NEW DELHI, March 10, 2019: It may not be wrong to perhaps find Hero I-League as a synonym of riveting. Not many top-flight professional leagues come to mind when a last day finish to decide the champions in the title race is counted.
For the Hero I-League, India’s top flight, it has become a regular fashion to produce a stunning climax time and again for the fans to hog on.
With a rise of more than 58% in-stadia attendance last season, the Hero I-League has gifted four last day climaxes in five seasons, giving the spotlight to decide the champions amongst a suspenseful backdrop; and mind you, a new champion every time in the last five seasons.
The 2014-15 season of the Hero I-League saw Mohun Bagan end their dry run and lift the Hero I-League for the very first time. On the final day, the title race was locked between JSW Bengaluru FC and the Kolkata outfit with the former needing a win to pip the latter. Eventually, they ran away with the trophy in front of their fans.
As the script would have it, Bengaluru FC were on their way to be crowned the new champions but Bello Razzaq’s late header equalized to end the proceedings at 1-1. Bagan were the new champions of India with 39 points, while Bengaluru FC trailed at 37.
An unexpected twist in the history of the Hero I-League was waiting in the 2016-17 season when underdogs Aizawl FC, did a Leicester City. They upset the giants of Kolkata and won the trophy. The title race in that season also went down to the final day with Aizawl FC needing just a point against Shillong Lajong, in red hot form at that time.
Hot on the heels were Mohun Bagan, but that mattered little to Kahild Jamil and his men who played out a 1-1 draw finishing on 37 points to take the coveted trophy. Bagan finished runners-up with a point adrift.
The title race became ever more interesting in the 2017-18 season when four teams were in contention to lift the Hero I-League trophy on the last day – Minerva Punjab FC, NEROCA, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
The season also saw newly promoted from the 2ND Division NEROCA FC give a run of their money to the heavyweights in the league. However, it was Minerva Punjab FC who made the most on the final day and rode on lady luck to be crowned the champions.
Chennai City FC were running away with the title in the 2018-19 season, but a resurgence by Quess East Bengal, and uncanny results for the Chennai outfit led the Hero I-League title to be decided on the last day.
With 4 title races in 5 seasons being decided on the last day and new champions being crowned in the last 5 season, the Hero I-League has tantalized fans, and given a climax better than any movie for the neutrals.
It has kept hopes up, expectations high and above all it has maintained and taken euphoria of the fans to extreme levels.