As 2017 slowly comes to a close, I, Arunava Chaudhuri (arunfoot) take a look back at the year gone by in Indian football in a series of write-ups on what all happened across the calendar year 2017 including the highlights, the good and the bad, and finally the outlook into the year 2018.
I hope I wasn’t too harsh on the bad and negatives of Indian football in 2017, so lets now come to the good and positives things that happened in Indian football in 2017 as I feel a lot has happened in 2017 which could and would make Indian football better in the years to come.
I have discussed a lot of the points in my earlier review of 2017, but still I want to mention them again.
Aizawl FC win the I-League
The story of Indian club football of 2017 was the success of Aizawl FC in pulling off one of the biggest surprises in professional club football around the world. Forget your stories about Leicester City FC or 1.FC Kaiserslautern, the Reds from Mizoram pulled off a sensational run by lifting the trophy ahead of famed opposition like Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC and East Bengal.
And honestly after getting a backdoor entry back into the I-League, everyone thought that Aizawl FC under new manager Khalid Jamil some ragtag foreigners plus two Mumbai boys (Jayesh Rane & Ashutosh Mehta) and a Goan goalkeeper Albino Gomes were fighting for relegation from day one.
But after surprise result after another, the believe grew that Aizawl FC could pull off something historic with Bengaluru FC struggling at the start under then manager Albert Roca, while East Bengal collapsed under Trevor James Morgan and Mohun Bagan never got going when they needed to. Aizawl FC grinded out result after result, and after beating Mohun Bagan at home, a draw away to Shillong Lajong FC meant the title.
It was a delight to see for all the work put in by dedicated people in Mizoram to promote and grow football.
2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India
The first-ever FIFA World Cup on Indian soil, the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup became a reality this year. In the end the LOC (Local Organising Committee) of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup did a brilliant job to pull off a sensational tournament. Especially Javier Ceppi and Joy Bhattacharjya as the helm of the LOC need to be complimented as well as the AIFF, the Government of India, the six state governments besides all the volunteers and professionals, who put it all together.
Further the India Under-17s gave their everything and got massive support from the crowds present and the whole nation despite losing their matches to the USA, Colombia and Ghana. Now the boys are fighting it out against men in the I-League as the Indian Arrows and the support has not died down as I saw on Friday at the Mohun Bagan ground as the local fans appreciated the football played by the youngsters.
A high of 96 in the FIFA World Rankings, qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and a streak of 13 matches unbeaten, it has been an impressive year for the Indian national football team under head coach Stephen Constantine. For that the credit goes to the coach, his staff and the players!
The 2019 AFC Asian Cup was key for India and its near future at Asian level. Without AFC Asian Cup football, it would have meant only friendlies and the SAFF Cup.
I know there is a discussion on the style of football, Stephen Constantine likes to play, but I don’t want to go into it, then I rather have success than great football and losses. There Stephen is 100% spot on, having given the boys the believe that they can achieve it.
Elections at the Delhi Soccer Association (Football Delhi)
My friend Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran was recently elected as president of the Delhi Soccer Association, now to be renamed as Football Delhi. A positive step for football in the capital as someone as knowledgeable as Shaji in control of affairs will hopefully take Delhi football forward and bring it into the limelight as part of the mainstream.
Some might now be surprised, but I have kept the AIFF for 2017 on the positive side of Indian football despite all the issues and matters that plague our football. Why? Simply said, they pulled off a brilliant 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, they are taking the right decisions to broaden the base of football at youth level and are taking the support from FIFA and the AFC wherever needed and wanted.
Lets encourage the AIFF and its staff for an even better 2018!
I hope you enjoyed this third part of the series! I hope people also read the compliments which were made. The next one is to follow…