When Indian fans discuss about the hubs of Indian football across India, it will be really surprising if the north-eastern states stay out of the mix. The I-League cocktail last year definitely missed the vibrant flavors from the North-East, but Shillong Lajong FC, from Meghalaya made it sure that the upcoming season will not deny Indian football and its fans the vibrance the club offers.
Shillong Lajong FC, traditionally known as the Reds, among faithfuls, flaunt a huge fan base across the seven sister states of the beautiful North-East. They controversially qualified for the I-League in May, after they were blessed with home conditions to sustain their challenge in the final round of the fixtures of I-League second division. The team cruised past most of the challengers and emerged as table toppers in the final round, after securing as many as sixteen points from seven games.
There was huge controversy after league 2 side Southern Samity filed an official complaint with AIFF regarding Shillong Lajong’s fielding a striker, namely Saikhohau Tuboi, who was registered with two states’ football associations. AIFF decided to ban the striker for 3-4 months and Shillong Lajong FC was given a clean chit. Putting the controversy aside, the north-eastern representatives get ready to mingle with best in Indian football. TheHardTackle takes a look at their squad, transfers for the upcoming season.
Summer Transfer Activities
|John Menyongar||Striker||United Sikkim FC|
|Christopher Chizoba||Striker||Mohammedan Sporting Club|
|Henry Gangte||Midfielder||Bengal Mumbai Club|
|Eugeneson Lyngdoh||Defender||Ar Hima FC|
|Romenjit Singh||Defender||Bengal Mumbai Club|
|H.Lalmuamkima||Midfielder||Sport and Youth Service, Mizoram|
|Soram Porei Anganba||Goalkeeper||Pune FC|
Goalkeepers: Gumpe Rime, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Sorum Anganba
Veteran stopper Gumpe Rimpe was instrumental in Shillong Lajong victories during division 2 final round matches last season. As the team would now be locking horns with more professional outfits in the I-League, Mr. Larsing Ming has left no stone unturned in strengthening the bench. The Reds have signed back Soram Anganba from Pune FC and have Lalthuammawia as the other option. With a long season ahead for the club from Shillong, injuries might get the better of many players; hence the moves reflect prudence on the part of the club.
THT Verdict: Shillong Lajong’s custodians look impressive with experienced Gumpe Rimpe leading the way. The shrewd signing of Sorum Anganba from Pune FC could turn out to be vital as the season progresses.
Defenders: Aibor Khongjee, Wailadmi Passah, Zomingliana Ralte, Rodingson Sangma, L. Romenjit Singh, M. Subhas Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, C. Lallawmzuala, Lalchuanmawia, Ronald Zothanzama.
Clearly, Shillong Lajong has strengthened their side, starting from the defence. The Reds pounced on former JCT defender Lalchuanmawia, after the disbandment of the club from Punjab. Lajong recently announced the signing of rival club Ar-Hima FC’s dominant captain, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, in a bid to improve their defense, which will be up against the best of the strikers in the country. The opportunity of playing in the premier football division in India has helped the Shillong club to lure in another performer from Bengal Mumbai Club, Romenjit Singh.
THT Verdict: The defence looks very interesting for Shillong Lajong. On one hand they have experienced defenders like Aibor Khongjee, who has faced the music against top teams, and on the other hand they have ambitious new joiners, looking to make an impact. Some of the defenders parted ways with the club, but most of them were retained; the defense will be looking to put in consistent performances albeit a few unconvincing ones can be expected as well.
Midfielders: Mashangva Genius Zenith, Samson Ramengmawia, Boithang Haokip, Lalramluaha, James Gbilee, P.C. Lahlimthara, Samuel Shadap, Racy Khiangte Lalrengmawia, Henry Gangte and Lalmuamkima.
Shillong Lajong was successful in retaining most of its playmakers. In addition to that, Henry Gangte too has been added to the squad from the Bengal Mumbai Club. Many influential players like Mashangva, Samuel and James will be expected to put in gritty performances to present their claims for the national team berths. Under the tutelage of coach Pradhyum Reddy, the young turks will be looking to make an impact in I-League with their skillful short passing game.
