetic Mizoram Football Association (MFA) secretary Lalnghinglova Hmar, told The Hindu from Aizawl. The rogue tag that got unofficially attached to Mizoram has been shed with it winning the National crown.

The introduction of the MPL coincided with the Mizoram government instituting three artificial turfs in Aizawl and neighbouring Lunglei.

That was the second big reason that has helped the growth of structured football The MFA also entered into a Rs. 1.25-crore deal with local cable TV giant Zonet making the MPL a widely supported event.

2013 and ‘14: Golden year: Mizoram football rules India

Mizoram in 2014 is what Manipur was some 10 years before, Around 2005, Manipur’s supply line gave players to clubs across the country. One season, there were 85 Manipur players in the National League. Mizoram’s triumph in the national football championship for the Santosh Trophy March 2014 has caught the fancy of the nation’s football lovers and it is pertinent to remind them that the Mizos won the junior nationals also, in Ranchi September 2013. It was a thumping 6-1 win over Assam for the U-17 BC Roy Trophy.

The March 2014 victory, also a maiden one for Mizoram, was long time coming.

Jeje Lalpekhlua, currently playing for Dempo, has been the mainstay of the Indian team and his combination with Sunil Chhetri was one of the few inspiring things about the national team under Wim Koevermans, till the 23-year old Mizo got injured.

For Manipur, football provided the escape route from the socio-political turmoil that the state was going through at the turn of the century. It is not the same for Mizoram. Their success rests on the solid bedrock of organisation, planning, government support, some honest will and effort of people like Hmar.

Perhaps, Mizoram is the template for other states to follow.

2015: historic win in I-League

2015:The progression to the I-League

Aizawl FC make history

Become First Mizoram Club To Qualify For I-league

Abhishek Ganguly The Times of India

Aizawl FC authored a new chapter in Indian football by qualifying for the top tier of the I-League after emerging champions in the second division with a round to spare in Golaghat, Assam, in May 2015 .

Aizawl FC beat state-rivals Chanmari FC 4-2 in the penultimate round to take their tally to 31 points from 13 matches.

Aizawl FC became the fourth team from the northeast to feature in the country's top league, but the first from Mizoram. They thus broke the monopoly of Shillong, which has produced three I-League clubs -Lajong FC, Royal Wahingdoh and Rangdajied United FC.

It's indeed an outstanding achievement by a club which was established in 1984 and almost became defunct a decade later. It was the untiring efforts of current president and owner Robert Romawia Royte which revived the club. And, within five years, they won the Mizoram Premier League and, now, have found a place among the elite clubs of Indian football.

The entire bunch of Aizawl FC players represented Mizoram in the National Games in Kerala earlier this year and emerged champions. That helped the team immensely in their second division I-League campaign.

The players were together for over three months and that helped foster team spirit. They also learnt a lot from theirr campaign in the second division I-League in 2014 when they failed to gain promotion.

Apart from their foreign players -strikers Alfred Jaryan (Liberia), Morgan Justice (Nigeria) and defender Emmanuel Chigozie (Nigeria) –there was praise for midfielders David Lalrinmuana (captain) and Rohmingthanga Lengpui. Aizawl FC has a good midfield and that allowed it to control most of the games.

2015: Chawngfianga lifts Subroto Cup (U-14)

The Times of India, Sep 25 2015

Ishan Chowdhury

SUBROTO CUP - Mizoram school clinches U-14 title

Chunnfa Hmar scored a brace and grabbed the best young player award in the sub-junior boys (U-14) category of the Subroto Cup as GovtChawngfianga Middle School, Mizoram beat Esteqal School from Afghanistan 3-2 after added time to lift the cup at Ambedkar Stadium on Thursday . This wasn't the only time Hmar has shone in the tournament, as his pace and composure on the ball was constantly on display in all the games that his team played. Chief selector of the Subroto Cup and former India captain, BhaskarGanguly said, “The first match gave me clear evidence that the boy is talented. The real test was to see whether he could maintain that level in front of a larger audience and media presence.It is safe to say that he did his talent justice today .“

The contribution of MFA's grassroots programme and the MPL

It’s Raining Mizo Footballers

Loads of talent and hard work characterized Mizoram’s triumph in the 68th Santosh Trophy, 2014. Long-term planning, infrastructure development, effective development programmes at the grassroots level and the introduction of the Mizoram Premier League (MPL), all contributed significantly to Mizoram’s success in the National Football Championship, thereby making the state a force to reckon with in North-East’s rich football heritage.

