2014-15 I-League Round 22: What A Season
Here we are. After five months and 19 rounds of football, we are here at the final weekend of the 2014-15 I-League, the eighth season of our nations top-tier football league and what a way to end it. Out of the 11 teams in the league, only 4 will have nothing to play for (Royal Wahingdoh's season is over; East Bengal and Pune are not in relegation danger but they can't win the league; Bharat FC can't be relegated), the other teams, however, do. Two teams will battle it out in a match that will decide whether the I-League trophy will go to Kolkata for the first time or return to Bangalore, while 5 teams can be relegated and with all the matches happening at the same time you can assured that there will be drama and blood and action.
First we look at Shillong where Shillong Lajong will host East Bengal. Lajong are only a point ahead of Dempo for that one and only relegation spot so they will know that they will need to win at all costs here, don't hold back. The NorthEast club will be helped by the fact that East Bengal won't have anything to play for this round and thus won't go as hard, especially when head coach, Eelco Schattorie, knows he is as good as gone at the end of the season.
We now go to Goa where their are two matches. First at the Tilak Maidan, a relegation match between Salgaocar and Dempo will take place. This one should be the most interesting. Dempo currently occupy the relegation spot, a point behind Shillong Lajong, while Salgaocar will enter the match only 2 points ahead. A point would see Salgaocar survive the drop but Dempo will make Salgaocar work to earn that point as they know anything less than 3 will see them down.
Meanwhile, at the Fatorda Stadium, Sporting Clube de Goa will take on Pune FC. Sporting Clube de Goa will probably be the team given the best chances to survive. The Panjim based side are currently on terrific form the second half of the season and will be hosting a Pune FC side who also have nothing to play for and will be under their assistant coach, Gift Raikhan. However, depending on results in other matches going on at the same time, Sporting should not hold anything back as anything less than 3 points could see their 2nd half work mean nothing as they're relegated.
Finally, in Mumbai, Mumbai FC will scrape out their last game against Bharat FC. Bharat FC are exempt from relegation this season, despite being in last place, and probably won't care at all, however, Mumbai FC should not let that cloud their mind and should go for all three points. End their first season back in Mumbai by ensuring survival for another year. Will Jamil's side be able to do so? Based on their past, this seems like the type of match Mumbai FC would lose, just because.
Overall, Saturday will be all about survival and relegation. Two hours will define the history of five clubs and should make for a tasty evening of football.
And that leads us to championship Sunday... a match which everyone must watch if you're an Indian football fan. Forget the ISL #LetsFootball bullshit, forget the World Cup qualifiers, forget everything else... for two hours on Sunday it shall be Bengaluru FC hosting Mohun Bagan to see who shall take home the I-League trophy, the biggest prize in Indian football today!
Ashley Westwood's men will enter their home, the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, knowing that they MUST win in order to retain the title. However, the Mariners, will have the peace in mind to know that just a draw will guarantee that the trophy would go to Kolkata, giving the Green and Maroon their first league title since 2002, 13 years ago, when the league was still known as the National Football League. Back then it was Jose Barreto, RC Prakash, Amauri D'Silva, and James Singh who shined for Bagan, now can Sony Norde, Katsumi Yusa, Shilton Paul, and Balwant Singh write their name into history? Or will it be Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh, and John Johnson tasting victory again with new players such as Udanta Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, and Lalthuammawia Ralte?
This season of the I-League has provided us with a lot of drama, both negative and positive, but this weekend will see India's top football league end in a bang! Who shall revel in the sweet taste of success, who shall be left regretting the past and what they should have done? Find out this weekend of... THE I-LEAGUE!!!!!