The 37th National Games bore witness to Maharashtra’s spirited football campaign, where they faced formidable opponents in Kerala, Meghalaya, and Manipur.
In a series of group stage encounters, Maharashtra exhibited a commendable blend of talent and determination, even though the journey ended sooner than expected.
Game 1: Maharashtra 2 – 2 Kerala
The campaign kicked off with a thrilling 2-2 draw against Kerala. Maharashtra, at one point trailing 2-0, displayed their fighting spirit as they orchestrated a remarkable comeback in the final 10 minutes. Goals by Mandeep Singh and Yash Shukla illuminated Maharashtra’s resilience.
Game 2: Maharashtra 2 – 1 Meghalaya
In the second game, Maharashtra triumphed over Meghalaya with a 2-1 scoreline. Mandeep Singh found the back of the net in the 13th minute, and Advait Shinde added another goal in the 41st minute. This victory showcased Maharashtra’s ability to secure crucial wins.
Game 3: Maharashtra 3 – 8 Manipur
However, the toughest challenge lay ahead in the third game against Manipur. The contest unfolded in a dramatic manner as Manipur raced to a 3-0 lead, and later extended it to 5-1. Maharashtra displayed remarkable resilience, initiating a mini comeback to narrow the deficit to 5-3. Arafat Ansari showcased his brilliance, scoring a hat-trick for Maharashtra. Despite the valiant effort, they eventually succumbed to a defeat.
A Missing Spark
Maharashtra’s campaign was marred by the absence of two crucial players—Set-piece specialist Johnson Mathews and the team’s Santosh Trophy Vice-Captain and top scorer Himanshu Patil. Both players were called back to their respective clubs after the Santosh Trophy campaign, leaving a significant void in the team’s lineup.
Maharashtra’s performance in the 37th National Games was commendable, considering they were placed in a challenging group against football powerhouses like Manipur, Kerala, and Meghalaya. The team exhibited resilience, skill, and a fighting spirit that resonates with the essence of Indian football. Although they fell short by a mere point, the campaign stood as a testament to their potential and their bright future in the world of football