Mizoram Football Association (MFA) secretary Lalnghinglova Hmar (born 1978) is credited with ushering in a football revolution in Mizoram. He reckons the MPL played a key role in transforming the state’s football landscape. “A few lucky ones got a break in I-League clubs but a significant number of equally good players had nowhere to showcase their talent. The MPL has given them that platform,” said Hmar

Hmar also credits the state government for supporting MFA’s grassroots development programme, which has been declared by All India Football Federation as the best in the country. It follows the FIFA model. Youngsters in the age-group of 6-12 are part of this programme.

Top Mizo players are already making their presence felt at many I-League clubs. Apart from the veteran S Malswamtluanga, the likes of Jeje Lalpekhlua, Lalrindika Ralte and Robert Lalthlamuana too have made their mark. Many more will follow. “I believe what you are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Larsing Ming, the general secretary of Shillong Lajong FC, the first club from the N-E to feature in the I-League.

Lalbiakzuala, who the manager of the Mizoram team in the Santosh Trophy and is the technical secretary of the MFA, feels there is a need for a club from the state to qualify for the I-League. At present there are two I-League clubs from the North-East — Shillong Lajong FC and Rangdajied United FC — and both are based in Shillong. Shillong is the educational hub of the N-E region and is a cosmopolitan city. The two clubs have nurtured talents from the region. In fact, there are quite a few Mizoram players playing for Lajong.

Mizoram club, Aizawl FC, is the best bet to make a foray into the country’s elite club competition.


The Mizoram Premier League, says Lalnghinglova Hmar, secy of Mizoram Football Association, is “Mizoram’s biggest entertainment”. Dinthar are the current (2014) champs.

The league is drawing big crowds — a good mix of men, women, young and old. Unlike many other leagues across the country, the league has a steady sponsor and all matches are televised live on Zonet Cable.

A popular Mizo sports website is also reported to provide online streaming of some important games to the rest of the world.

Aizawl FC is Mizoram’s most organized team and has fulfilled all of the tough Club Licensing criteria, mandatory for a place among India’s elite.

Players Help Each Other, Do Charity Work Together

Winning begins at home for Mizoram Lalrindika Ralte waits for the weekend in Kolkata and it’s not for any football action.

Every week, mostly weekends, the East Bengal midfielder waits to meet his fellow Mizoram players like Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Robert Lalthlamuana and Samson Ramagawia at popular meeting places and once the meeting is over, he eagerly looks forward to the next meeting. Ralte, popularly known as “Dika”, among India’s most promising footballers.

Since Malsawmtluanga joined East Bengal in 2002 and showed Mizoram the way, players from this North-Eastern state have found favour with several I-League clubs. East Bengal, Mohammedan Sporting, Bengaluru FC, Dempo Sports Club all have Mizoram players, although most of them play for clubs closer to home; Shillong Lajong FC and Rangdajied United FC, both based in neighbouring Meghalaya, is home to at least ten Mizo footballers.

“Unlike Manipur, we made late starts. Manipuri footballers started moving out of the state in the nineties, but until Malsawmtluanga (Mama) joined East Bengal, we had no clue about Indian football, or ways and means to get there,” says Dempo striker Jeje Lalpekhlua.

The Mizo group is a close-knit family and are never at odds with each other. In fact, most of them pick up the phone, speak to each other and find out ways to help people back home, who may not be as fortunate as them. “We try to help our society which has given so much to us. We know they need our support,” explains Dika, who along with Jeje, endorse brands back home.

