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I-League 2020-21: Indian Arrows Add to the Mohammedan Wobble; Goal Rush as Real Kashmir Beat Neroca

The talking points and the results from Matchday 8 of I-League 2020-21
Gurpanthjeet Singh of Indian arrows with teammates

Gurpanthjeet Singh (centre) celebrates with his Indian Arrows teammates after scoring against Mohammedan Sporting Club in the I-League.

“It was like going to hell and back,” Yan Law said. Except, going to hell doesn’t result in a three lakh payout. There is no guarantee of payback either. Law may have returned from the netherworld relatively unscathed, but Mohammedan Sporting Club’s purgatory has just about begun. It’s a perfect illustration of the binary world we live in, this Mohammedan timeline. Last Tuesday, they announced their big coup of the transfer window, an open secret revealed on social media: Pedro Manzi had arrived. This is a club dealing in draws and struggling to pay its players salaries. Somehow they had found the money to sign a five star striker. Through the clouds, some sun.

Three days on, the shadows had returned, when they were asked — informed perhaps the correct semantic — by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to pay former coach Law’s dues (amounting to approximately Rs 3.6 lakh). This club that has struggled to pay its players salaries was now being asked to pay off old dues. 

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After seven years in a non I-League football-verse, Mohammedan would’ve expected their penance to be done. It was time for reward. But seven years is a long while. A lot has moved on. Indian football has done the samba. One step forward, one step back. Shuffle hips sideways.

Seven years ago, Gurpanthjeet Singh was 13 years old. He may or may not have been as tall as he is today (6’5 in his socks), but he was definitely playing football. And on Sunday, against a Mohammedan facing a weird week, he scored a goal that gave the Indian Arrows their first big scalp of the season. How it came? Carelessness, error and a little bit of opportunism. 

Gukirat Singh’s freekick was weakly saved by Shubham Roy in Mohammedan’s goal and the ball looped up perfectly for a tall, muscular player in the box to loop home. Enter Gurpanthjeet. Curtains unbeaten record. 

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To be fair, it didn’t really hurt Mohammedan on the table though. If they’d won — as was predicted based on the assumption that the Arrows are a gift horse — they’d have jumped up to third place, having played a game less. As of now, they stay as they were before the weekend — in fifth. In many ways, last week has occurred for them samba style: one step forward, one step back. Shuffle hips sideways. 

Shuffling hips involves negotiating space. Hustle for it. For that Mohammedan next take on Aizawl FC. Or as the management staff of a rival team put it: its Yan Law vs Mohammedan. Facing your demons as it is. 

To hell and back Law had said. For Mohammedan it’s hell (or high water). And Law? Well he’s back. 

Talking points

* Sudeva Delhi FC escaped with a draw against an Aizawl side that blows hot, cold, rain, shine all in the same game all the time. Kean Lewis scored Sudeva’s opener after some shambolic defending by Aizawl (a replay that will undoubtedly make it to gaffes of the season) but from there, Aizawl were in it to win it. They got their reward via an Alfred Jaryan strike in the 75th minute and could’ve taken all points in the 80th if not for a Delhi boy doing Delhi things under the bar. 

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Rakshit Dagar is a stickler for routine. A man of extreme focus (to the point of caricature). He saved the spot kick, picked up the man of the match award and promptly handed it over  to the goalkeeping coach, Sapam Premkanta Singh. ‘One point was a reward,’ he said. Hard to disagree. 

* Want to watch just one game from this weekend? Want to watch goals? Go watch Real Kashmir vs Neroca FC. Seven goal thriller. One perfect hat-trick. One comeback (almost). And Subhash Singh rampaging in midfield. The game had it all. Kashmir play boring football but even they are capable of pulling off a game like this in a season. Neroca are in trouble. 

*  Or maybe they aren’t. With a first win, and an earlier draw, the Arrows have four points now. Neroca have five. Three teams above them have nine. Of those three, Chennai City look the most fragile. Worse news? They are yet to play Churchill and Mohammedan (the teams at the upper end of the ladder) and fellow bottom feeders Aizawl. But again, rumours suggest Chennai are heading out of this low broadcast league come what may, so relegation may or may not matter. There is precedent.

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