[Continued from Part One]

Ar Hima

The team that definitely surprised all of us in the tournament was Ar Hima. They finished in second place in the first phase, having lost to Mohammedan Sporting and Josco FC of Kerala. They had to shift base from Jamshedpur to Shillong in one week. They also played 13 matches in the month, but that didn’t deter Ar Hima from putting up a splendid performance and capturing the hearts of many with their gritty play. In front of their home crowd, they looked a different proposition altogether. It was a team devoid of stars but their young players played out of their skins to take them to within touching distance of qualification.

The North Eastern clubs were a breathe of fresh air

Ar Hima began with back to back games against their local rivals Wahingdoh and Lajong, and lost to the latter but won against the former. In the next two matches, Hima defeated Mohammedan and drew against Vasco. They were still in contention for a top two spot until the final round of matches which goes to show how well they played. Their striker Zico Zoremsanga scored four goals and was well supported by Timmy Rinskhlem. They still have a hope to play in Indian top tier league if AIFF decides to punish Lajong FC for the Tuboi controversy. Going by Article VI of I-League Second Division regulations, Lajong, if proved guilty, will be scratched from the competition and their opponents will be declared winner by 3-0 margin – which will be just enough for Ar-Hima to make it in to the dream I-League promotion. All eyes are now on AIFF Players Status Committee meeting to be held on 27th of May.

Position: 4th

Goals scored: 11

Goals conceded: 8

Points: 11

Vasco Sports Club

They started brilliantly, stunned local rivals Sporting Clube de Goa, led the table for most of the campaign, but then a string of poor results cost them a place in the I-League for the second straight year. After the first three rounds, Vasco were the team to beat. Their young team under Gavin Araujo, who is just 33 years of age, played remarkably well to almost qualify for the league. Koko Sakibo and Joy Ferrao combined brilliantly up front and their physical play unsettled most of their opponents. However it was the form of their young midfield that would have pleased Gavin the most. Sachin Gawas, Prajot Naik and Basilio Rego were sensational for the white and blacks. In fact had their goalkeeper not been sent off against Lajong things could have been different as they were leading at that time. Vasco finished second in the first phase losing to Wahingdoh, but came back strongly in the second. In fact they won their first three games beating Mohammedan Sporting, Sporting Clube de Goa and Royal Wahingdoh. But then the slide started. They lost to Lajong, drew with Ar Hima and then shockingly lost to bottom placed Southern Samity. That was the game that probably sealed their fate. Had they won that game they would have been in the top two. However their win against United Sikkim which enabled them to finish third has given them a glimmer of hope. Should the AIFF punish Lajong and scratch them from the draw it will be Vasco that will go through. Even if the AIFF gives them the three points for the match against Lajong they will still make it to the League next year. Their fate now hangs entirely in the hands of the AIFF.

Position: 3rd

Goals scored: 13

Goals conceded: 8

Points: 13

Sporting Clube de Goa

The “Miracle of Miracles” is what Sporting Clube de Goa boss Peter Vaz exclaimed after his team made it to the I-League after painfully being relegated last year. They were down in the dumps after the first three games, the ground conditions were not suiting their style of play, their strikers were missing chances aplenty but they fought out, held on, believed in their abilities and eventually with a little help from Vasco’s slip ups, sealed a place among India’s elite. Coach Alex Alvares was wondering what to do after the first three games. Daniel Bedemi, former Lajong striker was missing sitters in front of goal, while their Angolan striker Aldon Maquemba was back after an injury lay-off and didn’t look his normal self.

The Indian ‘Oranje’ are back to I-League Div-I

When the chips were down, some tough decisions and tough words were spoken by Peter Vaz which probably changed Sporting’s season. Peter was present for the first three games and was so disgusted that he packed his bags and left for home. Before leaving he told the players that if they wanted him back they would have to play for their lives and wear the orange jersey with pride. That they did and came storming  back in the following games winning four on the trot to finish second behind Shillong Lajong. Captain Samananda Singh played a stellar role for them in midfield. Aldon was their top scorer with three goals while Samananda and Adil Khan also chipped in. Their youngsters specially Freiman Peixoto and Jovel Martrins played with plenty of passion and resolve. Sporting are finally back to where they belong but the real test for them starts now.

