I-League champions Aizawl set to lose 4 players as big clubs circle
It isn’t a new phenomenon that surprisingly successful football clubs are often seen to let go their biggest assets to the circling vultures that are the bigger clubs.
We have seen it in top-level European football, and Aizawl FC await a similar fate in India. It hasn’t been a month since Aizawl won the I-League title, but India's biggest clubs have already started to poach the Redshirts’ best players.
A mass exodus is set to begin at Aizawl, dismantling the title-winning jigsaw that head coach Khalid Jamil built over the course of the first half of the calendar year 2017.
According to sources close to Sportskeeda, four of the current I-League champions’ star players have been lured away by the riches of the bigger clubs. Mahmoud Al Amna, Aizawl’s midfield dynamo, and Lalram Chullova, their attacking full-back, have agreed on deals to join East Bengal, while defensive lynchpins Zohmingliana Ralte and Lalruatthara are also on the way out. It is yet unclear where Ralte and Ruatthara are headed, but the four departures only seem to be the start.
Al Amna, the Syrian midfielder, was at the heart of Aizawl’s title win, scoring two goals in 15 appearances. The outgoing players played a combined 54 times for Aizawl last season, suggesting that the Mizoram outfit will have their core stripped off following an unprecedented success that has shaken Indian football’s foundations.
Since the aforementioned quartet played key roles in Aizawl’s fairy tale title win, it remains to be seen how badly their departures affect the team when the AFC Champions League qualifiers come around in January next year. Aizawl, as the champions of India, will take part in the first preliminary round of Asia’s biggest club competition.
East Bengal have moved in quickly to steal a march on their rivals by signing two I-League champions in Al Amna and Chullova. The Red and Gold Brigade were well off their targets for the 2016–17 season as they finished third in the I-League apart from being ousted in the semi-finals of the Federation Cup.
The Kolkata giants are currently locked in talks over their entry into the Indian Super League (ISL) next season, therefore strengthening their team this early is a positive development for the club. East Bengal have picked up the Invitation to Bid document that was floated by the ISL on 11th May and are widely expected to play ISL football in 2017-18.
There is also the possibility of head coach Jamil being lured away, but the former Mumbai FC coach looks likely to stay put and lead Aizawl’s I-League defense next season.