Dika once had to dig deep into his pockets to fund the state under-19 football team who did not have enough money to buy their kits for a national tournament. Jeje parts with his savings whenever his village club needs help. And, while Malsawmtluanga remains the man they all seek advice from —whether it’s planning their savings or moving to another club — all of them don’t think twice when it comes to contributing to the community.

“It is in our culture to help anyone who is in need. We are all friendly people,” explains Jeje. (It is the same culture that has made Mizoram the second most literate state in India. This achievement is all the more remarkable because the Mizos, as a people, almost totally illiterate a hundred years before. They did not have a script and only a microscopic elite knew outside scripts.)

Every May, when the football season takes a break for two months and the players head to their respective homes, the Mizos get together and play a series of friendly matches, proceeds of which are equally shared by the MFA and the chosen charity.


2017: diminished status

Siddharth Saxena, The I-League, which begins its 11th season this week, is desperate to fight off the anonymity being thrust upon it in these times of ISL, November 22, 2017: The Times of India

In the season, where Shylo Malsawmtluanga shyly stepped in from backstage carrying the I-League trophy that his team, Aizawl FC, won in Cinderella-like fashion, you were assailed by a strange sense of calm regarding the league’s future. The Mizo footballer, with that quiet, easy grace he brings with him, is known to have that effect on proceedings. The feeling, though, didn’t last very long.

Soon after, the trophy was carted around by the handlers and had made room on the dais for other presentations. It summed up the I-League’s status and the chances being afforded to it in these times of ISL. Today, the I-League is a tournament forced into severe identity crisis.

Still, it was a commendable effort. Launching a new season on Tuesday — it starts with Mohun Bagan’s visit to Minerva, Nov 25 — by inviting the coaches and captain of all 10 teams and involving them in a short tete-a-tete (the taciturn Khalid Jamil gave even more brief replies than usual), was a novel never-before in the I-League.

Earlier, in much less-threatened times, you just required the President or Prime Minister to awkwardly tap the ball in a ceremonial kick-off and the football, in all its roller-coaster ways, would do the rest. Now it is forced to react to anything the ISL dictates, from the manufactured frills of the sidelines to playing five foreigners in the XI.

Despite the infusion of youth and promise with the inclusion of the India Arrows comprising India’s under-17 and U-19 teams, and addition of two other teams, the feeling that I-League has been cut away just doesn’t leave. It was an aspect vividly evident in the words of the All India Football Federation general secretary, Kushal Das, who insisted that this continued to be India’s national league, but remembered not to omit the crucial rider, “as of now…” when giving it its place in Indian football.

The concept of a dual league automatically gives India’s national league second-class status. Microphone in hand, players, coaches and old-timers said all the right things – shreds of optimism coming from all those hanging on to different kinds of hope, of consolidation, a learning, a title, but mostly, of survival.

“Even in a parallel structure, we all know where this league stands when compared to the ISL. Even without naming it as such, it is already the second division with the better players gone there and their matches played at 8 PM and our matches played at 2,” said a veteran player. “Effectively, now there are three divisions already in Indian football,” he said alluding, to the I-League Division-II already in practice. “But we have to play, or else where do we go?” he added.

In forecasting the season, Sanjoy Sen, a thoughtful man and Mohun Bagan’s coach, revealed a larger picture. “This I-League is a completely new tournament compared to the one played last season. Not every team here will play for the title. Some of them will fight to remain in the middle of the league table,” he said. He may have been talking just football, but the picture being painted was one of survival.

Could the I-League have survived the commercial onslaught of the ISL? Left on its own, no, but the situation could have been averted had the federation needed what was required of it, rather than facilitated the sport’s disinvestment. As the new season is announced, it is heartening, as always, that there’s football to be played and a trade to be plied. But for how much longer, one cannot say. Was this the last-ever ILeague being launched with such fanfare? One hopes not but there isn’t much cause for optimism either.

The teams

November 22, 2017: The Times of India

A quick lowdown of the 10 teams in the 11th edition of the I-League

Aizawl FC (Mizoram): Aizawl had won its first-ever I-League title last season after not even being certain of participating. As defending champions, though, Aizawl have looked a far cry from the side that left Indian football enthralled.

