Shillong, Nov 6: Rangdajied United FC will make their return to senior-level national club football for the first time in nearly a decade when they play their first match of the All India Football Federation’s inaugural Third Division League (or I-League 3) season later this month.

Rangdajied were in the I-League proper back in 2013-14 (the second club from the state to reach what was then the top tier of Indian football after Shillong Lajong FC) but, though they finished above the relegation zone, stricter club licensing requirements meant that they were ineligible to take part the following season and never attempted to requalify in subsequent years.

Now, though, the AIFF has introduced a Third Division League comprising champions of state leagues and nominated clubs. Rangdajied qualified after having won this year’s Meghalaya State League.

At a press conference held here today, former India international and RUFC President Eugeneson Lyngdoh said that the club had, last year, set a goal of returning to the national scene in five years but things were hurried along with the MSL win.

“It is thanks to the sheer determination of the players, staff and other officials that we got here,” Eugene said. “Last year it became our goal to get back to the national scene in five years but things changed drastically in the past one year. We were runners-up in the Shillong Premier League, third in the Reliance Foundation Development League (regional stage) and champions of the MSL, which was the pinnacle of our success. Success in the MSL gave us the opportunity to play in the inaugural Third Division and if we qualify we will go to the Second Division 2023-24.”

The Third Division’s first round will see the participating teams divided up into groups, with Rangdajied playing their games in Goa with hosts Dempo SC, Jeppiaar Institute of Technology FC from Tamil Nadu, Kickstart FC from Karnataka and Millat FC from Maharashtra. RUFC’s first match will be against the latter on 13th November.

The playoffs featuring the top five teams will be held in the second half of December, the AIFF website says.

All of Rangdajied’s registered players are from Khasi-Jaintia Hills and the team will be coached by Subir Dey, with Aiborlang Khongjee the technical director and Aibanjop Shadap the assistant coach.

Rangdajied United squad:
Goalkeepers – Ialamlang Biam, Banshanskhem Kharsyntiew, December Khongjoh
Defenders – Apborlang Kurbah, Arkwis Wanniang, Arlangky Nongsiej, Balamlynti Khongjee, Bankitbor Ryntathiang, Mebanaibok Kharbudnah, Ksankupar Khongmalai, Roland Shylla
Midfielders – Enester Malngiang, Dibormi Kassar, Bansanbha Khongsdam, Samuel Suting, Oresterwell Langshiang, Wansiewdor Nengnong, Jeff Malngiang, Benny Khriam, Knerktilang Buam, Dameki Khongstia, Bantiplang Khongjoh
Forwards – Basuklang Bina, Roney Lamin Amdep, Damehun Syih, Wanlamsuk Nongkhlaw, Batiphar Swer, Stephanson Pale, Ieitlang Syiemlieh, Owanijuh Pajuh, Tremiki Lamurong, Aibanraplang Dohling, Blanang Khongsdam

Rangdajied United fixtures:
vs Millat FC, 13th November, 4PM
vs Kickstart FC, 15th November, 9AM
vs Jeppiaar Institute of Technology FC, 19th November, 9AM
vs Dempo SC, 21st November, 4PM

(TSR photo)

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