"A win for Aizawl is a win for the whole North East," says Renedy Singh
Aizawl nearly sealed a historic first I-League title today with a 1-0 win over Mohun Bagan at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium today in Mizoram. With only one game left in the league, the Reds have to get only a point from their last game against Shillong Lajong to truly etch their name in Indian football history. And if they finally do so, they will become the first team from the North East of the country to be national champions since a national league was formed.
Speaking about the all important win, former Indian captain Renedy Singh sounded delighted and yet cautious.
“It’s a big day for North East football in India. That part of the country has always been the hotbed of Indian football and we are finally seeing the rewards. But they still have a game to go and thus, we shouldn’t really jump the gun. But I am delighted about the result today,” quipped the former Indian international.
“We have seen over the years that players from Manipur and Sikkim have formed the core of the big teams across India. And now Mizoram in recent years have done so well to produce some of the best talents.
“I hope after this season, that part of the country gets its due recognition.”
A fairytale story
Aizawl’s run this season in the I-League has been compared by many to Leicester City’s Premier League winning campaign from last season. And why not? The team that was relegated at the end of last season only to be reinstated on subjective grounds has defied all odds to come up on top.
Boasting of a coach that was unwanted at the end of last season by Mumbai FC and a shoestring budget which was 20 times less than stalwarts like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.
“Football is the main game in our part of the country. We don’t play cricket. The game of football is what runs through the veins of the kids in that region.
“And to be honest this is the result of good preparation and ground work which was put in place a number of years ago.
“You also have to give your props to Shillong Lajong who have led the way and showed the way about how to run a club professionally in the North East. And with them as the benchmark, we have seen clubs like Royal Wahingdoh (withdrew from the I-League a couple of years back) and Neroca (who are in the 2nd division at the moment) come up in the subsequent years.
“But Aizawl’s feat, of course, takes the cake. They have just shown that money is not the only the only thing required for success in the game in India.”
Whilst the win effectively gives the Reds one hand on the trophy, they still need to get the job done against Shillong in the final game. And whilst this game was a dampener for Mohun Bagan fanatics, it was a time when the rest of the country cheered in unison for a club that again has brought out the romance in what we call the beautiful game.
Whilst Bengaluru have struggled to play the “right way”, East Bengal’s campaign has been derailed by internal bickering. Mohun Bagan, on the other hand, have blown hot and cold on too many occasions.
Aizawl, however, have remained focused, kept their heads down and even when the wind in their sails seemed to have gone down, they have picked themselves up and found a new way to win games.