Neroca FC (Manipur): After winning the Second Division I-League, Neroca will be keen to prove that they belong among the top. Captained by Gouramangi Singh, Manipur’s first team in the I-League can spring a few surprises.

Shillong Lajong FC (Meghalaya): The club, now into their seventh successive season at the top, are bereft of their star players and may have to do with academy graduates, besides five new foreign players.

Mohun Bagan AC (West Bengal): Sony Norde may have too much to do if Mohun Bagan want to regain the I-League title. The team hasn’t looked convincing enough in friendlies.

East Bengal (West Bengal): On paper and form, East Bengal look the best bet to secure this year’s I-League title. Khalid Jamil has done well so far to instil a winning mentality within his team.

Minerva Punjab (Punjab): Despite parting ways with their Spanish coach less than a month before the I-League, Minerva Punjab’s 2-1 victory over Bengaluru FC in a friendly means they cannot be taken for granted.

Gokulam Kerala FC (Kerala): The newcomers from Kerala won a direct entry and has since then roped in impressive foreign players. If they live up to the potential, Kerala’s return to the top tier after six years will be lustily cheered.

Churchill Brothers FC (Goa): With almost the entire squad dismantled, Churchill Brothers have had to start afresh. The team isn’t exactly firing in the local league but the arrival of foreign players can help them turn over a new leaf.

Chennai City FC (Tamil Nadu): Dominated by local players, Chennai City FC are a much better team than last season when they finished eighth despite upsetting East Bengal and holding Bengaluru FC to a draw.

Indian Arrows (Delhi): Comprising mostly of players from the India squad for the Fifa U-17 World Cup, Indian Arrows will be more than mere pushovers.


Aizawl finishes 8th in I-League, relegated

Ashwin Achal | Aizawl coach pleads against team’s relegation| MAY 03, 2016 The Hindu

The Mizoram side finished eighth in the I-League 2016, one rung above bottom-placed DSK Shiva jians. However, DSK Shiva jians — a new corporate entry — had been granted immunity by the AIFF before the season began. This forced Aizawl out of the elite group.

Aizawl FC coach Jahar Das said nearly 90 per cent of his squad consists of local players — a feature not commonly seen among other Indian clubs.

Among Aizawl FC’s best achievements in its debut I-League sojourn was a 2-1 home victory over traditional powerhouse Mohun Bagan.

In the opening Federation Cup outing, held at Aizawl a few days ago, the club posted a 2-1 win over current National champion BFC. With an average spectator turnout of around 6,300 for their home league matches at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, the club has managed to build a healthy following.

The cause found support in BFC coach Ashley Westwood, who had said in Aizawl: “It’s disappointing to see them relegated because they play good attacking football, have pace and use local talent.”

I-League CEO Sunando Dhar stated that the Aizawl FC team management is yet to file an official request.

AIFF approves new rules, reinstates relegated Aizawl FC

AIFF approves new rules for ISL 2016, reinstates relegated Aizawl FC in I-League | Sep 26, 2016| Indo Asian News Service

The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) Executive Committee approved new rules for the Indian Super League (ISL) which will take effect from the upcoming season of the lucrative tournament.

Keeping in mind the good performances of Aizawl FC in the last edition, the committee unanimously decided to give them a ticket to play in the 2016-17 edition.


Sub junior national championship won

Narayanan S | Men wait, as Mizo boys clinch title |Apr 29 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

Two U-14 state teams representing Mizoram and Meghalaya battled it out in the title clash of sub junior national football championship at the EMS stadium, Kozhikode.

The two teams had seen off two traditional powerhouses of Indian football in the semis; Aizawl drubbed defending champions West Bengal while Meghalaya edged past Kerala.And in a free-flowing final on Friday, it was fitting that Mizoram prevailed thanks to a goal scored by Lalfakzuala in the 92nd minute, much like their senior counterparts at Aizawl FC, who have made it a habit of snatching matches in the deep end in the I League. The sub-junior title is another feather in the cap of Mizo football. The state's senior team's Santosh Trophy win in 2014 and Aizawl FC's Federation Cup wins were not one-offs as teams from the state have been finishing consistently in the top-four in various age-group competitions.

