News Article

Former I-League champions Aizawl appoint Gift Raikhan as head coach

Written by: Debajit Sarma


The former NEROCA boss replaces veteran tactician Santosh Kashyap at the Mizoram-based club.

Former I-League winners Aizawl FC have announced the appointment of Gift Raikhan as their new head coach for the upcoming season. The champions from 2016-17 underwent two managerial changes last season. First, Spanish coach Paulo Menezes was roped in at the beginning of the season, only to be sacked midway through. Then came in former Mumbai FC coach Santosh Kashyap who saw out the rest of Aizawl’s below-par campaign.

The 37-year-old Raikhan last managed Aizawl's northeast rivals NEROCA FC. He had been the Imphal-based side’s head coach ever since they started playing at the national level, until last month when he called time on his career with the club.

The young coach who formerly played for Churchill Brothers and now defunct, Pune FC earned tremendous praise for his work with the Manipur club. In the second attempt he helped the club win the I-League 2nd Division title, securing promotion to the top flight, where no other club from his home state had ever reached before.

The next season under Raikhan’s stewardship was even more sensational as the Orange Brigade finished runners-up in their first ever term in the top tier, above the much richer and stronger teams like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. At the end of the season, Raikhan also won the Coach of the Season award.

Because of his exploits with NEROCA, Raikhan was approached by fallen Kolkata giants Mohammedan SC for the job of the head coach and by one ISL franchise for the role of assistant coach, but he rejected both in favour of Aizawl.

Last season, NEROCA looked a very well drilled side and the coach established great mental fortitude within the team that speaks volumes about Raikhan’s credentials at man-management.

What makes Raikhan’s stint at NEROCA an incredible success was that he had to make do within the limited resources on offer at the club. He had to form the team with mostly local players and managed to get the best out of them. The Manipuri coach seems to thrive in such an environment and the challenge at Aizawl would be a familiar one for him. To their credit, the Aizawl management look to have made the best possible appointment.

After the highs of the title-winning campaign, Aizawl had to endure the pains of a mediocre season the very next year. Raikhan would look bring stability to the club and make them top flight regulars. He would also look to get the talented youngsters at the club to punch above their weight and contribute to the team significantly. The fans of the club have good reason to be excited for next season.

Published: Wed Jun 06, 2018 09:40 PM IST


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