I-League: Aizawl's look for a dream finish

I-League: Aizawl's look for a dream finish
On Saturday, Aizawl FC will have a chance to script something very special. A win by a two-goal margin against Mohun Bagan would mean the team from Mizoram would win thier first-ever I-League crown.

For a team that was relegated last season and was reinstated into the top tier only because the All India Football Federation (AIFF) wanted to make up the numbers, this is nothing short of a fairytale. 

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Aizawl’s full-back Lalruathara says describing his emotions. 

“Winning the league would be huge. Not only for us, but for the state of Mizoram. Every team who plays in the league plays to win. But then we know it’s practically not possible for teams like us to challenge the big teams. But this year, we have shown that no team is invincible. This season has been like a fairytale.”

A fairytale? Yes. But for the side primarily made up of players from the North-East, it’s not a surprise. “We knew we have the talent to challenge the best in the country,” their skipper Alfred Jaryan, one of the seven non-Mizo players in the 25-man squad, reasons.

“I have been here for the last two years. Last year, it was the first time we played the top tier and that showed in the manner we approached the games. We were lacking leadership on the pitch. 

“But this year, we are like a family. We try to help each other and help out others when they make an error. I think that’s played a big role in shaping this team’s fortunes. Imagine players from different places coming here and playing along with the Mizo boys, adapting to the life here.”

For a city famous for its music and football, it’s no surprise that Aizawl is all decked up for the big one. The 20,000-seater picturesque Rajiv Gandhi stadium was sold out by Tuesday and if Lalruathara is to believed, it seems like the whole of Mizoram has descended to its capital for the weekend.

“It’s like the whole of Mizoram is here. And the only thing people talk about is this game,” he states.

Meanwhile, Jaryan is seeing this as an opportunity to give the supporters something to cheer about. “They (the fans) have been with us through everything. And nothing can be bigger than winning the league for them,” he remarks.

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