On 6th May 2015, Aizwal FC authored a new chapter in Indian Football history when they defeated state rivals and fellow promotion contenders Chanmari FC 4-2 in the penultimate round of the second division to become the first team from Mizoram to qualify for the I League. Aizwal FC thus maintained the domination of the North East teams in the second division as the last four editions have seen the likes of Shillong Lajong, United Sikkim, Rangdajied United and Royal Wahingdoh qualify. While Aizwal FC successfully established North East as the future of Indian Football, there qualification is special as they brought a new state on the map of I League and have put a halt on domination of Shillong teams from the region as Lajong, Rangdajied and Wahingdoh come from Shillong.
Mizoram clubs Mizoram Club Dinthar FC and MAP FC participated in the 2002 and 2003 editions of the second division I League( called the National Football League) but ere unable to go beyond the initial rounds. Aizwal FC started off as an amateur club in 1984 but became defunct a decade later. It was only in 2011 that the club was revived thanks to the untiring efforts of Mizo Football Management Group under the leadership of club president owner Robert Romawia Royte. The club was registered initially as Aizawl North FA and after participation in the few local tournaments and the AIFF’ s nod the club began their national campaign with participation in the second division. After a impressive showing in the 2012 I League second division where they reached the final round, the club were found wanting in the 2013 and 2014 editions where they were eliminated in the initial rounds itself. The club finally hit the right chords in this edition and qualified in style much to the delight of the football fans across the nation.
Aizwal FC started their campaign on a bright note winning all of their first six matches and though they lost the seventh match to arch rivals Chanmari FC , they went into the break heading the points table. The club had a minor blip in the 11th round when they lost 2-0 to Kashmir FC but regained their form with a 2-0 win over Kenkre FC. On 6th May, Aizwal FC lined up against Chanmari FC with Lonestar Kashmir FC breathing down their neck. Aizwal were on the offensive right from the word go and took the lead in the 9th minute through a Brandon Vanlalremdika header. The lead was doubled four minutes later when Laldampuia unleashed a powerful shot which gave the rival goalkeeper no chance. Aizwal added another two goals in the second half with Liberian Alfred scoring six minutes after the restart and Laldampuia added s second at the hour mark. Though Chanmari pulled two goals back through Malsawmfela and Lalrosanga , it proved too late in the end. With Lonestar failing to win against Kenkre, Aizwal earned a well deserved promotion to the I League. The champions finished their campaign in style routing Mohammedan Sporting 4-2 despite falling behind 2-0 in the first half. Aizwal who were playing without any foreigners made a stunning comeback in the second half with strikers William Lalnunfela scoring a brace and midfielders Brandon and Laldampuia scoring a goal each.
Skipper David Lalrinmuana and Rohmingthanga Lengpui played key roles for the team anchoring the midfield and creating numerous opportunities for the strikers. Lengpui had earlier helped Shiilong Lajong earn promotion in 2009 while David Lalrinmuana, who is known for his impressive dead-ball skills, played for ONGC in the 2012 edition of the I League and even scored a goal. 23 year old defender Lalrozama Fanai who has played for India U-19 and U-23 teams was another key player in the team. Fanai last year won the I League with Bengaluru FC and has also played for Pailan Arrows and Mohun Bagan. The entire set of Aizwal FC players were part of the Mizoram team which won the gold in the national games last year and that helped Aizwal FC immensely as the players were used to playing with each other. The foreign players in the team – strikers Alfred Jaryan and Morgan Justice and defender Emmanuel Chigozie played there part to perfection inspiring the team with their performances.
Expressing his happiness over the team’ s qualification, team owner Robert Romawia Royte said
The immediate plan is to have a big celebration back home. As for the team, my aim will be to utilise the immense talent we have in the state and, at the same time, bring in some quality foreigners. I am also confident that we will be able to fulfill the Asian Football Confederationa s (AFC) Club Licensing criteria.
Our main sponsor is NorthEast Consultancy Services (NECS), so we don’t have any financial problems. We already have a proper management system in place. There are six Aizawl FC football academies across the state. We have a very strong junior team which acts as a feeder for the senior team
Lonestar Kashmir FC who finished second in the second division were another success story of the second division. Representing the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmir FC did the state proud with their performances which included a 2-0 win over champions Aizwal FC. Former JCT and Mohammedan Sporting striker Ajay Singh finished as the top scorer of the second division.
Mizo players have made their mark in Indian Football with the East Bengal duo of Shylo Malsawmtluanga and Lalrindika Ralte along with Mohun Bagan’ s Jeje Lalpekhlua leading the way. With the presence of Aizwal FC in I League, more and more Mizo players will get opportunities to showcase their talent to the entire nation. The Mizoram Premier League attracts thousands of spectators to the ground and it is expected that just like Wahingdoh and Lajong, the matches of Aizwal FC will be well attended and the opposition teams will find it tough to play in front of capacity crowds. Aizwal FC should take heart from the performances of Royal Wahingdoh who currently find themselves at the third spot in the I League despite possessing a modest budget and should build on this second division success. The club had done justice to their motto of being a a Peoplea s Cluba by bringing the state of Mizoram on the map of I League. The future looks bright for Aizwal FC and all eyes will no doubt be on the club when the I League kicks off next season.