The All India Football Federation (AIFF), the sport’s governing body in the country, celebrated the first ever AIFF Awards in a glittering function at a hotel in Mumbai in the presence of the entire National Team squad and the National Team coach Stephen Constantine. Among other dignitaries present were Shri Praful Patel, President, AIFF, Shri Kushal Das, General Secretary, AIFF and Shri Subrata Dutta, Senior Vice President, AIFF.
Among the key awardees were Jeje Lalpekhlua, India national team striker who scored India’s second goal in the recently played international friendly against Nepal, adjudged the 2016 AIFF Player of the Year; Sasmita Malik, adjudged the 2016 AIFF Women’s player of the year and Sunil Chettri, India’s most profilic goal scorer ever with 53 goals from 93 matches, who received a Special Award for surpassing the milestone over the last year. Sunil is also currently the top Indian scorer in NFL and I-League matches taken together.
Speaking on the occasion Shri Praful Patel, President, AIFF, said, “This is a defining year for Indian football as we prepare to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup in less than 100 days. I am confident that with the guidance and support of the Union Government through the Ministry of Sports, we believe we will be able to host the best FIFA U-17 World Cup ever. Today is all the more important, because we are celebrating those wonderful players and other key stakeholders of Indian football, without whose tireless efforts, we would not have reached such a stage. I congratulate all award winners for their immense contribution in growing the game in the country and wish them many more such recognitions in the future.”
Indian Football has been on an upswing in recent years, with the National team’s current world ranking of 100, the third best FIFA ranking ever, a huge improvement from the 173 just about two years back.
The team is on the cusp of qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the region’s premiere continental football championship. It is presently preparing for their third round qualification game against the Kyrgyz Republic at Bengaluru’s Sree Kanteerava stadium on June 13, 2017. India are currently topping the group after their away victory against Myanmar in the first match of the four-team group. Only the top two teams from the six groups in the third-round of qualification, will make it to UAE in 2019.
As part of their preparations, India played Nepal on June 6 and returned a favourable scoreline of 2-0, with Sandesh Jhingan and Jeje Lalpekhlua getting on the scoresheet.
The sport of Football has also seen a recent surge in popularity with the Union Government led by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) along with the AIFF leaving no stone unturned in this regard with initiatives taken up like Mission XI Million, whose sole aim is to reach out to 11 million kids across the nation.
AIFF Awards 2017 – Winners List:
• 2016 AIFF Best Grassroots Program of the Year: Punjab
• Best Home-match Organiser of Hero I-League 2016-17: DSK Shivajians FC & Bengaluru FC
• Hero I-League Fairplay Award 2016-17: Churchill Brothers FC Goa
• 2016 AIFF Assistant Referee of the Year: Joseph Tony
• 2016 AIFF Referee of the Year: Pranjal Banerjee
• Long-time Contribution to Indian Football: Nike
• Best Emerging Player of Hero I-League 2016-17: Jerry Lalrinzuala (DSK Shivajians)
• Best Goalkeeper of Hero I-League 2016-17: Debjit Majumder (Mohun Bagan)
• Jarnail Singh Best Defender of Hero I-League 2016-17: Anas Edathodika (Mohun Bagan)
• Best Midfielder of Hero I-League 2016-17: Alfred Kemah Jaryan (Aizawl FC)
• Best Striker of Hero I-League 2016-17: Aser Pierric Dipanda Dicka (Shillong Lajong FC)
• Highest Scorer of Hero I-League 2016-17: Aser Pierric Dipanda Dicka (Shillong Lajong FC)
• Syed Abdul Rahim Award for Best Coach in Hero I-League 2016-17: Khalid Jamil (Aizawl FC)
• Hero of I-League 2016-17: Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
• 2016 Special Award for being the First Indian Club to play in AFC Cup Final: JSW Bengaluru FC
• 2016 Special Recognition Award of the Year: Uvena Fernandes
• 2016 Special Recognition Award of the Year: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
• 2016 Emerging Woman Player of the Year: Sanju
• 2016 AIFF Emerging Player of the Year: Rowllin Borges
• 2016 AIFF Woman Player of the Year: Sasmita Malik
• 2016 AIFF Player of the Year: Jeje Lalpekhlua