THE PAST TEN DAYS have been immense for Aizawl FC. They have made their debut in India's top division league, a first out of Mizoram. They took on two of the strongest clubs in the country. Their home deubt was a sellout affair and they had a the general level of excitement around this young team has been off the charts.
But after two matches and two losses, there was a bit of noise of dissatisfaction from the fans. Aizawl FC, who became unbeaten champions in the recently concluded Mizoram Premier League, are yet to score a goal of their own, and that hasn't gone down well with some of the loyalists. Their coach, Manuel Retamero Fraile, however, isn't very worried about how the matches went down and is confident of turning things around.
Speaking to TFG the day after the match against Bengaluru FC, Fraile said,
"I'm happy with the way we played in both the matches. In the last game we were better than the other team. And they are a club with big money, great players and staff."
Fraile pointed out at the periods in both games where his players, especially midfielders and wingers, kept their opponents under pressure with fast movement and possession,
"I talked to the players yesterday after the game. I feel this is the right path for us to follow as a unit and the players agree. I think we played some top level football, actually."
But he, too, believes that it's time for Aizawl FC to translate their performance into some much needed points, and Fraile believes the back to back home games they have next is the place to get it done,
"We have two home games against DSK Shivajians and Sporting Clube de Goa up next. I want all 6 points from there. That's what we'll go for."
The match against DSK Shivajians, to be held next Friday, will be a battle between the debutant clubs. But although this is the Shivajians' first season at the top tier they have a team led by an experienced coach in Derrick Pereira and players like Subrata Paul, Nikhil Kadam, Douhou Pierre and Anas Edathodika who have played in the I-League for a few seasons now, while most of the Aizawl FC players are playing at this level for the first time. But Fraile said he is not worried about that,
"I believe in my players. As for Shivajians, I wish them the best success. We'll play them as equals."
But Fraile accepted that he could do with a little more experience in his roster,
"I talked to the club about the players. I like to have a mix of youth and experience in the team. But finally the management went for a team heavy on youth... my worry is that after they gain experience playing here a lot of my players may be lured away by big money clubs... but of course it's great to see them get experience playing in the big league and I'm confident if we play like we played in the last two games we'll win the next match."
While Fraile was elated to see such huge support for Aizawl FC during the match against Bengaluru FC, he was disappointed by the lack of live TV coverage of the game,
"I'm very sad about that. It was a historical moment for Mizoram and Indian football. I was hopeful that the TV channel or I don't know someone might just turn up for us. We were playing a big club too!"
But Fraile is not giving up hope just yet, he said he was hoping that the show of support from the fans would convince the broadcasters to show more matches from Aizawl's Rajiv Gandhi Stadium,
"We have good players. We can put up a fight against any team in the league. And the people here follow the team passionately. When they see the love for the game we have here hopefully they'll show our games and help promote Mizoram football. We're part of India too and our fans love football 'lutuk'... that's Mizo for 'very much.'"