“It's a reward for all the training we had done. The kids were brilliant.They did not panic. We dedicate it to all the people in Mizoram,“ said Mizoram coach Vanrom Wia after their sixth win in the championship and first since 2011.

Aizawl FC on a roll

Marcus Mergulhao | Aizawl FC success is `no delusion, just a miracle'|Apr 14 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

The Aizawl story is team spirit and underdog positivity at its best.

So what makes Aizawl's title chase so special? Let's start with Jamil himself: he was shown the door by Mumbai FC after a decade-long association, starting with the under-19 team. Mumbai wanted to challenge for higher places and not just save relegation each year. Santosh Kashyap was brought in but has now been sacked, Jamil is challenging for the title and Mumbai FC are almost certain of being relegated. What about Aizawl? They were relegated last year; some say unfairly since they finished above DSK Shiva jians, the corporate club who are immune from relegation. And had it not been for the pull-out of three Goan clubs ­ Salgaocar FC, Dempo SC and Sporting Clube de Goa ­ Aizawl wouldn't have been here in the first place.

The team's budget too is one-sixth of most other teams and their players ­ except for three of Jamil's favourites, including goalkeeper Albino Gomes from Goa ­ are all locals.Significantly , none of the Aizawl players found a place in Stephen Constantine's 30member Indian probables list.

“We have to stay positive. The next match (against Churchill on Saturday) is crucial and then there is the potentially title-deciding clash against Mohun Bagan at home. I must give credit where it is due: the boys have been fantastic.

“Of course, there is pressure on the boys. They understand what they can achieve but they are reacting positively. Everyone is enjoying this pressure,“ said the Kuwait-born former India international.

Aizawl are placed second on the I-League table with 30 points, the same as Mohun Bagan. East Bengal are third, three points behind but the race is now clearly between the mighty Bagan and their unlikely challengers.

A parody Twitter account mocks Khalid Jamil for being delusional but the Aizawl FC coach is really under no delusions when he says that his side is challenging for the I-League title. “I think we will all be disappointed if we don't emerge as champions. We've come a long way and with just three matches left to be played, our chances are as good as anyone else,“ Jamil said with three games left to be played,

The road to the 2017 I-League final

Sourav M | Club from nowhere scripts Indian footballing fairytale Apr 23 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

Zohmingliana (Zotea) Ralte's all-important goal in the 83rd minute helped Aizawl FC beat the mighty Mohun Bagan 1-0 in April 2017 before an ecstatic home crowd.

Aizawl A Match Away From I-League Title

Football dreams are made of these. If the rain hung heavy in the clouds, the thunder played out on the turf below. Eleven thousand Mizos and some more jumped and swayed and sang their he arts out in the April drizzle.Perhaps the quaking in the stands spread and got to formidable Mohun Bagan.

Fewer stories in Indian sport celebrate the universally-loved idea of the underdog bigger than tiny Aizawl FC's march this I-League season -they ran this club with a budget equivalent to what Bagan ostensibly spent on one player alone, Haitian Sony Norde, who received around Rs 2 cro re from the Kolkata giants.

On 22 April, Aizawl needed a two-goal margin to claim the title, Bagan needed to win the match.

The local side's 1-0 triumph -a header by Zohmingliana Ralte -meant that the tiny north-eastern club now travel to the final weekend of India's national football league needing just a point against regional rivals, Lajong of Shillong.

Aizawl’s historic triumph of 2017
Photo: Dvonne Banjop/ India Today

It should a fitting finale -Lajong were the first club from the region on the national map, and now, Aizawl have barged into the scene. Aizawl's belief showed in the way they kept Sony Norde, Bagan's Haitian ace under a tight leash. Norde's salary alone equals Aizawl's entire budget for the season.

To think, they shouldn't even have been here in the first place. Relegated in their debut last season, they were re-admitted to the footballing elite when Goan clubs fell out with the All India Football Federation over the I-League and ISL merger issue and they needed to make up the numbers.

