Extra Time with Leeza Mangaldas

Follow pitch-side reporter Leeza Mangaldas as she takes you behind the scenes this Hero ISL season. New posts every Monday exclusively on indiansuperleague.com. 

Match week 6: Merry Christmas! 

Merry Christmas from all of us!

In the lead-up to the break this week, every stadium sparkled with holiday cheer. Across venues, carols played on the loudspeakers pre-match, fans came wearing Santa hats, and even some of the players and coaches joined in the festive spirit.  

André Bikey, Steve Coppel and Subrata Pal share their wishes
Players from Kerala Blasters and North East United join in the festive spirit

Seiminlen Doungel and CK Vineeth in Kochi

A merry Ranko Popovic

And since school holidays are on, it was wonderful to see lots of children at the matches - young football lovers and aspiring stars - coming out to support their teams in full force.

Kids in their festive best at Fatorda Stadium

In fact in Goa, as recognition for their footballing ability, 75 children who were selected as the top players from across the Força Goa Foundation’s state-wide football training programmes, were awarded special passes for themselves and their families to the match on Saturday.  

For many of them, it was the first time watching live in the stands, and their enthusiasm was a delight to watch.  

Despite the disappointment of Goa’s 2-0 loss to the visitors FC Pune City, Fatorda stadium absolutely twinkled with the spirit of Christmas.

The Força Goa Foundation kids

Likewise, earlier in the week, in chilly Bengaluru, where Jamshedpur pulled a surprise win over the hosts, I encountered large groups of children in the stands who play football in school and share a passionate love for Bengaluru FC (BFC).  

Check out these two wonderful little fellows who said to me, “It’s okay, every team has bad days and BFC will be the champions anyway.” (Don’t miss the Rudolf sweater!)

 And if all that festive cuteness wasn’t enough to get you feeling warm and fuzzy, some of the ISL’s biggest heroes and rising stars have even sent photos with personal wishes, especially for everyone who reads this column!

Sunil had some fun with the Snapchat Christmas filters
Jeje sent special wishes from Chennai
Iain Hume and Paul Rachubka sending Christmas love from Kochi
BFC’s Erik Paartalu with his beautiful tree in Bengaluru

 Two Mumbai City FC players even had their adorable sons join in: 

Mehrajuddin Wadoo and his son Mohammad
Lucian Goian and his son Luca

Now, goals have long been on top of my Christmas wish list, and it feels like Santa has taken note this season because at the beginning of the week I received the stats on the comparative quality of play over the last three seasons - and guess what - a month into Season 4, we’ve seen more goals in total, more goals per game on average, and a higher goal conversion rate this season than at the same point in the league in any previous season! ️ 

We’ve also seen more Indian goal scorers than in seasons past, a larger number of Indian players providing assists, and more young Indian talent shining.  

Lallianzuala Chhangte has even set a record as the youngest Indian player in the Hero ISL so far to both score a goal and provide an assist in the same game.

So, it’s been a great first month and a half for Hero ISL Season 4 to say the least! 

And while all of us are now looking forward to the next few days off to relax and unwind, and to catch up on family time, we’ll be right back in the thick of things bringing you all the action again later this week! Have a very merry Christmas and happy holidays!

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