Shillong, Nov 5: It isn’t easy to make it in football and star Meghalaya midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh is simply thankful that it has gone the right way for him.

Coming back to full fitness after almost two years out with injury, Lyngdoh will be playing for East Bengal in the Indian Super League this season, which will begin on 20th November.

In a video chat on the All India Football Federation’s Instagram handle, Lyngdoh said he is proud to be playing for East Bengal in its new avatar.

“After lockdown it’s just great to be able to play football again and I’m really proud to wear the East Bengal jersey,” Lyngdoh said from Goa, which will host all of the ISL matches this year.

It was while playing for ATK in 2017-18 that he suffered a serious knee injury and has barely been seen in the ISL since then.

“Injury is the last thing any player thinks of,” the 2015 AIFF Player of the Year said.  “Obviously, when you have a very bad injury you have to keeping going, psychologically and mentally. But injury is part and parcel of the game. You can’t play football and expect not to get injured. Yes, I lost a couple of years due to it but I am fit and ready to go now.”

Speaking about his earlier days in the sport, Lyngdoh said it was “destiny” for him to be at Shillong Lajong when Pradyum Reddy was at the club because it was down to the latter that he eventually made it to Bengaluru FC, which was led to the most successful period of his career.

“Football is a road less taken and can be hit or miss. Luckily it went the right way for me,” he said.

The way football is practised in India has really developed since he began playing the game.

“Coaching has changed so much over the years. I grew into football because of my father (MLA and Shillong Sports Association President Syntar Klas Sunn), who I watched playing the sport. Back then we didn’t have grassroots programmes but I got to kick the ball around with Ar-Hima (the old Rangdajied United) players. I really only got proper football coaching when I was 18 or 19,” Lyngdoh said, adding that he really began learning new things about the game after joining Bengaluru in 2014. “Tactics and diet have changed a lot now. A lot of junior now come into top clubs having had good coaching, so their knowledge of the sport is much greater.”

The 34-year-old was also asked about instances from his time playing for India.

He described himself as “a bit nervous” on his international debut but gave credit to his time at Bengaluru for “setting me up for those kinds of big occasions. I could be my best because of what I went through at the club.”

The midfielder’s best international memory is playing in the 1-0 win against Kyrgyzstan in Bangalore in 2017 during the Asian Cup qualifiers. India then qualified for the Asian Cup and he said, “It was a great achievement by the whole team and something we can benchmark ourselves for the next edition (of the Asian Cup) and maybe even do better.”

During the interview India captain and Lyngdoh’s old team mate at Bengaluru Sunil Chhetri messaged the interviewer and said that Lyngdoh is his best friend in the Indian team and a thorough gentleman. The Meghalayan paid reciprocal tribute and then smiled cheekily while saying that Chhetri had done well after “listening to my advice”.

This edition of the ISL is going to be very different from the previous six seasons because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which means that all matches will be played behind closed doors.

Speaking about this, Lyngdoh said, “Football without fans is nothing. We will be missing them but we know the fans are always with us and we know that when we go out we are representing you guys.” He added that he was tremendously grateful for all the fan support he received while out with injury, saying, “It’s amazing to see fans believe in you.”

(TSR file photo)

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