While for many years, the Mizo people cheered at their TV screens from their living rooms, cheered in local neighbourhood fields for their pals, and in earlier years, kept their ears glued to the radio for sport updates, Mizoram now has Aizawl FC – the strong and mighty, the peoples club.
A few decades back, the state was united because of the chaos created by outsiders – due to the state of ‘rambuai’, people had a reason to unite and fight. As years passed, freedom became too free and citizens were slowly getting wary of their identity, but the people’s club has brought a reason for the people to come together once again, to unite and fight, this times it’s a different fight – for one goal. The shopkeepers, the taxi drivers, the government officers, the journalists, the students, the daily wage labourers from the quarry, the beauticians, the gays, the heterosexuals, the singles, the married, the widowed and divorced, all become one in the stadium, standing involuntarily in the blink of a second when the football nears the goalpost of the red team. In the streets you are classified between the drunkards and the religious fanatics, the holy and the unholy, in the podium of Rajiv Gandhi stadium you are only one thing – a fan, and that’s all that matters for the next 90 minutes
The Mizoram Post asked a few spectators at the Aizawl FC vs. East Bengal Match on February 2 on what they enjoyed most about the game. Caroline Lalrosangi, a 23 year old fan said, “Firstly I love football and to be able to sit here with fellow Mizo’s rooting for one team is awesome. I almost teared up watching the people clapping together to the rhythm of the Aizawl FC song, the spirit was not just strong but also moving, causing an emotional nostalgia for the viewers,” she said.
Lalnunpuia had come all the way from Serchhip which is roughly around 4 to 5 hours from Aizawl city to watch the match, “That five hour ride was worth every minute, if possible I would come to Aizawl to watch every match. I’m a Manchester United fan and my sentiments get hurt when one speaks ill of the premier league club but having a club consisting of your very own people to support, the feeling is just really good,” he said.
I didn’t even know what a Mexican wave was, people were thrusting their hands up in the air so I just followed suit, it was a beautiful sight. Even when you looked around, there were people in every corner so fired up for a goal from the players, said Rinmuana, another spectator from among the Aizawl FC fans.
Even regarding cultural identity, the people of Mizoram are scattered all over India to seek greater chances at education and employment but at every corner of the country, the most common question posed to the Mizo is – Where is Mizoram, is that a part of China or is it around Nepal? To which one often has to proof with a map that Mizoram is indeed a state in India and has been so for the past thirty years. The ignorance of the people could owe to many reasons, one sadly being the Mizo people not making a mark enough to stand out and be heard in the nation’s ears. While there are educationists, social activists and well acclaimed musicians and leaders, they can also be found in most states of the country. But with football, its like Mizoram is saying – “Well here’s something that will get your attention folks!” Its like how Robert Downey Jr. said to Loki in the Avengers movies, “We have a hulk” in response to Loki’s “We have an army” warning, the Mizo people now can courageously say “We have the Aizawl FC” when anyone questions their identity in the country.
Aizawl FC has been on a winning streak this season and the number of people in the stands cheering for the team keeps increasing as the match on Monday had over ten thousand people all shouting for one goal from the team. The club which is at No. 3 on the I-league table has played six times at home ground and won in 5 with one match being a draw. One could question, if this could be because it’s their training ground and it’s the altitude they are used to, or because there is power in the roaring cheer of the red flag holders echoing through the hills around Mualpui Stadium.
originally published in The Mizoram Post, February 22, 2017
picture from here