THT Verdict: The midfield looked very impressive against league two sides and the only blemish was a single loss in the whole tournament. With additions to the squad, who are capable of orchestrating moves on the pitch, the agility of the North Eastern team can surprise a handful this season.
Strikers: Christopher Chizoba, John D. Menyongar , Saikhohau Tuboi and Lalnunmawia.
The striking department is the area where Shillong Lajong has spent the most this summer. The addition of experienced Liberian international John Menyongor will certainly bring some extra teeth to the attacks. The Reds have also managed to secure the signature of Christopher Chizoba, another prolific striker from Mohammedan Sporting Club, known for his consistency in Calcutta Football League. Saikhohau Tuboi, after all the controversy, has served his ban and will be raring to go, come October. He was sensational in the final round and scored important goals to clinch the I-league 2 title on home turf. Lalnunmawia, on the other hand, would be providing a robust option to Pradhyum and can be dangerous coming off the bench.
THT Verdict: Clearly the striking department of the Shillong club, with an exciting mix of youth and experience, can pose a threat for many quality defenders in the upcoming season. Scoring goals away from home or perhaps the lack of it, was the main reason for Shillong Lajong’s exit from the premier division, in their inaugural season, two years back. As of now, the Reds have a good striker force with Tuboi, Christopher and John looking to synch and score goals.
Five Key Targets
1. I-League: After being knocked out in their debut season, the main target this season for Pradhyum Reddy will be to stay afloat this season. Regular oscillations between I-League 2 and I-League doesn’t help in generating revenues, which in turn influences the fan base. Without a shadow of a doubt, Shillong Lajong has the most powerful fan base in North East and hence the club should try to avoid the drop in order to maintain the representation of North East on India’s football map.
2. Federation Cup: Lajong participated in the 2009-10 version of the Federation Cup, which is an Indian Football season curtain raiser. Under the mentorship of Stanley Rozario, the Reds surprised a lot of teams and reached the finals and eventually lost to East Bengal. The surviving members of that team will be having those memories fresh in the mind, as they take the field against Churchill Brothers SC in Pune on 17th. It would be a great platform for Pradhyum Reddy to explore options, test players and subsequently announce the arrival of his team.
3. Subroto Cup: In a massive revelation for the club, four juniors from Shillong Lajong FC – Ram Chettri, Suman Rai, Donborlang Nongkynrih, Jacob Lalrawngbawla were selected in Allianz, Adidas, Lufthansa, Audi, and FC Bayern talent hunt programme. They trained at the FC Bayern Munich headquarter’s training ground at Sabener Strasse 51 in the Munich suburb of Harlaching. With such talented youngsters up their sleeve, the team should look forward to groom these youngsters for future and certainly, winning the coveted Subroto Cup will do no harm.
4. Shillong League: In order to stay consistent at the top, the Shillong team, like all the other giants in Indian football, need to have a pool of good back up players from where the coaches can pick up players. The SLFC reserve team is all set to participate in the Shillong League and will try to garner good results there. Exceptional performers from the Shillong league might find a place in the senior team, which in turn will enhance their chances of staying afloat in seasons to come. As always, the local league is very important for a club to keep things going, especially at the top.
5. Consistency, away from home: No, this one is no competition. This is one aspect of their game, perhaps one of the most important ones, which should be dealt with. It’s no rocket science that Shillong side was relegated last time because they just couldn’t score enough on the road. The reason was that the team couldn’t acclimatize to the conditions in Kolkata, Punjab, Mumbai, Kerala and Goa. This led to a string poor away results, which were rued by the team after they got the boot. Pradhyum Reddy has already set up camps for his team in Guwahati to minimize it in this season.
The word “Lajong” means Our Own. Indian Football, at the top level, has certainly been denied the northeastern flavour. With Shillong Lajong FC finally crawling up, among the creme de la creme of Indian football, certailny the club has to make the league it’s own. With a lot of competition spurring up within the seven sister states, as Bhaichung’s Sikkim United, Ar-Hima FC and Royal Wahingdoh SC are quickly finding their roots, the mighty club from Meghalaya will have it’s work cut out against the best, as they shoulder the burden of the entire North East – perhaps one of the major cores of Indian Football.