He wasn’t there to personally watch the Langsning-Shillong Lajong SPL final, but Bhogtoram Mawroh is in no doubt about just how good champions Langsning are.
At the outset I have to admit that I did not witness the Shillong Premier League final firsthand. My impressions of the final will be based on the few clips that I saw in the highlights. And what I saw was not unexpected.
Langsning have been the best team throughout the entire season and it was again a very dominating performance. Considering the chances that they created the scoreline could have been very different. Twenty-one shots with 11 of them on target tells the story of pure dominance and from the highlights it seems that it was Phurba Tempa Lachenpa’s heroics that saved Lajong from an embarrassing defeat.
Having lost his spot to Neithovilie Chalieu in Lajong’s I-League starting XI, it was Phurba’s opportunity to show his value to the team and I think he did his case no harm with this performance.
However, was he the best goalkeeper in the SPL? I don’t think so. I would have given the award to either Padam Chettri (of Rangdajied United) or Frolicson Dkhar (Langsning). Both have made some very crucial saves, which fetched their respective teams important points.
Like the award the pitch was inexplicable. It was, like someone said, a mud-fest rather than a football match. But the chances Langsning created were not because of the pitch playing devil but pure, smart combination play between the attackers and the midfielders.
It is this teamwork that has helped them score so many different types of goals this season. They have scored from inside the box, outside the box, long-rangers, simple tap-ins, penalties and headed goals. This variety of goals is outstanding because it shows the variety of attacking moves that Langsning can create compared to other teams who have a particular pattern of attack from which they rarely deviate.
In attack they have the perfect team. And leading the attacking line is a very special player, Kitboklang Pale. If I am not mistaken Kitbok started the season with a beautiful long-ranger in Langsning’s first match. He finished the season with another beauty. Kitbok is a magician who has such beautiful feet with which he weaves magic no matter the condition of the pitch or the match. He truly is a special player. The man-of-the-match award he got in the final was a true reflection of his talent.
The thing I like the most when I see him play is not just his insane talent but the ability to bring others into the game. He doesn’t hold on to the ball too long for the sake of the cameras but is always looking for runners who can carry forward the attack. If Langsning were playing in the I-League he would be one of the top players in that competition as well. And I say this with utmost responsibility. For his sake and the other tremendous players they have, Langsning should try qualifying for the top division again. Imagining this team playing in the I-League gives me goose bumps in expectation of the top class performances they are going to dish out game after game.
But it is not only Kitbok who makes up the team: Kynsaibor Lhuid, Donborlang Nongkynrih, Milancy Khongstia, Figo Syndai, Batskhem Tariang, Restom Khriam, Fullmoon Mukhim, Ebormi Buam, Frolicson and Dibinroy Nongspung from the first team and those waiting in the wings led by Captain Fantastic Brolington Warlarpih.
I am saying this again. People marvel at this team for the goals and the ferocity with which they play. Sometimes they forget that, except for the game when Lajong scored five against a second string Langsning side, they have never conceded more than one goal in any game. In fact, in the knockout stages the defence has not been breached even once. Such was the dominant display of the back line.
The defenders are the unsung heroes of this SPL triumph. In my opinion Langsning will win the SPL for the next two seasons as well. The way the other teams are playing, they are not yet a match for Langsning. Like this year it will not be a matter of how they win it but when they win it. With those two trophies in the future they will become the most successful team in the history of competition. And it is this desire to be the best which will drive them through at least the next two seasons as well. Bah Hering Shangpliang will make sure that this desire and hunger will not stop before those trophies are won.
It is this genius, Bah Hering, who is the architect of this all-conquering team. Dressed in jeans (I think he still believes he’s young) he is a coach who likes his team to play an attacking game. But unlike others who set up their team to attack by simply pushing men forward or hitting on the counter, he has devised multiple points of attack (see the variety of goals). Kitbok may be the top scorer in the team but goals have come from everywhere, Donbor, Kynsai, Figo, Ebormi, Fullmoon, etc, have at least a goal each. Even the highly energetic full back Milancy has scored a goal.
This team that Bah Hering has created is prolific while going forward but, at the same time, miserly at the back. Such a perfect combination makes him a master tactician, way above his peers. Though they will win the next two editions they will have to freshen up the team. This is to make sure that the energy levels don’t drop and the hunger stays alive.
Donborlang, Figo and Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait are the future leaders of this team. In the next two seasons they will become even better players. Hopefully by that time Langsning will have qualified for the I-League so that the whole country can enjoy their talent. In time the seniors will pass the baton on to their juniors. Senior players like Restom will have a very important role in this regard. He will have to guide them in their quest to become not only better footballers but also better human beings. At the end of the day it is the latter that matters.
There are only two ways in which the march of this marvelous winning machine can come to a halt: the first team players leaving before their replacements have had time to establish themselves or the loss of that hunger and desire to be the best. For the latter I have no worries because Bah Hering will not allow it. Even the players would want to continue being the best. The first one is a real possibility especially for players like Kitbok. He should eventually move out because he has the talent to play for the country and he should try his level best to reach that stage. At the end of his footballing career he should have no regrets for things he could have achieved. I only wish that I could continue watch him playing live and not on the TV. You don’t see everything on a TV.
To close, the present SPL season was a fascinating one with great games, some controversies but in general pure entertainment. Come next season, Lajong will continue to be a strong competitor but it is Rangdajied who excite me the most. They have shown some flashes of good play during the season but it is goal-scoring that let them down. Khlain Syiemlieh is a good coach and I am sure he will get that rectified next season. Malki will also have to get better.
And finally there is the “Phoenix” Laban rising from the ashes to become champions of the First Division. Very few clubs who jump divisions have managed to hold on for long. I hope Laban can break that trend. So while this season is over, I am already eagerly waiting for the next season to start. Cheers to everyone.