Aizawl FC may have been newcomers in the I League till a year ago but after its performance this season, it has managed to not just become a force to reckon with but it has also become the first team from the North East to score in the I League with a win.
Known as India’s answer to a fairytale story like Leicester City, Aizawl FC’s rise is being closely watched by those who are in love of soccer.
Aizawl won the Indian title last month in their second season in the top flight despite a shoe string budget in hand.
Interestingly three clubs pulling out of the I league helped them get a slot to prove their detractors wrong.
Among the teams which quit the league to help the Aizawl FC phenomenon were Dempo SC, Salgaocar and Sporting Goa.
Aizawl were promoted in 2015-16 but finished second bottom in the maiden season in the I-League. There have been reports of plans being afoot of merging the I-League with the Indian Super League (ISL).
The All India Football Federationhave for now ruled out immediate merger.
Aizawl FC founded in 1984 had been in the doldrums until local businessman Robert Royte came on board as club president.
By 2012 he became the club’s owner.
Aizawl FC earned a well-deserved 1-1 draw against Shillong Lajong FC to create history by becoming the first club from the north-east to win the I-League title.
Aizawl FC capped off a fairy tale run finishing with a tally of 37 points from their full quota of 18 matches.
A club whose budget is just around Rs 2 crore it’s an achievement of enormous proportion for Aizawl.
For coach Khalid Jamil also, it was something he will cherish as he was booted out by Mumbai FC last season for the club’s poor performance.
Mizoram as per estimates contribute more than 50 players to clubs in the top two divisions of the I League, yet they have so far not been well reported in news.
Aizawl FC are such outsiders who are not even champions of the 2016-17 Mizoram Premier League.
Teams that win the I-League get a qualification round entry into the AFC Champions League, failing that, a first round shot at AFC Champions Cup.
In India, football is the second most popular sport, next to the game of cricket.
It has traditionally been popular in regions such as West Bengal, Goa, Kerala, Odisha, and the entire north-eastern India, especially Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.
The top most domestic league of India, I-League, was formed in 2007 in an attempt to professionalize domestic football and in 2013 the Indian Super League was formed with 8 teams to promote Indian football. The Santosh Trophy meanwhile is a knock-out competition between states. India is currently ranked 100 among the FIFA World Rankings, published in May 2017.
The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup is scheduled to take place in India. Depending on the performance of the U-17 team, the All India Football Federation has indicated consideration for a World Cup bid.
The origin of football in India can be traced back to mid-nineteenth century when the game was introduced by British soldiers. Calcutta FC was the first club to be established in 1872.
The first Indian team to achieve success was Sovabazar Club, which won the Trades Cup in 1892.
India even picked up the gold in football in the first Asian Games in 1951, beating a “booted” Iran by a solitary goal.
The underdog story has always fascinated people. Be it the Muhammad Ali story in 1964 or be it the Indian cricket team that lifted the World Cup trophy in 1983. Leicester City did it in 2016. And now, Aizawl FC.
Aizawl’s journey will be documented as an example for young turks who want to challenge the big guns.