Their coach, Khalid Jamil, a young man in the garb of an old-fashioned disciplinarian, was shunned in Mumbai where he had earned his stripes as a player. He rallied Ashutosh Mehta and Jayesh Rane, out of favour Mumbaikars, a Goan goalkeeper in Albino Geovani, Mahmoud al Amna, a Syrian ex-international who had played near Aleppo and the usual trusted batch of local players to forge this extraordinary story that speaks for the north-eastern identity just as it holds promise for modestly-financed but expertly-managed clubs in Indian team sport.

For long, we were comfortable with identifying the North East as the supply line of footballers to the rest of the country . If Manipur was the pioneer till a decade ago, Mizoram is the standard to follow today ­ as many as was 58 players from Mizoram play for club in the ten-team I-League. Now they are carving out their own identity as a footballing unit on the national level.

Aizawl’s historic triumph of 2017
Photo: AFC/ India Today

2017: Historic triumph in I-League

Siddharth Saxena | Aizawl FC script history, become first north-east club to win I-League title | TNN | Apr 30, 2017| IndiaTimes/ The Times of India


Aizawl ended the league on 37 points while Bagan finished second on 36

Lajong went ahead in the ninth minute through A Dipanda

But Aizawl equalised in the 67th minute through W Lalnunfela

SHILLONG: In the end, all you could see were hands, pairs and pairs of hands, reaching out to the faceless bunch of men in the middle. Someone held aloft a trophy with a shiny globe on top. It glistened in the sea of heads, it seemed like the eye of a whirlpool of humans, the epicentre of a man-made quake.

In the middle, somewhere, was that group of men who caused this tremor in the first place. A mere 25 policemen in attendance, Meghalaya's Chief Minister in attendance too, but over 3,000 delirious Mizos had spilled onto the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, making the idea that Aizawl - and Indian football - was a people's idea. Aizawl FC were the champions of Indian football.

But first. Just how difficult is the idea of not losing than simply winning, was cruelly dawning upon Aizawl FC as they chased Shillong Lajong's blistering early pace and ninth minute goal.

Lajong, with the fourth spot finish out of reach, would now look to spoil the Aizawl party, and relish these uncharacteristic offerings by the league leaders - of a lack of confidence and a strange absence of ideas.

In an unexpected twist, 34 minutes into the twin encounters being on either side of the hills in this I-League final round - down in Kolkata where Mohun Bagan hosted Chennai City FC and ferociously sought a win, any win - a wild cheer rose in Aizawl section of the Shillong stadium which was rapidly turning morose by the minute when the announcer told us that the Kolkata giants were trailing.

It was also the phase where Aizawl would play their best football, calm and composed in their build-up.

Then we were told that Bagan had equalised in Kolkata. No surprise there, but it meant that it was back to the trenches for Aizawl. A close goalline grab by Vishal Kaith, the Lajong goalkeeper only meant what it was - so close.

Then came the equaliser, in the 62nd minute, a William Fela header, but it wasn't. Assistant referee Asit Kumar Sarkar had his flag up as Fela's head met the ball. It was a hair's-breadth margin and could debate it for all time to come had substitute William Lalnunfelar not tapped in from close range. Jamil, who had been remonstrating with Sarkar, hands folded, pleading, rushed past the linesman to go down on his knees at the corner flag.

All 23,000 of the northeast faithful were now chanting, "Aizawl, Aizawl!" Since the game had begun, this was probably the first time, you could perhaps hear that name.

Then, in so far yet so near Kolkata, Darrel Duffy scored for Bagan. What he should have done a week earlier in Aizawl, he was doing now. 2-1, Bagan and it was the 77th minute. They were breathing down Aizawl's neck, refusing to let go. Now it was Lajong's gambit to kill it. The four minutes of added time - last four minutes - would prove agonizingly long. Twice Lajong would come within swiping distance of the goal, each time everyone present would be certain it was in, while Jamil would wage an argument with his bench over a substitution, being made or not to be made. Were the nerves showing? Both times the ball would trail down past the post, out.

Then referee Pranjal Banerjee would blow for time. It would all be over.

