Aizawl FC have one hand on the trophy, and can only blame themselves if they do not win it. . .

“A draw is enough, a win makes it certain.” Khalid Jamil is probably going to use these as his last words when his Red Army walks out to play Shillong Lajong FC at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in Shillong on Saturday. After 90-odd minutes from thereon, Aizawl FC can create history. They can become the first side in the history of Indian football to come back from relegation to winning the league.

90 minutes of football might decide a trophy, but will not be the final verdict on the 1600-odd minutes of hard work this team has put in this season. Trophy or not, the enigma has won our hearts. Aizawl FC will go down in the history either way, with or without the title. And Khalid Jamil, the man, is one to be revered upon.

Aizawl FC have proved you can dream in Indian football and have also shown how to make them real!

The former Indian International is a man who wears his passion on his sleeve, and it is clearly evident from the sort of character he is. Silent yet attacking, with an ironical numbness always writ on his face. Jamil has his haters/doubters, a lot of them in Mumbai FC. The Yellow Submarine, meanwhile, are bidding farewell to the I-league after losing the coach to Aizawl FC this season.

The Permutations and Combinations

  • Aizawl FC: Win, Mohun Bagan: Win, I-league: Aizawl FC
  • Aizawl FC: Win, Mohun Bagan: Lose, I-league: Aizawl FC
  • Aizawl FC: Lose, Mohun Bagan: Win, I-league: Mohun Bagan
  • Aizawl FC: Lose, Mohun Bagan: Lose, I-league: Aizawl FC
  • Aizawl FC: Draw, Mohun Bagan: Draw, I-league: Aizawl FC

Technically speaking, the trophy is for Aizawl FC’s to loose. With speculation already burning in various Forums and chats that Shillong Lajong might play to allow easy passage to the fellow North East side, it puts, even more, pressure on the ever-surprising team to out-stage one of the better young sides in the league and end the journey on a credible high.

Looking at the season, it will not be exaggerating to say that the team has been built to win trophies. With a mean defence which has physicality, height and strength centrally and power and tireless runners on the wings, Jamil knew exactly what to expect from the other teams in the league. The fact that the Red Army has not been plagiarised by injuries throughout the season is an added advantage.

While the defence deserves to be applauded, it is the midfield which has (maybe) won the league for the side. In Alfred Jaryan, Mahmoud Al Amna and Jayesh Rane, the team has a captain and destroyer, a destroyer-cum-creator and playmaker in chief and a dead-ball specialist play-maker who gave his all this season, playing out of position and yet performing strongly.

Social Media clearly suggests that the team is very close to its fan base and the positive vibes are well-scattered throughout the camp

The striking troika of Brandon Vanlalremdika, Robert Laldanmawia and Stephane Kamo Baye were hard workers on the pitch and ensured the midfield and side-backs had enough security, pressing up and building numerous counter-attacks. Baye, in particular, is on tied-second on the scorers’ list this season with seven goals, a fact which shows why the Ivory Coast forward has been so instrumental in leading the side up ahead on the pitch.

Mohun Bagan, on the other side, can only do one thing in their powers: defeat Chennai City FC. The Mariners were the better side the last time these two teams faced each other, winning the tie 2-1 away. Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sony Norde had scored the goals the away team and Marcos Vinicius had kept the South Indian club in contention of a draw. Mohun Bagan will be fielding a full-strength side, hoping Shillong Lajong do the trick for them.

It wouldn’t be easy for the Reds on Saturday, contrary to the popular belief. Thangboi Singto has said, “Khalid Bhai has done an incredible job. It’s an amazing feat to be title contenders. We have a chance to spoil their party. Remember, we have been a pioneer in football and always finished mid-table. We know what we have to do to beat them (Aizawl) on Sunday.”

As we see the final round of I-league pan out, we hope both the title contenders play the football they’ve showcased throughout the season one more time: dominant in the attack, creative and restrictive in the centre and destructive at the back.