'Underdogs' making I-league exciting, says Vijayan

Former Indian footballer IM Vijayan feels the emergence of Minerva FC and NEROCA as title-contenders has made the I-League exciting.

Minerva Punjab FC currently is poised to clinch the I-League title and currently leads the table with 32 points.   -  AIFF Media

When Mizoram's Aizawl FC clinched the I-League trophy last season, there was a shift of power in the national domestic league from the usual contenders to the underdogs.

Little did anyone expect that the underdog story might be re-written again in the current edition of the league. As we approach the business end of the I-League, the ‘underdogs’ might very well once again triumph over the ‘usual contenders’.

The emergence of Minerva Punjab FC and NEROCA in the top tier of the I-League table has not only shook the structure in the domestic league for this season but captured the essence of sports - the underdog story.

READ: Minerva goes top with spirited second-half display

“The I-League is very unpredictable and that is what the last season taught us. This season, it is even more unpredictable and volatile than before as now you have two underdogs gunning for the title,” said Indian legend IM Vijayan.

“It makes the title race even more sweet and exciting to watch. Who could have expected Minerva and NEROCA to be in contention for the I-League title in the starting of the season?”

“The more volatile the league is, the more exciting it gets for the players and the more thrilling it gets for the fans. There has always been a nail-biting finish of the I-League season, but this one is different,” he added.

Adding to the mix is Gokulam Kerala FC’s sterling run, where the Bino George coached side produced some big results in the latter half of the season with wins over Mohun Bagan, Kingfisher East Bengal and Minerva FC on the trot, proving that underdogs should seldom be dismissed.

The Indian Arrows, on the other hand, the youngest team in the I-League comprising of teenagers, showed their grit and although the side is at the bottom of the table , the young Arrows recouped and fought again, winning some, but most importantly learning in the process.

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“When an underdog team beats the favourite to win team, it captures the true essence of the sport,” said Vijayan. “It showcases how the human being can challenge adversity and still win and come on top.”

“It is amazing how much nail-biting action the I-League has provided and once it enters the final match day, it will only get better for the fans,” he concluded.