New Delhi: Mizoram Premier League (MPL) season 8, which begins on Thursday (September 5), is set to break new ground in the Indian footballing scene as select matches of the league will be streamed live on SonyLIV.
SonyLIV is an internet television service by Sony Pictures Networks in India and the Mizoram state league will now have its matches available for a larger pool of national audience. MPL is the first state league to be televised on a national television platform.
I-League 2017-18 champions Aizawl FC will have all their matches shown live on SonyLIV while highlight packages will be streamed for the rest of the games. The eight clubs that will participate in the league are - Aizawl FC, Chanmari FC, Chawnpui FC, Chhinga Veng FC, Electric Veng FC, FC Venghnuai, Mizoram Police and Ramhlun North FC. The league will kick off with Electric Veng FC taking on FC Venghnuai.
"It's a big step. A state league getting a promotion like that is quite encouraging for Indian football in my opinion," former Aizawl FC goalkeeper Lalmalsawma told News18.com.
"If our footballers get more exposure through this telecast, it will encourage youngsters to take up football more than before," he added.
The eighth edition of MPL will kick off with an opening ceremony at Lammual, where all the matches are scheduled to take place as well. The opening ceremony, along with the cultural programme, will have football drills performed by grassroots football students.
For the past seven seasons, MPL was televised on a local channel, Zonet, which helped the Mizoram Football Association organise the league since the first season.
Zonet's general manager LV Lalthantluanga tells News18.com that they had a "very exciting and at times very challenging" journey with MPL but the improvement in Mizoram's football scene in the past few years gives them satisfaction.
Upto 35 players from Mizoram, who have now played in the I-League or ISL, first played in the MPL. Lallianzuala Chhangte, who is now in the Indian men's national team, played in MPL in season 2. Jerry Lalrinzuala, who has been with Chennaiyin FC since 2016 and is also in the Indian team, was with Chanmari FC in season 1 and 2.
"It is because of the support of the communities to the clubs (that MPL has grown). Most of the clubs are community-based and are owned by localities. Support of the communities is extremely important and that I feel is the reason for MPL's success. Financially as well, the communities contributed a lot to their clubs," Lalmalsawma said.
With India generally struggling to have sustained leagues, the success of MPL is a model for others to follow. Lalmalsawma feels it's all about taking those steps in the right direction and with the correct intention.
Aizawl FC have won the MPL thrice in 2014, 2015 and 2018. Chanmari FC are two-time MPL winners as they won in 2013 and 2016. Dinthar FC won the league in 2012 while Chhinga Veng FC took the title in 2017.
Here are the fixtures for season 8 of MPL: (The dates are subject to change)
September 5: Electric Veng FC vs FC Venghnuai
September 6: Mizoram Police vs Chawnpui FC, Aizawl FC vs Chhinga Veng FC, Chanmari FC vs Ramhlun North FC
September 12: Chanmari FC vs Mizoram Police, Electric Veng FC vs Aizawl FC
September 13: Chawnpui FC vs Ramhlun North FC, Chhinga Veng FC vs FC Venghnuai
September 19: Chhinga Veng FC vs Chanmari FC, Chawnpui FC vs Electric Veng FC
September 20: Aizawl FC vs Mizoram Police, FC Venghnuai vs Ramhlun North FC
September 24: Chawnpui FC vs Venghnuai FC, Aizawl FC vs Chanmari FC
September 25: Ramhlun North FC vs Mizoram Police, Chhinga Veng FC vs Electric Veng FC
September 26: FC Venghnuai vs Chanmari FC, Aizawl FC vs Chawnpui FC
September 27: Mizoram Police vs Electric Veng FC, Ramhlun North FC vs Chhinga Veng FC
October 3: FC Venghnuai vs Aizawl FC, Chanmari FC vs Chawnpui FC
October 4: Electric Veng FC vs Ramhlun North FC, Mizoram Police vs Chhinga Veng FC
October 10: Chawnpui FC vs Chhinga Veng FC, Mizoram Police vs FC Venghnuai
October 11: Ramhlun North FC vs Aizawl FC, Chanmari FC vs Electric Veng FC
October 17: FC Venghnuai vs Chhinga Veng FC, Ramhlun North FC vs Chawnpui FC
October 18: Aizawl FC vs Electric Veng FC, Chanmari FC vs FC Venghnuai
October 22: Chhinga Veng FC vs Ramhlun North FC, Electric Veng FC vs Mizoram Police
October 23: Chawnpui FC vs Aizawl FC, Mizoram Police vs Chanmari FC
October 25: Electric Veng FC vs Chanmari FC, Aizawl FC vs Ramhlun North FC
October 26: FC Venghnuai vs Mizoram Police, Chhinga Veng FC vs Chawnpui FC
October 31: Ramhlun North FC vs FC Venghnuai, Mizoram Police vs Aizawl FC
November 1: Electric Veng FC vs Chawnpui FC, Chanmari FC vs Chhinga Veng FC
November 5: Chhinga Veng FC vs Mizoram Police, Ramhlun North FC vs Electric Veng FC
November 6: Chawnpui FC vs Chanmari FC, Aizawl FC vs FC Venghnuai
November 7: Electric Veng FC vs Chhinga Veng FC, Mizoram Police vs Ramhlun North FC
November 8: Chanmari FC vs Aizawl FC, FC Venghnuai vs Chawnpui FC
November 14: Ramhlun North FC vs Chanmari FC, Chhinga Veng FC vs Aizawl FC
November 15: Chawnpui FC vs Mizoram Police, FC Venghnuai vs Electric Veng FC
SEMI-FINAL LEG 1
November 21: 1st Position vs 4th Position
November 22: 2nd Position vs 3rd Position
SEMI-FINAL LEG 2
November 28: 4th Position vs 1st Position
November 29: 3rd Position vs 2nd Position
FINAL: December 6