Why the I-League will benefit from having a new team from the Northeast
Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar
Over the past few months, Chhinga Veng and TRAU FC have caught the eye of fans owing to their attractive style of playing the sport.
Over the past few years, the Northeast region has emerged as one of the vital reasons for the I-League’s surge. Be it Aizawl’s extraordinary title win in 2016, NEROCA FC’s impressive debut season, or Shillong Lajong’s inspired ability to produce top-quality youngsters, the hills have produced many rewards for the development of football.
However, times are changing in the Indian footballing landscape. With uncertainty clouding over the future, the I-League Second Division is moving ahead with the final round set to take place later this month. Many prominent sides have produced beautiful football over the months, yet those to have caught the major attention are Chhinga Veng FC and TRAU FC.
Two relatively meagre clubs looking for their shot at fame, they managed to overcome the odds to qualify for the final rounds after finding podium finishes in Group C of the 2018-19 I-League Second Division season. However, their roads to success has been quite similar. Chhinga Veng is a side who has been impressing in the Mizoram Premier League (MPL) for years, but now have a shot at overwhelming giants, Aizawl FC.
Having played second-fiddle to Aizawl for the past few seasons, Chhinga Veng are ready to compete with their city rivals and take on top dogs
TRAU FC, named after a road in Manipur, has been shining brightly in the lower leagues for decades. They’ve won the CC Meet (Manipur’s state league) six times and performed pretty well in the Second Division in recent years. However, the final hurdle’s been their biggest bane over the past few years. They finished fourth last time out, but with a compact side with some big names involved, TRAU looks to replicate NEROCA’s heroics to emerge as another rising giant from Manipur.
The journey for Chhinga Veng, however, has been quite different. Having played second-fiddle to Aizawl for the past few seasons, they’re ready to compete with their city rivals and take on top dogs in the I-League. After a prolific MPL season- where they infamously lost to Aizawl in a final which saw thousands of fans flock the stadium in a game played at midnight- they’ve impressed in the Second Division.
They comfortably topped Group C, winning six out of their ten matches and scoring 18 goals all around to sail into the final rounds. Despite being relatively unknown in the Indian football fraternity, Chhinga Veng are a side high in popularity locally. “Here in the Northeast region, the people just love football”, a club insider said exclusively to Khel Now.
“The players might be young, but they absolutely love playing football here. The society absolutely loves watching football here. I feel if there are two teams from Mizoram playing in the I-League, there could be some advantages for Indian football as a whole. It could be huge for the people, the players, the coaches and the Mizoram Football association in gaining wider exposure.”
Further reiterating on how they can help develop better players for Indian football, he added, “I think we can develop promising youngsters for the future. Everyone loves and trusts football here in Mizoram. There is support from the family, there’s a real football culture here. I could say Mizoram is to India like Brazil is to South America.”
Not only the cultural aspect, but Chhinga Veng have proven themselves viable in producing some attractive football. They rolled through almost every opposition in the group stages, showing extra vigour at home. In front of their roaring support, they scored 12 goals which evaluated to two-thirds of their entire campaign’s total. With some bright young talents and pacy attacking football, they encourage a more ambitious style and often come up with the goods.
In the Second Division, Chhinga Veng only has one foreigner registered in the towering defender Godwinn Quashiga. Their philosophy solely rests on promoting youngsters and giving chances to local players, which has worked so well in the I-League in recent times. As a result, that extra zing, energy can be noticed in their game due to their local player’s extra effort. Their persistence to rely on youth and give rise to domestic talents can definitely help in finding the next Jeje Lalpekhlua or someone better.
TRAU FC, on the other hand, are now experienced enough to thrive in the I-League. Like NEROCA FC, they’ve also grinded hard in the Second Division for years and finally have the tools to get over that bump. Despite a few hiccups here and there, they managed to fight their way into the final rounds. A blend of experienced candidates with emerging talents from Manipur makes them a stable unit who’ve inherited the knowledge of how to get the job done in the field.
Despite relying on experienced captain Princewell Emeke for the goals, they worked hard to overcome some big obstacles and ensure progression to the final rounds in stunning fashion. The odds might not be in their favour, yet TRAU’s surprise factor can work to their advantage. If they retain that lethal instinct which has taken them far off, the Manipur-based side could soon rival NEROCA in the I-League.
TRAU FC have grinded hard in the Second Division for years and finally have the tools to get over that bump
Over the years, a Northeast revolution has encapsulated Indian football. No longer are the Bengalis or Punjabis’ the biggest producers in a wider level of talents. Aizawl’s fairytale title win started their rise, while Northeast United’s recent success in ISL gained more attention for the competition. NEROCA FC proved that Manipur breathes on football while Shillong Lajong have continued to produce top-drawer talents to dazzle us with beautiful football.
However, now it’s time for the next giant from Northeast to arise. While there’ are no guarantees either Chhinga Veng or TRAU FC will manage to make promotion due to heavy competition from Ozone FC and Lonestar Kashmir, their determination and flair could take them far ahead. These two teams are the next flag-bearers for their respective states in encouraging the Indian football’s growth.
With the potential to increase Indian football’s popularity, producing exciting talents through their encouraging system or making the league more competitive with a cut-throat nature, the Second Division I-league teams are primed to make an impact. For a league infamous for producing genuine fairytales every moving season, Chhinga Veng or TRAU FC’s recent rise makes them potentially the next breakthrough giant to help the I-League retain its authenticity.
Published: Tue Apr 16, 2019 04:40 PM IST