Now a team from the tiny State, Aizawl Football Club, have qualified to play in the National I-League, after emerging top at the national B Division I-League. In the two-leg championship held at Siliguri and Assam, the Mizo outfit confirmed their title on May 6 at Golaghat after defeating their statemate Chandmari Football Club 4-2. After the penultimate tie they scored unassailable 31 points and in the match of academic interest on Saturday, they trounced Mohammedan Sporting Club of Kolkata 4-2 to raise their points to 33.
It was a historic achievement for Mizoram. The team will now play in the top tire of the I-League next year. It is the fourth team from the north-eastern States to play in the I-League. Three teams from the NE – Shillong Lajong FC, Royal Wahingdoh and Rangdajied Unite FC – all from Meghalaya have qualified for the elite tournament of the Indian football.
Mizoram has a tremendous set-up at the grass-root level. They now have three artificial football pitches, two at Aizawl and one at Lunglei. The fourth one is coming up at Champhai. Secretary of the Mizoram Football Association (MFA) Lalnghinglova Hmar seems to be a very energetic man who works from dawn to dusk for the cause of Mizoram football.
The MFA has introduced the Mizoram Premier League in 2012 and the highly competitive championship has been instrumental in producing a batch of graded players. Till last year, 85 Mizo footballers were playing in I-League and now the numbers will be much more.
Ask FIFA’s regional director Shaji Prabhakaran, the man who oversaw the implementation of the successful Vision Manipur, one of the first pilot programmes of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in the country. He said Mizoram’s triumph, (winning Santosh Trophy in 2014) is a success for the programme.
“The rise of North Eastern football started with Vision Manipur in 2005. It was highly successful as they were able to put together a strong purposeful league. Now Mizoram will inspire more and more smaller States,” Prabhakaran, who was the director when Vision Manipur was implemented, told IANS in an interview last year.
Mizoram dominated the Subroto Cup football tournament which is regarded as one of the nation’s football nursuries. The youngsters of the Mizoram school teams play very fast football. They are accurate in every skills of the game and it proves that the organisers and coaches at the grass-root level are very much keen in making the kids perfect in basics.
It is high time for the Assam Football Association (AFA) to take out a leaf from the success story of their Mizoram counterpart. The AFA will launch the new format of the Assam State Premier League tomorrow which should have been far ahead. The infrastructure in Assam is also far from adequete. The Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium has became the star attraction for football organisers. It was developed by the Reliance Group last year for the Indian Super League. Now almost all the tournaments are organised on this venue. If things go on like this, the renovated ground will get its old form soon.