Despite the heavy defeat Bhogtoram Mawroh sees many positives in the way Langsning conducted themselves on the pitch yesterday against Shillong Lajong. Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait, Figo Syndai, Donlad Diengdoh and Lajong’s Neithovilie Chalieu all get a mention. Plus, he’s miffed about the state of the SSA Stadium pitch!
On the face of it, yesterday’s 5-2 scoreline does look emphatic in favour of Shillong Lajong, but if one takes into account the quality of chances created by Langsning the scoreline could have been 5-4 or 5-5.
Lajong’s Neithovilie Chalieu started very tentatively in front of his goalpost, but made some fantastic saves to keep his team in the game. Without his saves the outcome of the game could have been very different. I don’t know what’s happening on the preparation front for the I-League. There is no news of any foreign signing and even on the domestic acquisitions it has been very quiet.
Nidhin Lal did very well last season making some very crucial saves. It will be a big surprise if he has been not signed for a second season. But in case they choose to go with the goalkeepers they have there is no clear favourite regarding the first choice. Phurba Tempa Lachenpa might have an edge with his I-League experience but that shouldn’t be held against Neithovilie. He should be given his chance to prove himself as well. A good goalkeeper permeates confidence into the back line and upfront. Lajong have been lucky to have good goalkeepers in the past. Let’s hope this trend continues.
Coming back to the game, Lajong started with almost their full strength squad but Langsning decided to go with a completely second string side. Bastkhem Tariang, Donborlang Nongkynrih and Donlad Diengdoh are regular names in the team sheet but are not always first choice.
Donlad has a goal and a couple of assists to his name but as someone leading the forward line for an attacking team like Langsning he should have scored more goals by now. In this match as well he came close on a couple of occasions. What Donlad does very well is occupy the defenders, allowing other attackers to come into the fore. But at the end of the day strikers are remembered for their goals. Donlad now has a maximum of three games to show his attacking prowess and I wish him all the best for that.
One important distinction that Lajong have over other teams is that they have good bench strength. They could change the whole team yesterday and those that replace them will still give a good account of themselves.
Langsning have been playing top-notch football till now but their bench strength wasn’t really exposed. There was a worry that in event of injury that will be their main weakness. And if one only takes into account the final scoreline one might be tempted to believe as such. But for me it was really heartening to see that the replacements may not yet have the same quality but they still play with the team ethos. The team had a good shape, players are comfortable with the ball and do not panic when there is pressure on them.
They did not take the easy way out but used their defence, midfield and forward line to move the ball around the pitch, getting out of tricky situations and creating attacks. Langsning played proper football. If some of those chances had been taken they outcome could have been entirely different. The goals that they conceded, except the first one, were mainly down to individual mistakes and the spaces that open up when chasing a game. Those can be easily rectified. These are necessary losses that Langsning will have to endure if they want to move forward.
Lajong didn’t panic when they were relegated to the First Division in 2012. They kept faith in their youngsters, got back to the SPL after winning the First Division and won three back-to-back titles. The Langsning team that played yesterday are still better than some of the other teams in the SPL and would not get relegated. Still, to ensure success in the long run you have to be willing to accept defeats like this in the short run.
The central question for Langsning is what is their plan future for the future? Are they going to be happy being SPL champions when they could be more? What about the players? Are they happy playing only in Shillong when they know they could be rubbing shoulders with the best in the country?
To be fair, it looks like Langsning have been making good progress in that regard. Their U-18 team will compete in the Youth League this time. Their U-18 player Figo Syndai has got plenty of opportunities in the first team this season. It would have been easy to start with Figo and then replace him with a senior player halfway. But he was persisted and even in this match his quality was for all to see. Figo is not a fringe player who is there because of the U-18 rule but someone who is an important cog of Langsning’s game plan.
The one player who looked colossal in the game today was Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait. Though he was on the losing side, he dominated the midfield and even released a superb shot which brought out an equally superb save from Neithovilie. His impact was immense and with some luck he could have led his team to a comeback.
Still, if Langsning chose to go with a 3-4-3 system he might be the one missing out. Fullmoon Mukhim will the first choice holding midfielder and Ebormi Buam the one who plays higher upfront. In a three-man midfield, though, Ronald’s inclusion will add more value to the team. He can create as well as score goals. The aspects which I would like to see him add to his game are the ability to switch the game from one flank to another and play balls behind the defence. In other words, he needs to take more chances. In bigger grounds these qualities will be highly useful. They will also make him a complete midfielder.
Both Figo and Ronald are young players who have yet to hit their peak. If they continue their development they will become massive players in the future. The Langsning team that played yesterday showed that they have the right qualities to succeed. They didn’t let the scoreline affect their game plan but continued to play proper football till the end. Success is only inevitable if you have the right approach. Lajong are the perfect example of that. They persisted with the future and are now reaping the dividends.
I think Langsning’s future is in good hands. I just hope that Rangdajied United can sort out their paperwork and join them. And it’s sad what has happened to Wahingdoh. Like I had maintained in the past, for the quality that Meghalaya possesses we need at least three teams to be playing in the I-League.
And, finally, coming to the state of Meghalaya football, the pitch on which the game was played was a disappointment. We do find that international football is not always played in perfect conditions but is that we are aiming for: a race to the bottom?
Somebody could get injured on that pitch. Lajong are going to start their I-League campaign. What if one of their players gets injured while playing on that pitch? It could ruin his whole season and that would be very unfair. I humbly request the SSA to shift the final matches to the JN Stadium if the pitch does not improve. The teams and the players deserve more.
One of my friends who is a pastor and avid football player would always regale me with tales of how in the past people would throng the stadiums. Matches were discussed in the church sermons and there was a vibrancy that affected everyone. Sadly, that is not there anymore. I don’t think it is because people prefer to watch high quality matches on television, ie, English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga.
A part of the reason could be that people can no longer identify themselves with the teams that play the game. If I know that someone from my locality/village/area is playing I would drive a hundred miles to watch the game. But I would also like the playing conditions to be better that what was seen in this match. There are many more Ricky John Shabongs in our state. The SSA and Meghalaya Football Association need to do more than what has been done till now. A good playing pitch is a minimum.