Super fan Bhogtoram Mawroh took in the Fourth Division match yesterday and was not left disappointed by the way Mawphlang and Rynjah played…

Recently the Meghalaya Sports Policy was unveiled with fanfare with the promise of better days for those who are involved in competitive sports. The timing of the announcement was not surprising considering the upcoming National Games. Whether this will be enough to secure a good showing in the games for the state is debatable.

Something that has been neglected for decades cannot be fixed in a matter of few years. It will take many years of dedicated support. The barometer for me as to whether the government is really serious about its intentions will be whether the facilities for football will improve in the state.

This is not to say that others sports are not important (martial arts and athletics are two categories in which Meghalaya has been doing very well) but if the most visible sport does not see improvement I will have my doubts about the others.

Watching yesterday’s Fourth Division match between Rynjah and Mawphlang does not fill me with great hope. Granted, the level is lower than the Shillong Premier League but for the improvement of the game in the state the lowest levels deserve equal if not more support. Watching the players from Rynjah and Mawphlang slug it out in dreadful conditions was very saddening. Currently the JN Stadium is unoccupied. With no I-League matches in Shillong for the next few years the facilities must be used to ensure that local matches are played at the best possible conditions.

The JN Stadium can be used for hosting the U-18 SPL and the Fourth Division can be played at Third Ground. With rains going to become more intense in the coming days, things are going to get worse for the Fourth Division teams. They don’t deserve this treatment. But if things are going to remain the same, then the whole policy is nothing but another gimmick by another government.

Coming back to the game, though the conditions were disappointing, the game was not. It was a very entertaining and intense match with both teams fighting till the very end. This was a match between two teams with contrasting shape and tactics. Mawphlang played with a 4-4-2 while Rynjah played with a 4-2-3-1.

For Mawphlang the attack was led by Bankit Kharsyntiew and Remidi Lyngdoh. While Remidi was tasked with supporting the wide players, Bankit occupied the central defenders. For Rynjah Nangshan Tariang led the line. Because of the system the tactics were also different: Mawphlang used the width much more than Rynjah, with the wide players from the left playing some very good crosses in the first half. As for Rynjah they focused more on constructing moves through the middle rather than forcing them. In this they had two able players in the form of Rangehbok Lyngkhoi and Kmenstar Nongdhar.

Kmenstar circulated the ball to the front and wide players while Rangehbok kept playing through balls through the middle. If only the pitch was better some of those passes could have been very useful. In terms of playing neat triangles among themselves Rynjah looked a better team. However, this is not the say that Rynjah were the better team. Mawphlang had their own tactics, which they executed very well. In this Firstborn Lyngdoh’s and Joyfullstar Lyngdoh’s role in the middle of the field was more of destroyers rather than ball players.

Firstborn’s performance was particularly commendable. He fought for every ball and made sure that Nangshan remained a mute spectator for the entire time he was on the pitch. Though Firstborn was highly instrumental in keeping Rynjah’s main man quite, Nangshan’s touch and control were what let him down the most. Like his partner, Joyfullstar was also highly tenacious and both the players had a very strong game in the middle of the park. It was, though, the wide players especially Ryngkatdor Blah supported by Arkenoldson Wankhar who provided the main threat for Mawphlang in the first half.

Rynjah’s defence, led by Vivian Nari and Gary Tynsong, however, held the fort well and made sure that no goals were conceded in the first half. Vivian, in fact, was the hero of the first half for Rynjah. Left unchallenged in a lot of space inside Mawphlang’s half, he controlled the ball with his chest and blasted the ball in the net. Such beautiful control would have made any top striker very proud. Despite conceding an early goal Mawphlang came back very well after that and finished the stronger in the first half. In the second half, Rynjah came back into the game with more purpose. Playing more direct, they carved out some good chances and were very unlucky with the ball striking the crossbar.

Mawphlang seemed taken aback by this aggression and, though playing well, were not really creating as many opportunities as they did in the first half. The two front men, Remidi and Bankit, though, looked really lively and had more of the ball than Nangshan, who was eventually replaced.

Reynold Pyngrope replaced Nangshan but, instead of playing through the middle, went to the right with Dameki playing in the middle. With the game hanging in the balance, Keris Lyngdoh, Mawphlang’s coach, made the two decisions which changed the game for his team. His first move was to bring Kevinson Rynjah in place of Ryngkatdor. A small, diminutive player, Kevinson displayed very some good touches and immediately created a lot of problems for Rynjah’s defence from the right side. He played a beautiful delivery into an open space which to the shock of all who were present in the pitch and outside Ribok Rangblang failed to put into an open net. Ribok was to make amends later by scoring Mawphlang’s second goal.

The first goal, though, went to Kevinson. Akash Thapa looked really confident as Rynjah’s custodian, talking to his players and marshalling the defence. But when a low ball was played into the box he punched the ball straight into the midfield rather than away from danger. Kevinson snatched onto the loose ball and released a shot that went into the net. It seemed that Akash may have been unsighted by the player in front of him. Still, the mistake should not have been made in the first place.

Compared to Vickytelson Mawlong, Akash looked a more accomplished goalkeeper and the way he would come out and punch the ball shows that he has good basics. But mistakes like the one he made could spoil his whole game. Being a goalkeeper he has lower margins of error and has to tighten his game. I wish him all the best for the future.

After the first Mawphlang goal was scored Keris made another change. He took off Bankit and brought in Iaikitlang Marbaniang. This was another masterstroke from the coach. It was the foul on Iaikitlang which led to the free-kick, which in turn led to the second goal scored by Ribok. Both substitutions changed the game and for this Mawphlang’s coach was the man-of-the-match for me.

When another shot hit the bar it looked like it was not going to be Rynjah’s day. Then suddenly, out of the blue, Rangehbok displayed some neat footwork and blasted the ball into the back of Mawphlang’s net. An equaliser in the dying moments of the match was fitting for the effort that both the teams had put in into the game. Nothing would have been a more fair result. The game was highly exciting but it was also strewn with misplaced passes and some poor touches. Some of it can be attributed to the state of the pitch but the rest is more due to lack of coordination between the players. While the first is in the hands of the organisers, the second can be improved. The tactics deployed by the teams were in total contrast to each other.

I only hope that these are not the only tactics which will be on display in their future games as well. Mawphlang can do with a little more composure while Rynjah could do with a little more dynamism. All in all, it was a wonderful match and deserved to have been played under better conditions. While all eyes are focused on teams from the SPL for producing the next big talent for Meghalaya, it might well be those from the lower divisions who will make the state proud in the future.

All the best to all the teams!

(TSR photo)

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