The historic final: As it happened

Aizawl win the I-League title: As it happened| April 30, 2017 | Indian Express

Aizawl managed to hold Shillong Lajong to a draw and won the I-League title.

Aizawl FC poster

Rarely do we find a more gritty finish to a league season anywhere in the world but the two chances that Shillong Lajong had in injury time was probably a hear-in-mouth moment for every neutral and Aizawl fan. In the end, they came off as the winners. They are a team of rejects and journeymen with a salary cap that just about as much as how much Soni Norde is payed by Mohun Bagan and they have outrun them to the I-League title. If this really was the last I-League season as we know it, it was one for the ages.

Shillong Lajong 1-1 Aizawl

Match highlights:

1851 hrs IST: Regardless of what happens over the 90 minutes in Shillong and Siliguri, Aizawl have pulled off one of the greatest underdog stories in football. The teams have come out to the pitch, we are now seconds away from kick off.

1910 hrs IST: Five minutes have passed and as it stands, Aizawl are champions of the I-League, injuries are having an effect on Aizawl, clearly missing Alfred Jaryan in midfield.

1913 hrs IST: GOAL! An anti-climax on the cards? Dika heads in a cross, it hits the underside of the bar and bounces outside. But the ball had crossed the line and Lajong lead!

1919 hrs IST: All is not lost yet for Aizawl as Mohun Bagan need to win against Chennai to clinch the title. If Bagan do win and the scoreline remains the same at Shillong, the Kolkata giant will win the title. But Aizawl need a draw from this match to put it well past Bagan

1922 hrs IST: Shillong attack from the right and try to send in a cross, it takes a deflection off Zoltya Ralte and Aizawl can clear it.

1926 hrs IST: Kamo causing all sorts of problems for Shillong, he provokes a free kick 30 yards from goal. It comes to nothing but later dribbles his way into the box. Defenders finally wrestled the ball away from him.

1930 hrs IST: Shillong’s Isaac takes a free kick from just outside the box. It misses the Aizawl post by inches. One of the best free kick takers in the country at the moment, Isaac.

1932 hrs IST: Aizawl looking a little tensed at the moment. Gives Shillong ample space and time to put in crosses into the box. When they go into the attack, Kamo takes a shot from a good distance away from goal and it is wayward

1935 hrs IST: Oh what a chance! Aizawl break on the counter, Kamo passes it to the winger who finds Al-Amna ahead of him, the Syrian takes a shot and it is over the cross bar.

1938 hrs IST: Mohun Bagan are trailing against Chennai City, something to calm the nerves for Aizawl FC

1941 hrs IST: Another big chance there for Aizawl!! Jayesh Rana swings it in, Lajong unable to clear it and it comes to the feet of Kamo who, with his back to goal, back-heels it past the keeper. The man on the line saves it for Lajong. An outrageous attempt!!

1945 hrs IST: Aizawl are now dominating possession, piling the pressure on Shillong Lajong. Lajong are meanwhile giving possession away cheaply time and again.

1950 hrs IST: Some sloppy defending from Lajong and Aizawl keep sending in repeated crosses into the box, the keeper finally comes out and punches the ball away.

1957 hrs IST: HALF TIME!! Shillong Lajong lead Aizawl but the latter may still win the title. Mohun Bagan were trailing lowly Chennai City until skipper Katsumi Yusa scored just before the referee blew for half time. Aizawl have, meanwhile stepped up the ante and were dominating possession. They were also helped by the fact that Shillong gave away the ball cheaply on repeated occasions. Aizawl were not happy with the match officials before this match and the way the players and Khalid Jamil are arguing with the referee, it seems they really haven’t warmed up to him yet.

2012 hrs IST: Second half kicks off, just a reminder, as it stands, Aizawl are winning the I-League title. If Mohun Bagan beat Chennai City and Aizawl lose to Lajong, the title goes to Mohun Bagan.

2015 hrs IST: It has been a bright start from Aizawl but haven’t been clinical in the final third, so no goals to show.

2022 hrs IST: Jayesh Rane with a brilliant run slicing through the heart of the Lajong defence, the ball is snatched away from him inside the box and cleared. It finds Dika with only Zotya Ralte back to stop him.

