Former players, coaches back Aizawl to make history

Aizawl FC are on the brink of making I-League history. A draw against Shillong would clinch the title on Sunday. Can they do it? Or will Mohun Bagan spoil their party on the last day? Here's what some famous names in Indian football have to say about it.

Bhaichung Bhutia, former India captain and league winner with JCT in 1997 and East Bengal in 2004

I think it will be a draw for both teams. I think Mohun Bagan are mentally and physically drained out after all the travel, the matches [in April alone, this will be their eighth match across all competitions] and the defeat last week to Aizawl. Having played for 17-18 years in Kolkata, I can tell you that with teams like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, it is the pressure from the fans, the officials and the media that keeps you going. Once they see the chances for a title win diminish, that excitement can go off. It's the same with derbies, when supporters keep coming and telling you, "Dada, jeette hobe (You must win)!" That pressure also keeps you motivated. I strongly feel that Bagan might not get a win on Sunday.

Ranjit Bajaj, owner of Minerva Punjab

My mind and my heart say Aizawl FC should pull it off. It will put the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in a very difficult position. Let them then tell Aizawl that though they are the champions in the league, they are not welcome for the new top division and instead the teams at number two (Mohun Bagan), number three (East Bengal) and number four (Bengaluru FC) are.

Brandon Fernandes, Churchill Brothers midfielder

Albino (Gomes) is my close friend and Aizawl are doing really good so I am happy for him. I hope he wins the title. If he wins it will be good for him. I think Aizawl will take it. Being their last match they will go all out. I still don't know what will happen but I think Aizawl will take it.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, goalkeeper with the Indian national team

I think Aizawl might draw, and Mohun Bagan will probably win. I will be very surprised if Aizawl don't take the league title this season. This match is much like a Cup final for them and they shouldn't let it slip. This season has been an exciting story with Aizawl and I hope they go all the way, especially for the sake of all the football fans in the north-east. I wish both the teams luck and I must say both teams deserve the title just as much.

Santosh Kashyap, former coach of Mohun Bagan and Mumbai FC

I think it is a 50-50 chance for both teams, and one cannot say anything till the final whistle is blown at both venues. I think Aizawl have the edge, since they can still win in case of a draw. Otherwise, it is too tight to call.

Dave Rogers, coach of DSK Shivajians

I think for Indian football, it would be great to see Aizawl winning. They are in a strong position now, and it's in their own hands. But Mohun Bagan have good experience, they've got a good coach. I'm going to sit on the fence. But what's gone on this season for Aizawl is a fairytale. It's great for fans. I'm really happy for Khalid, because he was let go of by Mumbai after being there for a long time. It's refreshing to see a guy that has lost his job going to a new club and taking them to a new level, but Mohun Bagan have an experienced coach and experienced players and have all to fight for.

Sukhwinder Singh, former India coach, who also coached JCT to the first national league title in 1997

From what I saw of Mohun Bagan's performance in their last match [1-0 defeat to Aizawl], they played at a level well below what they are capable of. I think they should win their match, but the big advantage of Aizawl is that they only need to draw. In our first year [1996-97, when the National Football League was launched], there was severe pressure on us [JCT, who were vying for the title with Churchill Brothers] because it was an age without instant information. We had beaten Dempo comfortably, lekin phir hum public ki taraf baithe hue dekh rahe the ki kuch pata chale (but we were facing the crowd to get an inkling of whether we had won the league). Then a TV producer from the crew got the news from their hub in Hong Kong and told me, "Mr Singh, you are the champions!" Anything is possible on Sunday, but the equation favours Aizawl.