The calendar year was action-packed and saw many eventful days which left us all awestruck!
2018 proved to be another glittering year for Indian football. Thankfully, there were more highs than lows and some inspiring moments proved the magic in the domestic game is well and truly intact. Be it the star of Indian football, Sunil Chhetri continuing to break records with his majestic performances or the Indian national team showing signs of progress, many encouraging things were showcased over the course of the year.
In club football, the I-League provided for an amazing title race which went down to the wire, while the Indian Super League (ISL) was full of thrills and surprises as well. There were quite a few moments which lit up Indian football for good in 2018 and here we’ll have a look at five of them.
5. Real Kashmir becomes first team from Kashmir to play in I-League
The story of Real Kashmir is a fairy-tale in itself. Started in 2016 by a businessman Sandeep Chattoo and newspaper editor Shamim Meraj, they wanted to bring joy to the valley of Kashmir. They managed to do so in their second season in the 2nd Division I-League, where they played some beautiful football to secure promotion.
The Snow Leopards became the first side from the Valley to secure promotion to the Indian top flight
The Snow Leopards earned the opportunity to play in the top flight in the 2018/19 campaign, with their exceptional 3-2 win over Hindustan FC in the decider helping them make history. That win itself was a wonderful moment in Indian football, as football has been a symbol of hope and prosperity for the residents of the state.
4. Chennaiyin FC oust hosts Bengaluru FC to win second ISL title
Up until the end of the league phase, nobody really expected Chennaiyin FC to win the ISL last season. It seemed unstoppable newcomers Bengaluru FC would take the crown and with the finale being moved to the Sree Kanteerava stadium, destiny seemed on their side. However, Chennaiyin gave them a rude awakening with a gritty performance. A brilliant brace from Mailson Alves and one goal from Raphael Augusto helped the Marina Machans wrap up the tie, much to the Blues’ despair.
The Marina Machans won their second ISL title in 2018
The whole scenario seemed very cruel to Bengaluru, who had been the best team all season long. But, the way Chennaiyin defeated the odds to lift the trophy proved how unpredictable the ISL really is.
3. India win the Intercontinental Cup
The Intercontinental Cup saw a mini-revolution being sparked in Indian Football. Following a passionate plea from Chhetri on social media (an eye-opening moment in itself), thousands flocked to the Mumbai Football Arena to cheer on the Blue Tigers in the four-nation tournament. Coasting their way to the final, India faced Kenya in the showpiece and Chhetri led from the front.
The Blue Tigers defeated Kenya in the final of the Intercontinental Cup
The captain fantastic scored two goals to give the fans something to cheer about in the stands. With Viking claps, loud chanting and entertaining football, winning the Intercontinental Cup was a beautiful moment for Indian football and the rising national team as well.
2. Minerva Punjab defied the odds to win the I-League
The 2017/18 I-League season made for another fairy-tale outcome, with newcomers Minerva Punjab lifting the trophy at the end of the campaign. The newly risen club from Punjab were only playing their second campaign in the top tier, but their tactical astuteness helped them achieve glory.
Minerva became the first side from Punjab since JCT to win the Indian top flight
A narrow win over Churchill Brothers was enough to help them reach wonderland and become the first Punjab side since JCT to win the I-League. Watching these young underdogs reach the promised land was special, proving again the magic of the I-League.
1. Sunil Chhetri became the joint-second highest active international goalscorer
Chhetri was also the highest scorer in the Intercontinental Cup with eight goals
2018 was another amazing year for Chhetri. The India captain not only lead his team to performing brilliantly in the ISL and winning the Super Cup, but he also maintained his form at international level. Chhetri showed immense passion during the Intercontinental Cup, where he created a special record. After ending the tournament as the highest scorer with eight goals, the talisman also equaled Lionel Messi as the second joint-highest active goalscorer in international football.
The forward now has 65 goals from 103 matches, equal to Messi, who has the same in 128 games. Chhetri’s special moment came in the Intercontinental Cup final win against Kenya.