Position: 2nd

Goals scored: 10

Goals conceded: 5

Points: 14

Shillong Lajong

They had everything on a platter – home crowd, familiar conditions, that was a deterrent to the other teams, and a decent team with plenty of young blood. And they did not disappoint their fans cruising through the entire tournament suffering only a minor blip against Sporting Clube de Goa. Their veterans James Joblee and Gumpe Rime were brilliant throughout the tournament. Aibhor Khongee was also a revelation and Tuboi chipped in with the goals as always.

At the centre of controversy – Tuboi

But the million dollar question is did Larsing Ming, owner of Shillong Lajong and secretary of Meghalaya Football Association field an ineligible player in Seikhohao Tuboi?

Position: 1st

Goals scored: 12

Goals conceded: 6

Points: 16

The Controversy

Sekhohao Tuboi, India’s U-23 striker is in the eye of the storm for having represented two teams in a single season. The striker played for Army XI in the Calcutta League and turned up for Shillong Lajong in the I-League 2. After the protest lodged by Southern Samity, the AIFF after an inquiry and the meeting of the Player Status Committee decided to suspend Tuboi but let off Larsing Ming who is an influential Executive Committee member. Article IV of the second division regulations says that “Any team fielding an ineligible player shall be scratched from the competition. The match shall be forfeited and the opponents shall be declared winners by a 3-0 difference and three points shall be awarded to them. It also says that the team may be further penalized by then AIFF Disciplinary Committee”. Going by the rules AIFF ought to scratch Lajong from the draw but will that happen?

However Ming’s argument stems from the fact that Tuboi has been a player of Shillong Lajong for the last two years as per the AIFF transfer records.

“Under normal circumstances, the question of player’s eligibility comes if a particular club hasn’t followed the requisite transfer regulations. In this case it is clear to the entire world that Tuboi has played for Lajong from the 2009 I-League Second Division until this day and there is no dispute in that regard.

“Tuboi was also a Jawan of the Assam Regiment of the Indian Army. Consequently he would play for them in the Inter-services tournaments and the Durand Cup as well. This season it so happened that the Army XI played in the Kolkata League and without following any transfer regulations, the IFA registered him.”

“My question to the AIFF is what is Army XI – is it an organizational teams or a club as they pick up several players from the army from across the country and play in tournaments. If IFA claim that Tuboi is registered with them why did they allow him to represent Lajong in the IFA Shield?” asked Ming.

However Vasco Sports Club will feel let down for the second successive season after their claim that they were denied a place last year after Mahindra disbanded their team. It is understood that Vasco president Mr. Vinod Parkkot has met the GFA Secretary Mr. Alberto Colaco and he has assured to take up the matter with the AIFF.

“In AIFF records, Tuboi is registered as our player. So why was our player suspended midway through the league? We are very disappointed with the decision of the AIFF and unhappy about it. This could have derailed the entire process of qualifying back into the I-League. It is very clear that there is no question of eligibility on the onset,” Ming reasoned.

“After we got relegated last season and if it is to be remembered there was a confusion over the relegation which got resolved after a few months. In the meantime, Army called Tuboi to play for some tournaments and he represented Services in the Santosh Trophy too.”

“We were not aware of Army XI playing in the Kolkata League as how are we to keep a track of what Army XI is up to?” said the AIFF Executive Committee member.

As of today, it is learnt that Tuboi has a contract until the end of 2013 with Lajong and is no more an Army Jawan. But what the AIFF finally decides will hold the key to the fortunes of four clubs. Remember if the AIFF decides to give three points to all teams that played against Lajong then it will be Ar Hima and Vasco that will be promoted. So the fate of I-League Division-2 hangs in balance and all the participating teams are waiting with bated breath for the final verdict which will be declared in AIFF Players Status Committee meeting scheduled to be held on the 27th of May.