Aizawl FC- The fairytale club losing its heroes
Written by: Pradyumna Tembhekar
After scripting one of the most dramatic stories in modern football, the Indian champions have lost majority of their players to other clubs.
Aizawl FC, the team that scripted a fairytale story in the Indian football circuit, currently face a crisis in holding on to their first team players that helped them attain the I-League crown in the 2016-17 season.
The league success proved to have a pivotal role in the careers of the players, with many Indian Super League (ISL) teams keeping a tab on the ones that made it to the title despite facing relegation the season before.
The changes were seen right from the helm of the club’s first team with head coach Khalid Jamil swapping the team from Mizoram to join East Bengal, becoming the highest paid Indian coach. It did not stop there- a majority of the Indian contingent in the first team was raided by ISL and I-league teams in the draft, mostly by the Kolkata clubs to strengthen their squad.
First team goalkeeper Albino Gomes was picked in the ISL draft by Delhi Dynamos FC, whereas Kerala Blasters strengthened their squad with defender Lalruatthara joining the South Indian club. The famous Mumbai duo of Ashutosh Mehta and Jayesh Rane, dubbed as the ‘Indian Neymar’, joined the mass exodus from the northeast and will now ply their trade in the ISL for ATK. Skipper Zohmingliana Ralte, also known as Zotea also joined the ISL, with the defender joining the newcomers Bengaluru FC.
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What’s more, even the foreign players who joined Aizawl are now edging towards an exit from the I-League champions. Kamo Stephane Bayi, the striker from Ivory Coast, who created nightmares for I League defenders, has joined Mohun Bagan currently playing for the Kolkata outfit in the Calcutta Football League (CFL) along with Eze Kingsley Obumneme. Syrian hero Mahmoud Al Amnah, who contributed to the club’s success despite his country’s internal issues, has now joined Bagan’s rivals East Bengal, also playing in the ongoing CFL, along with Brandon Vanlalremdika.
If we want to compare the current Aizawl FC scenario, then we can definitely call the club as the AS Monaco of Indian football. The team won the league with a set of unknown youngsters as well as an experienced coach and now its main players are heading towards the exit door finding better opportunities elsewhere.
Despite these exits, the champions have signed some players themselves. The most notable signing being the entry of Nigerian Kareem Omolaja, who has plenty of Indian football experience, especially in the northeast region where he played for Royal Wahingdoh FC at the beginning of the decade. Lalrozama Fanai returned to the squad after a season at Fateh Hyderabad AFC in the I-League 2nd Division. Shylo Malsawmtluanga is reported to have come back to Aizawl as well. T. Lalnunpuia was roped in by the club from former I-League outfit Rangdajied United FC. Ivory Coast international Leonce Dodoz Zikahi was signed by the club from Mohammedan Sporting Club.
With lack of first team players from last season, new head coach Paulo Meneses Coelho is surely going to have to look atr signing new Indian players to strengthen his squad ahead of the new season. But, given the local talent that has contributed to the development of football in India in general, this should not be much of a problem for the Portuguese.
Footballing talent is never a scarcity in the northeast, but given the current scenario of players preferring ISL teams over I-League clubs; (which surprisingly are the teams that play in the official top flight of India) and the Kolkata clubs roping in talents from across the country, Aizawl can face a crisis as far as hiring experienced Indian or foreign players is concerned.
Published: Tue Aug 29, 2017 03:55 PM IST