NEFL 2019: An overview of the seven-day futsal league in India
Featuring six teams in total, the first-ever mixed-gender futsal league in India, the Northeast Futsal League lasted till August 31, with Assam Titans and Mizo Falcons making it to the final stage.
The Northeast Futsal League (NEFL) kickstarted on August 25 at the NC Bordoloi Indoor Stadium in Guwahati, Assam. Featuring six teams in total, the first-ever mixed-gender futsal league in India lasted till August 31, with Assam Titans and Mizo Falcons making it to the final stage. First of its kind, the seven-day tournament brought the intensity, rivalries, and buzz among Indian futsal enthusiasts. The final match will be the cynosure of all eyes as a resilient Assam Titans side lock horns with valiant Mizo Falcons. The other teams who featured in the competition included Meghalaya Thunders, Nagaland Super 5, Apunba Manipur, Arunachal Highlanders.
Each team in the league featured female players, with one of them required to be on the pitch at all times. The futsal league promoted female engagement in sports on an equal footing as men. Each team comprised eight players in the squad with a coach/player and a manager. The champion team would receive Rs 5 lakh and the cash award for the runners-up team is Rs 2.5 lakh.
In the inaugural match between Assam Titans and Nagaland Super 5, Assam Titans beat Nagaland super five 5-1. Nagaland began on a competitive note but Assam Titans forged a powerful comeback into the game to have the best laugh. But Assam’s joy was short-lived, as the Sayantan Chowdhury-spearheaded side played out an upsetting draw with Apunba Manipur on the third day of the league. The team, however, registered a stellar victory on the fourth day of the league after pulling down a helpless Meghalaya Thunders side 1-0. Aklanta Basumatary and Manoj Chetry produced a commanding display of their skills yesterday as they guided their team to a phenomenal victory over Arunachal Highlanders 2-1.
Mizo Falcons registered a couple of sensational wins in the course of the tournament. Starting their campaign against a powerful Manipur side on the second day of the league, Lalawmpuia captained Mizo Falcons team went on to produce brilliant displays in the entire tournament. Next came the turn of Meghalaya Thunders. A fearful Mizoram side demolished Meghalaya Thunders by a handsome margin of five goals. Mizoram continued their winning streak on the fourth day of the league when they edged past Arunachal Highlanders by 2 points. Mizo Falcons beat Nagaland on the sixth day of the tournament to climb to the knockout stage and take on Assam Titans.
Nagaland Super 5 started their campaign on an upsetting note as they were pulled down by Assam Titans in the inaugural match of the tournament. The side went on to lose against Mizo Falcons on the sixth day of the league. The side will look forward to better their performance in the next season. Despite showing a comprehensive performance to snatch a win against Meghalaya Thunders in its opening game, Arunachal Highlanders failed to dominate in the tournament. Besides one draw with Nagaland and one victory over Meghalaya, Arunachal Highlanders ended on the losing side. Manipur produced a scintillating display of their form in the entire tournament and continued their winning feat on the sixth day of the league against Meghalaya by dominant 6 points.
The NEFL was a great attempt to popularise futsal in the North-Eastern region in our country and induce the culture of the sport in the area. As the nation gears up for another nerve-wracking encounter, all eyes will be on the qualified teams once it kicks-off in Guwahati on Saturday.