JIFA FC FROM NEWHAM fought off strong competition to win the inaugural borough Champions League trophy. A close knit final round of games in the six team tournament saw three teams standing an equal chance of winning the league, but JIFA held their nerve to beat New Hammers 1-0 and become champions.
On a pulsating night of football, an earlier kick off saw second placed Urban Hero win 4-0 against Newham Rangers to leave JIFA needing a win to clinch the title due to a superior goal difference. With fraying nerves both on the pitch and touchlines, JIFA chose to switch their cavalier attacking style to a more robust defensive look.
The cautious tactics worked to a tee as man of the match Abdul Hakim switched passes with player manager Sayad Zaman to beat the New Hammers keeper from a tight angle and score the championship winning goal. New Hammers were looking to finish in the top half of the table, and a strong surge in the second half saw the mid table side twice come close to scoring.
JIFA had been on cruise control with the rest of the pack chasing until two consecutive losses in their last two games blew the title wide open, leaving three teams capable of clinching the title on a final day cliff hanger games schedule. Thanks to a positive five goal difference for JIFA at the beginning of the night, second placed Urban Hero knew that they had to score a hatful of goals if they were to nick the title – and they almost did it with their resounding four goal win reducing the goal arrears to +1. This meant that a JIFA win was all that was required, and the blues came up trumps.
It was a typical game: tight, physical and scrappy, with New Hammers efficiently dealing with the JIFA attacking threat as the first half ended in a stalemate. It was a game that called out for a spark of creative genius, and man of the match Abdul Hakim provided just that – latching onto a precise through ball from Zaman to lash home from an impossible angle. New Hammers continued to press with their star man Alvi at the centre of their attacking threat, but the JIFA rear guard stood resolute and saw out the game.
The glory on the night belonged to JIFA, with Akram Abdullah and Soufiane Goudjil picking up the Golden Boot and Player of the Season awards respectively during the presentation ceremony. In the third and final game AGM FC lost 3-0 to Newham Rangers.
Player manager Sayad Zaman made a crucial change in goal for the game against New Hammers. He said, “I bought in a new keeper for this game and he made three crucial saves to keep us in the game. The boys did tremendous tonight and we are very proud with our achievement here tonight.”
Shaz Rahman, co-organiser of The Champions League said, “The debut season of The Champions League has been a tremendous occasion for everyone involved. Congratulations to JIFA FC who won the league on the last day of the season, on goal difference! It has been an incredible journey from the first game to the last and we would like to thank every team and their players who have participated this season to help make the inaugural season of The Champions League a truly memorable season.”
Shaz’s colleague Habs Rahman added, “All the hard work and effort paid off tonight as the season came to a close in thrilling fashion. We have both been involved in football for over 20 years in various capacities and it was the first time that we have seen a league decided on the last day of the season on goal difference. We can’t wait to kick off season two starting in July 2017 as we look to expand the league to two divisions with a cup competition in between.”
JIFA FC: 2017 Champions League Winners (Newham)
Akram Abdullah, Mohamed Sadam, Azir Uddin, Sofiane Goudjil, Sayad Zaman, Salem Yousif, Adnan Mohamed, Abdul Hakim, Ahmed, Kawsor Ali, Taha Omar, Abdur Rahman, Akram Hussain, Basher Ali, Shaz Ali, Fahed Gani
Teams participating in the league:
Urban Hero FC
New Hammers FC
Newham Rangers FC
Newham 7s FC