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Aizawl FC build for I-League despite COVID-19 shutting local season

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS affected Aizawl FC in more ways than most other football clubs in India.

Usually, Aizawl FC enjoy a major advantage over other clubs thanks to the local football season which starts early. The Mizoram Super Cup, Independence Day Football Tournament followed by the highly popular Mizoram Premier League showcase new talent from across the state, and being the only I-League club in Mizoram, Aizawl can take their pick of the best of them for the national season.

But this time, due to the COVID-19 induced lockdowns, the Mizoram Football Association has decided to cancel the domestic tournaments as a precautionary measure. As a result, Aizawl FC have not only lost their biggest scouting opportunity, but also more than twenty early season competitive matches that helped them get ready for the I-League.

Nevertheless, the club has decided to go ahead and build their squad for the I-League which is expected to begin in November or early December.

To begin with, they have recently retained two of their key foreign players, Alfred Jaryan and Richard Kassaga.

Alfred, who is the captain of the team, has now become a de facto club legend. He's been with Aizawl FC since 2015-16 when they made their top division league debut. He played a key role in helping them become the Champions of India in 2016-17. So far he has made 80 national league appearances for the club, not counting cup matches, local league and AFC competitions. So keeping him sort of was a given.

Kassaga, a Ugandan international, has been a rock for the Aizawl FC defence since 2018. He has made 23 league appearances for the club and appears to have settled into a long term role.

Today, the club announced two new signigns. David Laltlansanga and Vanlalghenga, from local rivals Chanmari FC.

David became popular with the local fans as a futsal player, when he helped the Chanmari RFL Plastics team win the Mizoram Football Association Futsal League in 2018. He was the star of the final match, scoring 4 goals in it. In May 2019 he joined Chanmari FC and played for them in the Mizoram Premier League, helping them reach the semi-finals.

Vanlalghenga, known among fans as Nghenga, has been a MPL regular for a while. Before joining Chanmari, the defender played for Chawnpui FC and impressed scouts of multiple clubs with his performance.

Mizoram is a reason known for producing talented young players, and over the last decade Aizawl FC have emerged as the biggest platform for those players to showcase themselves at the national level. The loss of a domestic season, which means hundreds of players will go without competitive matches for almost the whole year, is a setback for Mizoram football but Aizawl FC, it seems, have not ceased their efforts to bring up the next batch of young Mizo footballers.

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