Like the first, the second I-League will stay in Goa but at a different address. Step forward Churchill Brothers. Four times the bridesmaid, India’s only family-run club came of age on Thursday walloping Mohammedan Sporting 6-2 for their maiden national league crown. Having dethroned Dempo, Churchill Brothers will now follow their footsteps in Asia.
Their captain and talismanic striker Okolie Odafa knew the significance of the moment. Just as referee S Suresh blew the final whistle he raced to the bench and grabbed the club’s flag before breaking into wild celebrations with his teammates. The Nigerian goal machine said he would dedicate the title to his new-born son. “I’m happy that we have become champions of the I-League. This title is for my little second son, born two weeks back,” he said.
“It feels great to have at last emerged champions after narrowly missing the title last year. I had said from the start of the season that we wanted to become champions and we will work hard to earn it. This is the result of all our efforts,” Odafa said.
Odafa had started Churchill Brothers’ title bid by scoring in the 2-1 first-round win against Mahindra United here on September 27. He scored twice this afternoon, the first with a delectable placement from the left edge of the area, and 23 times in between for a hattrick of Golden Boots.
“I thank God for this. I’m happy for everybody, including the members of the Churchill family. They have always supported the team, I thank them,” he said, before joining the squad on a victory lape.
By eight minutes, all expectations of the unexpected in the final round had evaporated. Churchill Brothers, tied on 43 points with Mohun Bagan, were 2-0 in front after Mohammedan Sporting defender Wasim Feroze’s self-goal and Odafa’s clinical finish. And in a state which loves to party that was reason enough to get started early.
At 53 goals, Churchill Brothers have scored 23 more than Mohun Bagan who finished second. Interestingly, Zoran Djordjevic became the first coach to win the national league.