Shillong, Feb 7: Samuel Lyngdoh Kynshi joined Real Kashmir from Shillong Lajong for the 2020-21 I-League season. He has since played in 35 matches for the Snow Leopards in that competition and has also won the IFA Shield in 2020 and 2021 with the club.

Last month, Samuel scored his first goal for Kashmir in the I-League, a last-gasp strike against Sudeva that netted his club a point.

“It was special because it was my first ever goal for Real Kashmir in the I-League and it turned out to be a last minute equaliser, which helped us get a draw in that game,” he said in answer to questions posed by TSR. “It’s always a special feeling to score your first goal for the club.”

He had previously scored six goals in the I-League over two seasons for Shillong Lajong FC. In doing so, he became the first footballer from Meghalaya to score five I-League goals for SLFC.

This year marks the return to a proper home-and-away format after two editions of the I-League played solely in West Bengal due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which means that Samuel has been able to get game time in front of the adoring Srinagar crowds.

“It’s been a learning experience for me being part of this club. The last two seasons were in a bio-bubble, so this is the first time I have played in Kashmir and it’s a great feeling. With such passionate fans cheering you on, I feel at home,” the midfielder said.

Making this year all the more special is the arrival of not one but another two former Lajong players in the form of Phrangki Buam and Rupert Nongrum. “Phrangki and I played together and we were team mates for many years. Rupert was our senior and we used to watch him play. It’s always good to be united with former team mates and players you grew up watching. There’s a family bond with them and we all push each other to do well for the team and ourselves.”

Away from the I-League, Samuel was a member of the Mawlai SC team that won the Shillong Premier League 2021-22. Though he had to return to RKFC before the end of the local season, he played an invaluable part in Mawlai winning the title.

In youth competitions, Samuel was also part of the Lajong squad that won the 2017-18 national level U-18 Youth League, the 2019 SPL and Meghalaya State League and he has also played for the Meghalaya state team. He’s come a long way since he was kicking the ball around as a 14-year-old for Nangkiew Irat (we have a photo of him doing just that in our files somewhere) and before that for Little Stars Football Academy in Mairang.

“It’s a step by step process as you evolve into a mature footballer,” he said of his journey. “I’m step by step growing and the experience I have gotten playing for Real Kashmir has helped me mature but there is still a long way to go and I have to get better and better.”

The immediate challenge is to try and help the Snow Leopards’ turn their fortunes around. The club began I-League 2022-23 brilliantly with five victories in six games (the other outing being a draw) but they have now gone eight matches without a win.

“Every season has its ups and downs but we have to keep pushing everyday and improve each day so that we do better and help contribute for the team,” he said. “I believe we are a good team and have full faith that we will bounce back and rise together again.”

(Real Kashmir FC photo)

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