Just about a year ago when Chennai City FC faced Minerva Punjab in their last league encounter of the 2017-18 season, they were seeking a win to avoid relegation and had managed to save the day with a 2-1 win over the eventual champions. On 9 March, 12 months later, the two clubs faced each other in the final round of the 2018-19 seasons with Chennai City requiring a win to clinch the title.
By winning the I-league, Chennai City FC has become the 1st team from Tamil Nadu to be crowned champions. They have achieved this feat just 2 years after getting promoted to the 1st division. The club, with a limited budget that made them move to Coimbatore, 500 km away from the Tamil Nadu capital, to save cost. Having recently partnered with Swiss giants FC Basel, the management has boosted the chances of improvement in infrastructure facilities of the stadium and enhance player exchange programs.
The ex-Tampines Rovers coach’s of the Chennai City FC, Akbar Nawas who was appointed at the beginning of the season built a solid team around the 3 Spanish players. The Spanish trio of Pedro Manzi, Nestor Gordillo, and Pedro Rodriguez played a very vital role in the team’s performance. The team has scored 48 goals this season with 21 of those coming from the team’s captain Pedro Manzi. Nestor Gordillo topped the assist providers with 5 assists to his name. The performances of Indian players like Romario Jesuraj, Pravitto Raju, Gaurav Bora and Edwin Vanspaul were also extremely encouraging.
Chennai’s rivals and title challengers East Bengal fell short of winning the title by 2 points and have settled as runners-up. By winning the I-league, Chennai City has qualified for the AFC Champions League Qualifiers of the next season.
With Indian football authorities looking to the two Kolkata giants to complete the set of top league clubs, it is left to clubs like Chennai City to ponder about the future of the league and the course taken by the one league system next season.
As things stand, Chennai City might well go down in history as the I-League’s last champions. In the company of recent victors such as Minerva Punjab and Aizawl FC, Chennai City will hope to stake a rightful claim in next year’s top division.