Shillong, Mar 5: The professionalisation of football in Meghalaya, seen through improved coaching and commitment of players, is having a positive impact when the state takes part in regional and national tournaments, coach Bobby Lyngdoh Nongbet feels.
Nongbet said this just after leading the Meghalaya team to second place in the U-21 Dr T Ao Football Tournament, which concluded last week in Guwahati.
“Nothing of this sort would have been possible without the boys, who have worked so hard on the field until the very last day of the competition,” the A-Licence coach said. “Their efforts speak volumes in terms of dedication and spirit that the team has. I would sincerely love to congratulate the boys for their splendid performance in achieving something that Meghalaya had not been able to do before.”
Nongbet also paid credit to team manager Jeffrey Warlarpih, assistant coach Rohit Nongspung, and physio Franklin Sohphoh and the whole team at the Meghalaya Football Association on the team’s success.
The football clubs also received their share of thanks from Nongbet, who famously led Shillong Lajong to be champions of the national U-18 Youth League (now the Elite League) in 2018.
“Did I perform some magic for the team to play amazingly well in this tournament? Did we get to the final based on luck? No! Success involved a lot of people and I would like to thank the owners of the clubs, who are also very much involved in this achievement, which is a rare one. Because of clubs like these we were able to play well. They are directly responsible,” the ‘Youth Coach of the Year’ (2018) award winner said.
Nongbet identified several areas where Meghalaya has improved in its football development over the last few years, which is having an impact. Besides finishing as runners-up in Guwahati, Meghalaya had also recently qualified for the final round of the Santosh Trophy after securing a place through the zonal round.
“The coach education system in the state has improved very much. We now have more qualified and experienced coaches as compared to the last 10 years,” Nongbet said. “Most clubs in Shillong have a licensed coach who keeps up to date with modern trends in football and even in other districts we are beginning to see qualified coaches come up. All this is a good sign and a good development. It makes our jobs easier when we take the boys for higher level competitions outside the state.”
Better coaches translates into better training for players, but the players also need to be dedicated in terms of training regularly.
“The level of competition outside Meghalaya is amazingly tough. In the North East Mizoram and Manipur are doing really well. So compromising is not an option. We have to get the best players into the team. Hence, the regular training that the clubs are maintaining has helped us a lot to pick the squad we wanted. I sincerely thank the clubs who have kept the boys trained. Having to play four matches in four days (in the T Ao tournament) is the best example of a trained athlete who didn’t falter under pressure,” Nongbet said.
He has also seen a change in the way players approach tournaments. They’ve gone from seeing such competitions as opportunities for “fun and sightseeing” to now taking them very seriously.
“They seemed more responsible and concentrated on obtaining success and that automatically boosted team spirit, which was incredible to watch. It is a boost to a team when the players understand what they want and are in sync with the coach’s plan,” Nongbet said.
With Meghalaya football improving, the coach wants to see the momentum maintained and this requires him and his colleagues to continually learn about the game and passing on what they have learnt effectively through training. It also requires the clubs and footballers to stay committed in training as regularly as possible.
“If this can be initiated by everyone involved in promoting football in the state, we won’t be far away from seeing more Meghalayans donning the national colours and even bring home the Santosh Trophy for the first time. And with the National Games 2022 just around the corner, a spark has been lit and we seriously need to awake, rise and prepare,” he signed off.