AIR INDIA: Champions of Mumbai, lost to the nation
Written by: Sabin Castelino
Out of I-league, Air India continues to dominate Mumbai football...
Air India, a club founded in 1952 by Anand Prajapati has once again managed to capture the attention of the Mumbai footballing Community by bagging the Mumbai Football League’s Harwood league (aka Elite Division) as well their Under-19 team bagging the Super division.
Kicked out of the I-league after the 2012-13 season for failing to fulfil the club licensing criteria by the AIFF, Air India never folded up their operations as various other clubs did. They turned their undivided attention to play in the Harwood League i.e. the Elite Division of Mumbai Football League run by the Mumbai District Football Association. They, also, never gave up on youth development and continued to have a second team play in the Super Division which is the second tier of Mumbai Football.
Currently coached by former India international Godfrey Pereira, this tenacious team went all out this season to win the Harwood League. Their pragmatic yet Dutch-like beautiful football and a strong-willed young team gave their all, throughout the season.A major portion of their matches took place at the historic Cooperage stadium where they simply dominated the proceedings and never wavered to clinch the title in their last game against Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India (ONGC), the reigning Champions. This penultimate game of the season was a virtual final as Air India only needed a draw over the heavyweights ONGC, who also were former I-league contenders, and they breezed past them to clinch the crown drawing the match 1-1.
This penultimate game of the season was a virtual final as Air India only needed a draw over the heavyweights ONGC, fellow former I-league contenders, and they strongly performed to clinch the crown drawing the match 1-1.
The Under 19 team followed in their footsteps and clinched the Super Division title for the second time in two years by defeating Mumbai Strikers 5-0 on the final day of action. The Colts, coached by Shyam Sawant, left no stone unturned and were a deserving bunch of 19-year-olds who played with ferocious tenacity and an undying spirit against players who carried heavier experience against them.
The players, whenever they step on the pitch, play their hearts out
Air India has never given up on producing talented players in both teams and has constantly provided guidance and support to players to reach the next level. The players here are constantly called up to represent Maharashtra at the Santosh Trophy and many a time, end up being picked by I-League and Indian Super League clubs.
Air India, this season, has truly shown the exuberance that Mumbai football stands for and continues to support the footballing community and giving opportunities to the youngsters providing a stepping stone to achieve greatness in India’s harsh footballing environment. We may not know what the future holds for the Indian footballing community, but we surely can rely on grass-root oriented clubs like Air-India to carry the torch for the youth and lead them on the right path.
Published: Sun Jul 02, 2017 10:52 AM IST