Shillong, Jun 2: Nangkiew Irat will meet Mawlai in the opening match of the much-anticipated Shillong Premier League 2021-22 season on 15th June.

After two years with no SPL possible due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Meghalaya’s favourite and biggest football league will come back to Polo Ground. Due to upgrades to the JN Stadium and work to lay an artificial pitch at the SSA Stadium at First Ground, the first leg of matches this season will be played at the MFA Turf at Third Ground. All games will kick-off at 4PM.

The Shillong Sports Association also announced that after a multi-year partnership, Officer’s Choice Blue has signed on again to be title sponsors of the SPL and the tournament will now be offering Rs 3 lakh in prize money to the champions, an increase of 50%.

Four-time winners Shillong Lajong are the defending champions but the two-year hiatus means that the SPL this season is wide open. 2019 runners-up Rangdajied United, two-time winners Langsning, Ryntih and Nangkiew Irat all return from the previous season, while Malki are back in the top tier for the first time since the end of the 2018 edition.

Also in the mix are Mawkhar and Mawlai. Mawkhar won the 2019 First Division, with Mawlai the runners-up. The latter are making their return to the SPL for the first time since 2013.

As was introduced in 2019, the SPL will operate on a pure league basis – ie there will be no playoffs or final. After two legs – 14 games per side and 56 overall – the new champions will be crowned.

After missing out for the past two years, players are keen to deliver quality football just as much as the fans are eager to soak it up. However, there are limitations as to the number of spectators that can come to Third Ground, so the organisers have taken the big initiative to livestream the games this year via T7, one of the state’s biggest media channels, which will bring all the action of the SPL straight to the fans wherever they might be.

(TSR file photo)

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