Aizawl FC are the new champion club in India. But they are not the best team at home in Mizoram.
Aizawl FC had finished sixth among seven teams that vied for the title of the fifth Mizoram Premier League (MPL) last year. Chanmari FC, the winners, had beaten them 4-1 in the first leg and 2-1 in the second.
The not-so-fancied Bethlehem Vengthlang FC had as many points – 10 – as Chanmari FC, but the latter were crowned MPL champions on better goal difference.
“Wresting the championship back from a top-flight team like Aizawl FC was special,” LV Laltantluanga, an owner of Chanmari FC and general manager of local cable TV Zonet, said.
Zonet, which owns the television rights of the loss-making MPL, beams each match live to Mizo homes across the state.
The six-year-old Chanmari FC had won the second edition of MPL for the 2013-14 season before Aizawl FC, formed in 1984, bagged the next two.
“By winning I-League a year after it faced relegation, Aizawl FC has proved it is as good a team as any other in the country. But that does not necessarily mean the best footballers of Mizoram are in Aizawl FC,” Mizoram Football Association secretary Lalnghinglova Hmar said.
Players in the landlocked state admit Aizawl FC, richer than other clubs in the state, have become a magnet for them. But they agree lesser-known clubs such as Zo United FC and Ramhlun North FC give them a break.
One such soccer club that has provided bigger Indian clubs a steady stream of players is Dinthar FC, the winner of the first MPL championship in 2012-13. Their ‘graduates’ include Mohun Bagan’s Jeje Lalpekhlua, DSK Shivajians’ Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Shillong Lajong’s Samson Ramengmawia.
“We are one of the oldest clubs in Mizoram without enough resources to retain quality players who excel on the bigger stage. Our team has slipped a bit in the past two years, but it is a great feeling that we produce good players for bigger teams,” Hmingthana, a businessman and Dinthar FC owner, told HT from Aizawl.
The current Aizawl FC team has five former Dinthar players including goalie Zothanmawia. Another Dinthar player, striker Malsawmfela, signed for Chennai City FC in December last year.