The fairytale ending has been completed and the unfathomable journey has reached its zenith. Chawnpui FC are champions of Mizoram after they won the final against FC Venghnuai on penalties on Tuesday, December 6 in Aizawl.
Chawnpui, who barely scraped into the semifinals by the narrowest of margins in the league rounds, managed to come up with the goods once again when they needed it most. They faced a motivated FC Venghnuai team in the final at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, which resulted in a 2-2 draw after regulated time. As the scoreline remained the same after 30 minutes of extra time, it was Chawnpui who converted all their penalties to seal a 5-3 win.
With two sides that overcame former champions to seal their place in the final, this season's edition of the Honda Mizoram Premier League was ensured of a new champion after Aizawl FC and Chhinga Veng FC fell in the last four.
FC Venghnuai had been the side that shone continuously throughout the season. After a semifinal run in the I-Day Cup, they have time and again managed to punch above their perceived weight in the league. Earning their reputation as a team who can go toe to toe with the league's best on their day.
Chawnpui were, on the other hand, a team many wrote off as potential playoff contenders. But their collection of young promising talent alongside experience bore fruit at the right time. All meticulously honed by Lalsangzuala Hmar, arguably the MPL's most successful coach.
And indeed it was Chawnpui who broke the deadlock on the 16th minute. Their talisman MC Malsawmzuala timed his leap to perfection to head home from a set piece. And the cultured hitman was not done. Striking a beautiful freekick 13 minutes later to double their lead. He got his tenth goal of the campaign and Chawnpui were well on their way.
But like they have shown it on multiple occasions this season, Venghnuai are not a side that just lie down easily. They hustled and harried for the ball and displayed why they are one of the most tactically well drilled teams in the league under the energetic Lalrindika Hmar.
It had to be their own talisman in the side, Vanlalthanga who came up with the answer right before the break. Standing over a freekick in added time, the left foot of Vanlalthanga, a weapon that, more often than not will do the job, could not be stopped by the Chawnpui custodian. Venghnuai went into the break with new belief.
Venghnuai appeared to be the team on the front foot after the restart, and they deservedly got their goal in the 59th minute through H. Lalrempuia. With both sides level, a tactical battle between the coaches ensued. They both created, but not enough in terms of really testing their goalkeepers.
As one neutralized the other in open play, the final had to be then settled by penalties. MC Malsawmzuala scored for Chawnpui, and so did all his four teammates. Venghnuai converted their first two but Lalruatfela was denied by Lallawmzuala in their third. Another Ruatfela converted his kick but it was not enough as K. Vanlalhriatzuala scored the winning penalty for Chawnpui.
The result sees Chawnpui lift their first MPL trophy while their coach Lalsangzuala wins the MPL with three different teams as head coach. The first ever to do so.
The AIFF president Mr. Kalyan Chaubey was the chief guest of the Honda MPL9 final and the football chief sat and watched the 120 minutes of two teams fighting hardhard for glory.
Mr. Chaubey arrived on Tuesday in Aizawl and met with Mizoram Football Association officials before speaking at an interacting session with the officials as well as the media. The AIFF chief answered several questions regarding the plans and the steps already taken by the federation under his tenure.
"We'll look to work with the state government and the MFA in exploring to set up a high performance center here in Mizoram. If the government is ready and willing, the AIFF is ready for technical support." the president said.
He also addressed the different courses of action of the AIFF, speaking of the need for quality coaching education, and the need to increase the number of licensed coaches. Stating that he looks forward to a working relationship for football development between the state government, MFA and AIFF. He also spoke of the significance of national competition and scouting improvements for the national setup.