From ashes to the summit, the rise of Khalid Jamil

Photo: AIFF
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Termed as a ‘failure’ just a season ago but Jamil came up with perfect reply to ressurect his career and guide Aizawl to title glory.

Khalid Jamil was born in Kuwait to Indian parents. Jamil always had passion for football and during his time in Kuwait, Jamil went to an Under 17 camp and met his football idol , Michel Platini. Platini was his idol since childhood and he was very much inspired by the French legend. Jamil then came back to India and choose to play for India over Kuwait. His career was shortlived and was filled with lot of injuries. He finally hanged his boots and decided to pursue his career as a manager at Mumbai FC.

Khalid Jamil
Photo: IBM

After some years of managing Mumbai FC his efforts were criticised. He was termed as a failure by many people. Lack of several resources at the club did not help his cause. Jamil was not one of those people who would give up easily. He definately wanted to remove the tag of failure and kept searching for new challenges.

Jamil ended up at a place which many people would not have kept an option, many would have chosen safer choices. But the former India international kept with his character and chose the road less travelled by others. He wanted to ressurect his career and for that he choose a tough road full of challenges and that road took him to the beautiful capital city of Mizoram, Aizawl.

The job had different challenges that most men would have backed away, but Jamil had that zeal and passion to prove himself. Despite winning a lot of hearts Aizawl FC was relegated in its 1st season of I-League. But found its way back in the next season, Jamil had a lot of work to do with the squad at his disposal. With resources more depleted than his previous team, this challenge could well have backfired for the former Indian midfielder.

Jamil was well known for getting most out the players at his disposal, and he nurtured them in starters rather than buying them. He very well knew that depleted resources can only be filled with local talent. Aizawls’s tactics at the beginning of the season was well thought of as they invested very limited money in buying players and mainly relied on giving opportunities to the youth.

Keeping all this in mind Jamil brought in Albino Gomes, Jayesh Rane and Ashutosh Mehta from his previous club. The club sensibly invested the money on the foreign market as they added the valuable of the experience of Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Al Amna, defender Kingsley Obumneme and striker Kamo Stephane Bayi, while the diligent Alfred Jaryan returned for a second stint.

Khalid Jamil
Photo: AIFF

But the core of the squad remained local. The emphasis on youth enabled the discovery of talents like Albert Zohmingmawia, Laldanmawia, Lalmuankima and others. By the time they took the field against the mighty East Bengal in the season opener in Kolkata, it was clear that Jamil’s team are no push overs.Their very 1st match of the season against the Red and Gold described their whole season as they were typically gritty and determined the qualities which has always been a main feature of Jamil’s side.

Aizawl turned their home stadium, Rajiv Gandhi Stadium into a fortress. The opponents did not liked travelling to the noth-east, as the Highlanders gave nothing away. With the record of winning 8 matches with a single draw at home in the 9 matches this season and conceding just 3 goals, we can very well understand how their opponents felt in their visit.

Things were not so smooth for both Aizawl and Jamil as they lost to Bengaluru in a crucial fixture and squandered a 2 goal lead to Minerva Punjab. But they are usual bumps in a challenging journey which Jamil and his side had to overcome. Whenever the Highlanders or their manager faced pressure or a test of character, they replied with poise and nerves of steel to fight back every difficulty. Aizawl had key men in all the areas of the field as the passion of the manager was evident in the players performance. It was very evident that Jamil has evolved each and every player and the team was really an example of a side which perfectly symbolizes their manager’s ectacy in an effort to rejuvinate his managerial career.

It was a gamble that had to be taken by Jamil to restore his lost pride. However Aizawl knew they could not do worse than last year, so it was Jamil who stood to lose the most if the move did not work out. But fate had other ideas for the former Indian midfielder, as he was ready for all challenges and difficulties to register a fairy tale. A tale that most people would laugh about or rather were not expecting at all. The tale was a remarkable success in the history of Indian football. This title had not only resurrected his carrer but also propelled him into an elite.

The story of Aizawl puts light to the love for football in this part of India and their contribution to Indian football. Northeast holds a lot of pride for this beautiful game and also proves its worth to Indian football. Jamil looks forward to future challenges, but fate played a very different role here and with a sense of extreme irony that only sport can present, Jamil’s former club where he got the tag of ‘failure’ has been relegated whereas he has made his voyage towards north in all sense.

Khalid Jamil
Photo: AIFF

Jamil’s heroics have resulted in making his biopic as reports suggest that Ajay Devgan will play his role in a movie related to Jamil’s resurrection from being sacked by Mumbai Fc to clinching the league title with Aizawl FC. According to a report published by Hindustan Times, Aizawl FC owner Robert Royte revealed that the drama will be focusing on the life and work of Khalid Jamil and all the challenges he had to overcome to reach this stage. The biopic is most likely to be named as ‘Zero to Hero’. The film will be a kind of honour and will be the first film showcasing the true story of the North-east side from India and their triumph in the country’s top tier league.