2024 hrs IST: Aizawl find the back of the net and the players go berzerk but the goal is ruled out for off side. Replays show that the referee was spot on with his call.

2026 hrs IST: Another big chance for Aizawl, Shillong allowing the pressure to get to them. It was a corner and Lajong fail to clear it properly, the ball is sent back in and it is absolute chaos inside the box, the Lajong ‘keeper finally takes it into his hands.

2031 hrs IST: GOAL!! Lajong goalkeeper makes a blunder and Aizawl punish them. It should have been a simple take for Vishal Kaith but he came off his line, had second thoughts and went back. By this time, the ball went past him, hit the post and bounced back into the path of substitute William. The away supporters and Aizawl players celebrate hysterically.

2038 hrs IST: Kamo goes in for a tackle on the Lajong full back and the ball rolls out. He gets up, walks two steps and then goes down clutching his knee. Takes up a few valuable seconds.

2041 hrs IST: Mohun Bagan lead Chennai City. Aizawl need to keep the scoreline the way it is for at least 12 more minutes.

2044 hrs IST: Aizawl not choosing to sit back and defend. On the other hand, they are stepping up the ante in attack.

2046 hrs IST: When Mizoram last won the Fed Cup, the state chief minister had declared a public holiday. Wonder what it will be this time, if Aizawl hold on, that is. They are on course to becoming the first North Eastern team to win a top tier title.

2053 hrs IST: A cross into the box and Kamo rises majestically, couldn’t get enough power. On the other end, Dika is taken out just inside the box and appeals for the spot kick, referee says no.

2057 hrs IST: Ohh that would have been something! Four minutes of injury time and Lajong take two shots on goal, first deflected away, second hits the post out.


Will the 2017 champions be in 2018’s 2nd tier for lack of funds?

Marcus Mergulhao | Aizawl threaten stir if not put in top tier of unified new league | May 03 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

After Aizawl scripted the greatest ever triumph in Indian football by winning the I-League, India's premier football competition, they were rocked by news that they will not have a chance to defend their title. [In the 2018] season, the AIFF along with marketing partners IMG-Reliance hope to launch a new unified league which will have all eight existing franchises from the ISL and three I-League teams.

Despite Aizawl winning the I-League, they are not assured of a place in the top tier simply because they do not have the financial muscle to compete in the ISL. The AIFF too have made this clear as they have openly engaged in talks with Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Bengaluru FC, while leaving the rest out of the equation.

Aizawl will be relegated to the second tier which club president Robert Royte told AIFF in an official letter is totally unfair and unacceptable.

Aizawl FC won the I-League with an estimated budget of Rs 2.5 crore while franchises in the ISL are understood to have incurred a minimum loss of Rs 25 crore in each of the three seasons so far. All participating franchises pay the organizers anywhere between Rs 12 to Rs 18 crore as participation fee every year.

“Amidst unprecedented success, it has been widely reported that AIFF is intending to include three I-League clubs, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Bengaluru FC, while it is silent on the inclusion of the reigning champions Aizawl FC in the proposed top league. It would be totally unfair and unacceptable to relegate the champions of the top league due to its merger with unrecognized `inter-city' tournament,“ club president Robert Royte wrote in a letter to AIFF president Praful Patel.

“We will do whatever it takes to ensure that Aizawl play in the top league. There is every possibility that there will be protests. We will do everything,“ the club president told TOI after dispatching the letter. League champions Aizawl FC have warned the All India Football Federation (AIFF) that they are willing to go to any length to ensure that they feature in the new unified top-tier league next season.

See also

Mizoram: Football Mizoram: Football stars

There are several other articles about Mizoram in Indpaedia.com, including

Chapchar Kut Edward Lalrempuia Mami Varte Miss Mizoram Mizo religion, culture, beliefs, songs, oral literature Mizoram Mizoram 1870-1926: Christianity and literacy Mizoram: A brief chronology (1946-1997) Mizoram: cinema Mizoram: From ancient times to 1946

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