It was a humid evening in Aizwal when German side TSG 1899 Hoffenheim played against Santosh Trophy Winners Mizoram in a post-season friendly earlier this week.
The match attracted a large crowd from the football-crazy city of East India and the quality of football was impressive from both sides. In the end, however, the experienced Germans took home the bragging rights with a 3-0 win.
If anyone had predicted a complete rout of the Indian side, then they were in for a surprise. The scoreline did not do justice to the home team. The Mizoram players were exuberant throughout the game and the scoreline could very easily have been 3-1 or maybe even 3-3.
Nimble footed and blindingly fast, the Indians were wreaking havoc in the Hoffenheim defence. The short passes and the long through balls kept the opposition occupied for the entire 90 minutes.
What was most amazing to see was the energy the players exhibited. There were no tired legs, no lacklustre moments. The players had come to enjoy and entertain and that is exactly what they did.
The Mizos' style of play was an old-school one, bordering on the extinct 'total football'. There was less emphasis on elaborate midfield play and more on getting the ball forward. The Germans too played a very free-flowing game which kept the crowd in their seats right until the end.
Unfortunately, the German side's physical presence and international experience ultimately cost Mizoram the game. The lack of boisterous physicality, especially in their own box was a stark flaw and was aptly exploited by the Hoffenheim players.
Anthony Modeste, Eugen Polanski and Jiloan Hamad bagged a goal each. Disappointingly, despite sustained efforts, a consolation goal could not be scored.
A quintessential friendly match with players playing for fun, fans watching for entertainment and the teams promoting the beauty of the game, the evening was a memorable one.
It was certainly a treat to the fans and players of this somewhat reserved yet talented corner of India; especially for many of the Mizoram players who will take home a memorable experience, both as footballers and as individuals. We hope the Germans will take back a high regard for Indian football.
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