In the end, all you could see were hands, pairs and pairs of hands, reaching out to the faceless bunch of men in the middle. Someone held aloft a trophy with a shiny globe on top. It glistened in the sea of heads, it seemed like the eye of a whirlpool of humans, the epicentre of a man-made quake.
In the middle, somewhere, was that group of men who caused this tremor in the first place. A mere 25 policemen in attendance, Meghalaya’s Chief Minister in attendance too, but over 3,000 delirious Mizos had spilled onto the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, making the idea that Aizawl – and Indian football – was a people’s idea, simple and straight, come so true. You had to pinch yourself to realise this wasn’t just a a TV show. Aizawl FC were the champions of Indian football, and you’d still scarcely believe it.
But first. Just how difficult is the idea of not losing than simply winning, was cruelly dawning upon Aizawl FC as they chased Shillong Lajong’s blistering early pace and ninth minute goal.
They would lose their shape, as they briefly did their composure contesting a controversial Dicka goal which seemed to bounce off the line, and even the scorer being offside. Lajong, with the fourth spot finish out of reach, would now look to spoil the Aizawl party, and relish these uncharacteristic offerings by the league leaders – of a lack of confidence and a strange absence of ideas.
In an unexpected twist, 34 minutes into the twin encounters being on either side of the hills in this I-League final round – down in Kolkata where Mohun Bagan hosted Chennai City FC and ferociously sought a win, any win – a wild cheer rose in Aizawl section of the Shillong stadium which was rapidly turning morose by the minute when the announcer told us that the Kolkata giants were trailing.
So there it was, Khalid Jamil’s boys trailing the game, but still ahead in the final. It was the most delightful paradox – you are behind, yet you are ahead.
That reprieve would last precisely ten minutes, a wonderful bubble surrounding you which you would not want to burst, yet still keep stretching it to its limit. Because it was also the phase where Aizawl would play their best football, calm and composed in their build-up. The chances would come, as would the aimless heaves at the Lajong goal.
Then we were told that Bagan had equalised in Kolkata. No surprise there, but it meant that it was back to the trenches for Aizawl. A close goalline grab by Vishal Kaith, the Lajong goalkeeper only meant what it was – so close. Playing against the clock as opposed to playing for time, was always going to be a tricky proposition, especially for a someone who has favoured a defensive basis for his systems and strategy. Could Jamil throw in his attacking hand as he had said he could a day earlier?
Source : TOI