Sport360’s Indian Super League awards

Mehr Shadaab 22:22 29/12/2015
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Sport360 Awards - we look back at the 2015 Indian Super League season.

It has been another eventful Indian Super League season, with lots of twists and turns, big name players, big name flops and typical bollywood-style drama.

Here’s Sport360’s take on the moments that mattered in 2015.

– Premier League: January transfer window watch
– Serie A: January transfer window watch

– Bundesliga: January transfer window watch
– Ligue 1: January transfer window watch

Best Game: Final – FC Goa 2-3 Chennaiyin

There were plenty of high-scoring, closely-contested matches this season but for sheer drama and the high-stakes involved, the final is our pick.

It wasn’t pretty, far from it in fact. It was scrappy and brutal, and even Goa, who played the most easy on the eye football this season, looked overwhelmed by the occasion.

Goa led 2-1 and looked comfortable but with five minutes of added time remaining, their fortunes took a nosedive.

Goa goalkeeper Kattimani, flawless otherwise, picked a horrible time to make his first error of the game. While trying to clear an aerial ball, he punched it into his own net to level the scores in stoppage time. A minute later, Chennaiyin’s Colombian striker Stiven Mendoza scored the winning goal to script a dramatic comeback for Marco Materazzi’s side and break Goan hearts.

Best goal: Iain Hume for Atletico Kolkata vs Chennaiyin

There were quite a few contenders; Sehnaj Singh’s scorching long ranger, Simao Sabrosa’s sublime free-kick and Antonio German’s brilliant finish on the turn are three that spring to mind.

But former Leicester City striker Iain Hume’s volley from outside the box in the second leg of the semi-final against Chennaiyin is the best goal of the season.

With his side needing two goals in the final four minutes, Hume came up with something special as he played a wonderful give-and-go with Serb Dejan Lekic to unlock Chennaiyin’s defence before finding the top left-hand corner with an acrobatic volley.

Best haircut: Sony Norde

He may not have won the Golden Boot, but he does have golden hair. It’s not like Sony Norde needed a whacky hairdo to stand out in an average Mumbai City team.

But with a patch of blonde on his head, the Haitian international attracted quite a few curious glares wherever he went.

Norde said the gold highlights were dedicated to his I-League club Mohun Bagan, who won their first-ever domestic title in more than a decade earlier this year.

Best story: Cops detain Elano then pose for selfie

The title celebrations weren’t quite how Elano would have expected them to be.

The Chennaiyin captain was arrested by Goan police for allegedly assaulting FC Goa co-owner Dattaraj Salgaocar.

The former Brazil and Manchester City midfielder was taken to the local police station, where he was released on bail after spending an hour there.

Once he was free to go, Elano got a taste of his popularity in India when the cops who detained him requested selfies. He obliged for a few but was clearly not in the mood to pose with the men who had ruined his memorable evening.

Best fans: Kerala Blasters

Known more these days for its serene backwaters, Kerala came to a standstill every time their team took the field at the 62,000-seater Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.

The football-crazy state does not have representation in the I-League, leaving the fans starved of top football.

Despite the team being in the doldrums – owners giving up, managers being sacked mid-way through the season and their marquee player making just one appearance – the fans turned out in their droves. The bleachers were full for every home match, making the atmosphere special every time Kerala played at home.

Best player: Leo Moura (Brazil/FC Goa)

A very tough one, this. Delhi Dynamos duo Florent Malouda and John Arne Riise were exceptional throughout the league, but our best player was FC Goa’s Brazilian playmaker Leo Moura.

Moura has the distinction of playing for all four Rio clubs in the Brazilian league in his vast career. And at 37, he showed experience mattered more than energy in a tournament like ISL.

He scored two goals and provided eight assists in 17 matches but these numbers do not do justice to the overall contribution he made. Moura translated Zico’s ideas and philosophy on field, communicating well with the young Indian players while setting-up his compatriots in Goa squad with delicious balls.

Saddest moment: The fracas after the final

The ugly, embarrassing scenes that followed after the final tarnished not just the image of the ISL but also left many players with a bitter taste.

FC Goa boycotted the awards ceremony, claiming the outcome of the match was ‘pre-decided’. They then attacked Japanese referee Yudai Yamamoto, hurling abuse and threatening to ‘beat’ him.

Yamamoto and his assistants locked themselves in their rooms and left only when armed security men escorted them away. Their hotels were then changed in the middle of the night to ensure safety.

If this wasn’t enough, FC Goa co-owner Dattaraj Salgaocar filed a police complaint against Chennaiyin captain Elano, accusing the Brazilian of assaulting him.

It certainly wasn’t the end everyone was hoping for.

Best/worse referee blunder: Too many to single out one

Where do we begin? If there is one point that everyone agrees on is that the refereeing throughout the season was atrocious.

Zico even threatened to leave the tournament because of the abysmal standards after referees were guilty of not taking control of several games and not punishing players who made violent tackles.

Two-footed, studs-up challenges were either ignored or seen worthy of only a yellow card, while on a few occasions they just stood as silent observers as matches descended into martial arts exhibitions.

The most obvious blunder was witnessed during the clash between Chennayin and Kerala Blasters when Mehtab Hossain unleashed a horrific tackle on Chennaiyin’s Stiven Mendoza. Hosssain was only booked.

Best feel-good moment: Chennaiyin winning after floods

A couple of weeks before they lifted the trophy, Chennaiyin were at the bottom of the league table, staring at an exit. But Marco Materrazi rallied his side on and they found inspiration from the floods that swept Chennai away, claiming hundreds of lives.

The entire city was submerged in water and it was a miracle that the Marina Arena, Chennaiyin’s home ground, could host their penultimate league game against Mumbai City. Chennaiyin had to win that match to keep their hopes alive, which they did.

However, the team could not leave its hotel for the next two days because of flooding and had to undertake a tedious road-cum-air journey to reach Pune for their final group game.

The rest is history and, unsurprisingly, they dedicated the title to the flood victims.

Biggest shock: Kerala Blasters sacking Peter Taylor

For the four months of the ISL season, coaches meet their players for the first time and are expected to break the ice, assign them roles and ensure their philosophy is followed on and off the field.

It isn’t easy, and a reason why most clubs are rather lenient with their coaches.

With that said, it came as a big shock when the Kerala Blasters decided to sack Peter Taylor as manager after just five games.

Terry Phelan replaced him but he had little time to get used to the demands of the tournament and Kerala eventually finished bottom.

Best with the media: Roberto Carlos

His press conferences and interviews were a joy. Carlos was refreshingly honest and witty with his replies, willing to talk and analyse the performances at length after every match.

The Brazilian did not care about being politically right all the time, sharing his thoughts on a range of issues.

At the same time, Carlos showed respect to fellow coaches, the players and the press pack. 

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