Shillong, Nov 7: Besides being one of the top clubs in men’s football in Meghalaya, Rangdajied United FC had a presence in the youth game, in as far as the U-18 level. However, the last year has seen something of a boom in the club’s profile as it has expanded its activities and looks to grow even further.

This growth has been undertaken during the tenure of club President Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who needs no introduction as a former India international. He had previously played for Rangdajied and his late father, SK Sunn, had been a co-founder of the club when it was born in 1987 as Ar Hima.

After appearing and then disappearing from the I-League in 2013-14, Rangdajied will return to senior-level national club football with the inaugural Third Division League (or I-League 3), which begins this month. They qualified for this tournament based on winning the Meghalaya State League in June; although always one of the strongest of teams, Rangdajied often fell short of winning championships outright but overcame their curse in spectacular fashion this year.

Although it is still to be seen whether this success was just a flash in the pan, there’s no doubt that Rangdajied seem a very different set-up nowadays. While the passion for football was always there, what Eugene has now brought is real-life experience of being a professional footballer. He has also built around him a team that can help him carry out the vision the club has for itself.

That begins at the grassroots with RUFC Schools, which is reaching 200 children at its Mawlai centre and another 150 in Mawphlang. It has also partnered with Pine Mount School for an all-girls initiative.

“In the near future we will open in a few more districts,” Eugene said yesterday. “Our vision is for the kids to eventually represent our club and, with the pathway and platform we’re providing, play in the rest of the country and even abroad.”

One of the team members Rangdajied has roped in over the last few years is another ex-India international, Aiborlang Khongjee. Together he and Eugene represent two of the very few Meghalayans who have ever represented India in football, a total that pales in comparison with other North East states like Mizoram and Manipur.

Perhaps with that in mind, Rangdajied will, in the coming months, open its first sports performance centre here in Shillong.

“It’s important to compete with mainland India,” Eugene said of the project. “This vision has been coming together in the last few months. This centre will be for football and other sports with a football-centric centre in Mawngap.”

Meghalaya has shone in youth football over the years but hasn’t been able to carry that on at the senior men’s level, let alone at the women’s. And it isn’t just football – Meghalaya has, as of yesterday, still not won a medal at the ongoing 37th National Games. That just goes to show how much more investment the state requires in sports infrastructure, coaching and allied areas and this planned performance centre could be one part of the puzzle.

(Photo: RUFC Schools)

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