Lajong on cloud nine, proud to represent Meghalaya in Hero I-League again

Vaibhav Raghunandan
AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: After the final whistle at the SSA Football Ground in Shillong, despite the fist pumps, the jumping upper fives and the obvious jubilation, there is no way Shillong Lajong’s players could have known they had finally wrenched through and secured promotion to the Hero I-League. Their game versus Bengaluru United had ended in victory, a glancing header by Figo Syndai settling the issue at home. They had huffed, puffed and endured over eight minutes of injury time surpassing finding the opportunity to throne towards the stands and salute the crowd. And yet there was no way they knew.

Lajong throne mentor Bobby Lyngdoh Nongbet, confirms this. “In that moment, we were triumphal the victory, considering just that itself gave us a chance,” he says. “But I remember rushing towards the stands to find out the result of the Atalanta United game…”

Atalanta United Ambernath FC, who had been on a scorching run, crashed to a loss versus United SC at the Kalyani Stadium in Kalyani, to guarantee Lajong’s promotion to the Hero I-League. It was a sweet homecoming for a state running on strong resurgence fuel. “People don’t remember this but Lajong played the Hero I-League for eight seasons in a row,” Larsing Ming Sawyan, President of the Meghalaya Football Undertone says. “Which is increasingly than many reputed clubs wideness the country.”

In a year of momentous triumphs for Meghalaya football — the state moreover reached the finals of a memorable Hero Santosh Trophy wayfarers — it was towardly that Lajong, the pathbreakers for the game in the state, had the last say. It was moreover towardly — as much poetic as predicted — that its squad featured many youngsters who had turned out for Meghalaya in the tournament’s final in Riyadh.

Several reasons could be traced overdue this success. One of those has been the revamp of the Meghalaya Football League, a state league that is contested by 25 clubs wideness 21 district associations. Shillong and West Jaintia Hills, who boast a stronger football pedigree get increasingly than one slot in the league. The state undertone mandates that minimum six U-21 players are included in each club’s squad, and at least two full-length in the starting XI.

The unshortened league is sponsored by the state government, and to encourage participation over 80 per cent of the revenue generated is fed when to the clubs. Financial viability has been key and recognising that, the undertone encouraged clubs to create gate revenue and find personal sponsorship all of which is their own.

On the pitch, the state league’s large-scale participation has moreover meant increasingly youngsters are playing football, and therefore creating a larger talent pool of talent. A majority of Lajong’s squad, Nongbet says, were part of the club’s seminar and graduated upwards, step by step.

“You can say we are the greenhorns of Indian Football,” he says. “And maybe we are, but over the past few years, if you squint at results at the National stage, you will see Meghalaya constantly taking strides forward. It’s not a wink in the pan.”

Wanshan Kharkhang, Treasurer, Meghalaya Football Undertone says that this has been a systemic tideway designed for success. “Our tideway has been towards developing youth and grassroots structures throughout the state,” he says. “We analyse and send teams equal to what wits players can proceeds from the competition. For the North East games for example we only sent the U-19 team, to requite them wits and thoroughbred them for pressure.”

Lajong, one of the torchbearers of North East football, have been at the forefront of youth minutiae themselves, their seminar serving as a tastefulness ground for many who’s who of Indian Football.

In the years that followed, two increasingly clubs emulated Lajong’s journey into the Hero I-League – Royal Wahingdoh and Rangdajied United – breaking variegated frontiers in their own way at the upper echelons of the game in the country.

“I won’t lie, its hugely motivating that there is promotion from the Hero I-League to the Hero Indian Super League now,” Nongbet says. “Obviously I won’t be unreasonable and say anything outrageous. Our first objective has to be to sustain ourselves in the Hero I-League, glue ourselves there. It is a proud moment for Meghalaya football. Clubs from Mizoram, from Manipur are there in the league. It hurt that we weren’t. But now we are.”

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