Shillong, Apr 26: The third edition of the Meghalaya State League will begin next month as part of the Meghalaya Football Association’s new vision for the development of the beautiful game in the state.
Twenty-five clubs – making this the biggest MSL so far – from around the state have been divided into four groups that will play their matches in Tura, Mawkyrwat, Shillong and Jowai starting 12 May 2023. The semifinals will then be conducted over two legs, home and away, with the final in Shillong.
MSL 2023 was officially launched at the State Convention Centre here today, with MFA President Larsing Ming Sawyan, Vice-Presidents Gino Sangma and EMH Passah, Joint Secretary Dipshon Ryntathiang, representatives of state associations, team captains and others present for the grand reveal of the trophy, the MSL website (themsl.in) and the catchy theme song and music video by Jessie Lyngdoh and team.
The MSL was last held in 2019, where Shillong Lajong FC took the crown, but then could not be held due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The full resumption of football last year allowed for the MSL, which features the top clubs from leagues conducted by district associations affiliated to the MFA, to be held this year.
In his speech at the launch, MFA President Larsing Ming Sawyan explained that the MSL is in a new avatar. “It is now coming back with a new vision and dynamic approach to take football to the next level,” he said.
Ryntathiang had earlier noted the historic success of the Meghalaya team at this season’s Men’s National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy where they finished as runners-up to Karnataka.
To this, Sawyan added, “This year’s Santosh Trophy performance was not a flash in the pan. Meghalaya has been qualifying for the final round for the past 4-5 years. Due to the love and support of the people we reached the final but we have more to achieve as we haven’t won the title.”
To strengthen the entire football ecosystem in Meghalaya, the MSL will not be focused solely on men’s football. Instead, it will be the pinnacle of a pyramid that has grassroots and youth football at its base. The MFA President spoke of the need for Golden Baby Leagues to be conducted by every district association from next year. It was the MFA that pioneered the Golden Baby League format in 2018, with the All India Football Federation then running the project all over the country.
“Without grassroots there can be no development. If we only focus on the senior team we will never get to where we want,” Sawyan said. “So the vision plan for next year is that all district associations start Golden Baby Leagues in order to develop football. If we can achieve this vision we will get all that we have wanted as football fans.”
The second arm of the MFA’s vision is to build up women’s football. Sawyan noted that, with the Indian women’s national team ranked around 50 places higher than the men’s, the chances of India playing in a World Cup are greater coming from the women’s team and Meghalaya should be part of that journey.
Meanwhile, MSL Tournament Director Wanshan Kharkrang spoke about how the MSL should aim to be one of the major tournaments in Indian football and be marketed to the nation.
Sawyan also mentioned how the MSL could lead to greater things for the participating clubs. The Shillong Sports Association’s Shillong Premier League had, in the past, produced three clubs that took part in the I-League. The MSL, Sawyan said, can take Meghalaya not just into the I-League but into the Indian Super League as well.
He also thanked the Government of Meghalaya, especially the Chief Minister, Sports and Youth Affairs Minister and Commissioner and Secretary of Sports and Youth Affairs, for making the MSL possible; the tournament is 100 percent funded by the state government.
This year, Jowai will have the honour of starting the MSL on 12 May at the Kiang Nangbah Stadium.
The Jowai zone has seven teams, with each of the other three zones – Tura, Shillong and Mawkyrwat – having six each for a total of 25 participants.
Jowai’s opening match will feature 2017-18 MSL champions Niaw Wasa United against 2019’s runners-up Rangdajied United.
Shillong Zone – Mawlai SC, Jyntru, Seng Samla Laitryngew, Umkseh SC, Langsning SC, Umrit SC
Jowai Zone – Niaw Wasa United, Rymbai Iawpynsing SC, Mulait United FC, Sein Pynbhalang SC, Rangdajied United FC, Ladthadlaboh SC, Youth Club Pdengkarong
Mawkyrwat Zone – Pyndengrei SCSC, Mawten SC, Riangdo YSCA, Seven United SCCC, Lumdiengngan SC, Shillong Lajong FC
Tura Zone – Chipakkore FC, Warima YC, Wasa FC, Atong Matgrik FC, Khliehmawlieh YC, Selsella Sports Association