I-League: The march has begun
The March has begun - the march of all the 14 teams for the coveted I-League Championship 2012/13.
One may be prompted to say, 'March hasn't yet begun for all teams as some have gone down in the first round itself.' But it's a Marathon League and ups and downs will be a part of it.
Some notable points defined the first round. In the first match itself, Pailan Arrows, All India Football Federation's (AIFF) Team are off the blocks.
Connoisseurs may not be expecting much from Pailan Arrows but the nucleus of the bunch stays almost the same which had performed wonders for India in the AFC U-22 Championship in Muscat. Hence, one is tempted to dream.
And if you dream on Pailan this time, you won't be let down.
Arthur Papas, Head Coach, India U-22 Team, also stays Pailan's Head Coach. His tactical acumen and dissection will guide his boys for sure.
Not to forget, he wasn't in Kolkata on the day of the first match - he was yet to get his Visa.
Much like Pailan, United Sikkim Football Club (USFC) promises much. USFC marked their arrival when they went past strong contenders Salgaocar SC.
Much like Pailan, not many had even kept USFC in the reckoning. But that's the beauty of the sport.
Gangtok stays a new venue and the enthusiasm among the crowd is seen to be believed. The North-East has now for long been the nursery of Indian Football and USFC, the second I-League club from the region, is not just about Bhaichung Bhutia alone.
The other club from North-East, Shillong Lajong Football Club, were also off to a winning start when they sailed past Mohun Bagan 2-0.
Names didn't matter for Lajong as they managed to keep Bagan's famed striking force at bay.
Bagan's defeat came after their first round exit in the Federation Cup and the next round match between Prayag United and Bagan in the second round will stay the cynosure of all eyes.
Prayag meanwhile, are already on their way.
Ranti Martins hasn't taken time to settle down in the 'City of Joy,' - the hat-trick against Air India being the proof of that. 10-man Prayag proved too good for Air India winning 5-1.
However, Federation Cup Champions East Bengal were held to a goalless draw in their first match, an away one against Sporting Clube de Goa in Margaon.
They next face USFC in Gangtok and it will be an exciting one.
Pune FC were off to a winning start in the last first round league match against newly promoted ONGC, the match ending 3-2 in favour of Pune FC.
Jeje Lalpekhlua opened the scoring for his team and that should be a welcome sign for Indian Football.
It needs to be remembered that Jeje is coming out of an injury and wasn't a part of the triumphant Indian squad for the Nehru Cup.
Meanwhile, the most consistent side if the last six years, defending champions Dempo SC have begun their march overcoming a tough challenge from Churchill Brothers 2-1.
Make no mistake, Churchill are a quality side and will be back with a bang. As for Dempo, they face Sporting Clube de Goa in the next round while Churchill Brothers host ONGC.