Bhogtoram Mawroh is of the opinion that Langsning should have had a lot more points in their Second Division League campaign by now and has got some pointers for Ebormi Buam and Donlad Diengdoh after watching the match against Mohammedan Sporting

Langsning’s season until now has been exemplified by the one single incident involving Stephanson Pale and Echezona Anyichie during the first half.

Stephanson had scored his third goal in three games and was one of the players leading the counterattack for Langsning FC. During one such break, he managed to wriggle away to the opposition’s far corner with only Echezona tracking him. With no other Mohammedan Sporting or Langsning player around the onus was on Stephanson to hold on to the ball till support arrived. But instead of shielding the ball and forcing the defender to commit the foul, Stephanson showed too much of the ball and subsequently lost it.

This match was littered with such incidents: misplaced passes, lack of coordination among the players and a plethora of missed chances. An experienced team would not have committed such glaring errors. For obvious reasons I couldn’t watch the away games (with the remaining games but one being all away matches most probably this is my last piece) but from what I saw in the home games, including this match, Langsning should have had at least 15 points with a goal difference of around +10.

Even in this match they had the opportunity to go up by 4-5 goals. The best chance of the first half was the one-to-one situation between Ebormi Buam and the goalkeeper, which the Langsning player fluffed. It was a great chance created by Kitboklang Pale and would have helped the team go up by two goals, making it difficult for Mohammedan to make a comeback. When Ebormi missed the chance, my immediate reaction was that it was going to be one of those days again. However, I am not really sure that I can blame Ebormi for it. Before the chance was created he had suffered a bad knock and had signalled for substitution. The coach, Bah Hering Shangpliang, however, decided against it and after some treatment on the sideline, Ebormi was again thrust back onto the pitch.

Whenever you hear Bah Hering in the press (it was true during his time with Rangdajied United as well) he rarely talks about tactics. Instead he focuses on players and the need to keep them motivated for the games. When you see his teams play, though, you can make out that there have been a lot of drills which the team have practised before the game. During matches as well you can see him regularly calling his players to the sidelines and explaining them the plans that he wants them to execute. His coaching style for me is a mixture of the styles that Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti employ.

The first concentrates a lot on making players adhere to his intricate systems while the other is known for getting the best out of players through his man-management skills. Both are obviously the greatest managers in the world and it is foolish to say that Bah Hering is at their level. But his style of management, from the way he conducts on the field and in the press conference, I cannot but help notice the similarities.

The decision to make Ebormi continue can be understood as his attempt to not let the knock bring down his confidence. Ebormi had recently got back from an injury that had made him miss some crucial matches. In such situations if you suffer an injury again the belief in your own body also goes down. You become afraid of the pain and when you are in that mindset you will never give your 100%. Football as any other part is about mental as well as physical strength.

Players like Luke Shaw and Daniel Sturridge had some injuries of their own but it was their reluctance to play through the pain barrier than irked their coaches. One has already left his team while the other is very much on the way out. Pushing Ebormi to continue in the first half was understandable from that point of view. The move almost worked with Ebormi getting his chances in the second half as well. But a lack of confidence let him down. While I sympathize with Ebormi’s situation, it is only his mental strength that is going to help him come out stronger from this situation. I wish him all the best for that.

I don’t want to say much about Kento Sakurai’s missed chance. It was inexplicable as well as exasperating. I think that miss will give me nightmares for many days to come. Donlad Diengdoh’s missed chance was also highly, if not equally, frustrating. He was not able to sort his feet out to get into a position to shoot. This is something I had mentioned earlier about him as well – slowness on the turn.

When you watch international football it is not only the tactical understanding of the game but speed that separates the top nations from teams like India. When I say speed I don’t mean that the elite players can run faster; what I mean is that they can execute their techniques quicker than their counterparts from the lower-ranked nations.

Leagues like the Eredivisie (Dutch league) are the best example of the gap that lies between top nations and countries like India (forget about the Bundesliga, Premier League and La Liga). One can even watch the A-League (Australia) and notice the difference. I remember watching the U-23 final (if I remember correctly) of the AFC Cup between Japan and South Korea some years ago. The ferocious speed at which both the teams played was terrifying. My personal opinion is that it will take India around 15 years just to get counted as one of the top footballing nations in Asia.

For the time being what can be done is that the local players can learn and endeavor to become better. So for Donlad, my suggestion is that he has to get quicker with his footwork. This will give him a tremendous advantage over his opposition since most of the central defenders are in any way slow. He is not going to get any bigger anymore (unless his pituitary gland starts malfunctioning) but he can always get quicker. This goes for the other players in the team as well who also seemed a little slower in reacting and executing their moves.

The one player who seems that he is already on the right track is Kitbok. The way he uses his left leg reminds me of Arjen Robben (again only the style and not the pedigree). You know that he is going to cut inside and try to release the other players or take the shot, but still you can’t stop him. Playing as one of the three attackers in the 4-3-3 system, which worked like a 4-2-4 (with Ebormi playing much higher up), he was a constant threat to the opposition goal. Though he didn’t get many chances of his own, he created a plethora for others. And when the team counterattacked he was the furthest player upfront.

If Langsning were to fail in qualification this time around (I still hope that they can do it), I would request Shillong Lajong FC to sign Kitbok. He is the kind of wide player that the team need at the moment to bring in more variety to their attacking options. And I hope the club hierarchy doesn’t use the excuse that their policy is to only field their own academy players.

If that were true then only players that have been with Lajong from a very young age should be playing for the team. Till last year (even this year as well) many of the youth players were not those that Lajong had developed on their own but those who were signed from other clubs or academies (like the AIFF Elite Academy). So that argument is entirely false. It will be a travesty for football in Meghalaya if a gem like Kitbok is unable to play at a higher level in spite of his own home state having an I-League team.

If Lajong can promise that they will only use academy players who have been with them before they were 10 years old I will understand if they don’t sign him. But that is not going to happen, is it? I myself don’t want that because I believe that it is important that we learn to play with others if the players are to grow, not just as sportspersons but as decent human beings. There is a huge lack of such people in this country right now. So for me there is no excuse for Lajong not signing Kitbok next season.

As for Kitbok, whatever happens in the future Langsning are the team that need him right now and he has to keep working hard for his team. With the results going the way they are, Langsning will not finish below second place in the table. They may still qualify with that but they need to finish at the top if they are to leave nothing to chance. There is still a lot of football left to be played and I wish Langsning all the best for the remaining matches.

(TSR photo)

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