We’re at the end of the I-League season – well, the end before the end – because we don’t know if Real Kashmir and Minerva Punjab will ever play each other.
It’s time to look back at some of the best (and worst) the 2018/19 I-League season had to offer.
Player of the season: Pedro Manzi
Scored a hat-trick on debut, before scoring only one in the next eight matches. After Christmas, the Spaniard went on to score three more hat-tricks, a couple of braces, and the all-important equalizing goal on the final day. Ended the season with 21 goals from 18 matches.
Goal of the season: Pedro Manzi vs Aizawl FC at JLN, Coimbatore.
The match was tied at 1-1 in the second half when Manzi collected the ball on the right side of the halfway line, looked up to see Gurpreet off his line and proceeded to casually lob the ball from 50 yards into the Aizawl goal.
Match of the season: NEROCA FC v Chennai City FC
Pedro Manzi scored a 10-minute hattrick in the first half to take his team into the break with a three-goal lead. The second half saw Felix Chidi pull one back within seven minutes. Chencho made it 2-3 in the 68th. Finally, an Aryn Williams long-ranger provided the equalizer in the 87th.
But there was more drama in injury time as Malem missed a sitter from six-yards out, while Manzi’s nearly scored his fourth in final seconds of the match. It ended 3-3 but it could have easily been a tennis score by either side. Relive the match here.
Best young player: Phrangi Buam.
Yes, there were others too, but we have a special place in our hearts for the diminutive attacking midfielder from Shillong. He is electric going forward and finished the season with a credible six goals to his name. Not bad for the 18-year-old.
Signing of the season: Pedro Manzi.
Along with his fellow Spaniards, Nestor Gordillo and Sandro Rodriguez, the Uruguay-born Manzi was easily the pick of the lot.
Late signing of the season: Marcus Joseph.
Signed by Gokulam Kerala from W Connection FC in January, the Trinidadian scored 7 goals in 9 matches.
Flop of the season: Mohun Bagan AC
After winning the Calcutta Premier League, a lot was expected from Mohun Bagan. Then came the poor start to the season, the uninspired play, the derby loss in December and by mid-January, the Mariners were 15 points from 11 matches, which prompted the resignation of coach Shankarlal Chakraborty.
New coach Khalid Jamil came in to chalk up 14 points from 9 matches, but the second derby loss to East Bengal did not help the mood within the fans.
Shock of the season: Shillong Lajong 3-2 Churchill Brothers.
The title challenge of the Goan side came to an end at the hands of Lajong of all teams. Typically, they went on get points off Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Chennai City, but the loss effectively ended their challenge.
Team of the year:
We opted for a 4-3-3 formation without really paying attention to the maximum quota for foreign players.
|GK: Bilal Khan (Real Kashmir)||GK: Prabhsukhan S. Gill (Indian Arrows)|
|LB: Abhishek Ambekar (Mohun Bagan)||LB: Dharmaraj Ravanan (Real Kashmir)|
|CB: Mason Robertson (Real Kashmir)||CB: Borja Gomez (East Bengal)|
|CB: Gaurav Bora (Chennai City FC)||CM: Dawda Ceesay (Churchill Brothers)|
|RB: Lalram Chullova (East Bengal)||RM/CM: Edwin Vanspaul (Chennai City FC)|
|DM: Aaron Katebe (Real Kashmir)||FW: Willis Plaza (Churchill Brothers)|
|CM: Sandro Rodriguez (Chennai City FC)||FW: Jobby Justin (East Bengal)|
|CAM: Laldinrika Ralte (East Bengal)|
|LW: Nestor Gordillo (Chennai City FC)|
|RW: Laldanmawia Ralte (East Bengal)|
|FW: Pedro Manzi (Chennai City FC)|
Fail Appeal of the year:
Mohun Bagan’s complaint to the AIFF about the “extremely poor and incompetent decisions by the referee and linesman”. This had come after their derby loss against East Bengal.
The Lewdest Moment of the Year: The Minerva Punjab owner with a sordid rendition of a ‘Yo mama’ bit.
Novy Kapadia Commentator of the Year: The low-key energy of this commentator in the Aizawl FC-Shillong Lajong match. Take a listen.
AIFF Being AIFF Award: Cutting down the number of matches to be broadcasted. It’s bad enough that the clubs are strapped for money, might as well deny them the revenue that could be generated from television.
Official Website’s Update of the Year: This update which has raised a few questions, but failed to provide answers.
Random tiff of the year: No, it’s not Ranjit Bajaj. It was between the folks of Kerala and Kashmir over training ground conditions.
Best Photos to Capture the Love for the Game: Adidas capturing the love of the game in Kashmir. Check out the pictures by the photographer, Prashant Godbole.
Club Owners Solidarity of the Year: This picture of the Gokulam Kerala FC CEO riding pillion on the bike of Aizawl FC owner Robert Royte (Sports Minister, Mizoram) in Aizawl offered a different view of the I-League clubs and the people behind them.
Slander of the year: Ozone FC’s Ghanian midfielder, William Opoku, on his former club:
“Minerva only treat players anyhow and in my whole life I have never seen a team like Minerva. They cheat players and treat them anyhow. They cut your salary and told you to go through Yo-Yo test!!!”
Boycott of the year: Mohun Bagan fans not turning up for the match against NEROCA in protest of their club officials who have been accused of corruption.
I-League Manager of the Year for Most Teams: Gift Raikhan for moving from NEROCA to Aizawl and finally to Gokulam in the course of the year.
Best name for a footballer: It has to be Loveday, isn’t it? Loveday Enyinnaya from Real Kashmir.
Honorable mentions for those who did not feature much in the league: Shine John & Clintu Cleetus (Chennai City), Freestar Kharbangar & Kenstar Kharshong (Shillong Lajong).
Our Very Own Fail Prediction at the Start of the Season:
“The Mariners are the favorites to win the league, and rightly so. They have the depth in the squad, a new man in charge, and the possibility of competing in their last-ever I-League could fuel the hunger for the Kolkata giants to go out with a bang.”