The Indian Soccer League has grown from strength to strength over the years. Its popularity is soaring in the country despite India being a cricket-crazy country. This time around, 11 teams joined the league as a result of the entries of SC East Bengal and Mohun Bagan (who combined with ATK). Despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament progressed without any hiccups. This season (2020-21) had some adrenaline-pumping actions with the majority of the teams punching above their respective weights.
There were some brilliant goals, superior defensive tactics and some special personal records as well. These instances provided much-needed succour to a world battling an unknown enemy.
Hence, let’s relive five of the special moments from the 2020-21 season:
Mumbai FC become the ISL champions
In the ISL, Mumbai City FC had the last laugh. This was totally unexpected as they had to endure some tough moments in the season. Character is made on the ground, be it any sport, and the Mumbai team showed enough of the same even during adversities to emerge on top. They beat a superior ATK Mohun Bagan side for which they had to wage a heaven’s war.
In the end, Mumbai’s perseverance and belief helped them prevail over ATK Mohun Bagan in the dying moments of normal time. Bagan had their own moments, but a mess up from Arindam Bhattacharya let the glory slip away from them. Following the error in judgement from Bhattacharya, Bartholomew Ogbeche, a Nigerian footballer, sent the ball towards Bipin Singh, who scored the winner. This is something Mumbai would never forget and Bagan would never like to remember.
Clash of the giants in the ISL
With I-League giants Mohun Bagan (Mohun Bagan ATK) and SC East Bengal getting into the ISL, fans got the rare opportunity to catch the legendary Kolkata Derby in the league. Everything was perfectly set before the clash. The two rivals faced off for the first time in the ISL on 27 November 2020. The match lived up to all the hype and hoopla one normally associates with such high-voltage encounters. Finally, ATK Mohun Bagan won by a 2-0 margin.
It is always a delight to watch the encounters between Mumbai City FC and FC Goa as they give the fans a lot to rejoice. In the 2020-21 season, the second encounter between the two had a hero in the form of Glan Martins. Mumbai City almost had the game in their grasp with a two-goal lead. But, Goa never gave up and were in need of some motivation. That is when Martins came into his own. He took the ball from 35 yards and effected a crashing shot towards the net. This left the goalkeeper, Amrinder Singh, bewildered as the ball sped into the top corner. This bravado by Martins gave Goa an opportunity to claw their way back into the game as well.
Lalengmawia takes NE to playoffs
This season turned out to be super special for Lalengmawia. The 20-year old midfielder from Aizawl had been instrumental in NorthEast United’s entry into the playoffs. And, he netted a goal when it mattered the most. In the encounter against Kerala Blasters, the midfielder got the ball on the left flank and then after having a clear view of the goal post struck a shot with ferocity from more than 30 yards out. The shot hit the crossbar and ricocheted onto the net, shocking everyone in the process including the rival players.
36 but still going strong
Sunil Chhetri (36) happens to be a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of player and his records stand testimony to the same. The star player continued his class acts with Bengaluru FC and added another feather to his cap. The clash against Mumbai City happened to be Chhetri’s 200th game for the Blues. Chhetri has stuck with the club since 2013, the year it was founded. After getting captaincy in 2014, Chettri led Bengaluru to two I-League titles, one Indian Super League crown, two Federation Cups and a Super Cup.