Spreading the beautiful game across different states is one of the key objectives in Vision 2047, and the Federation has begun that process by taking the Hero Santosh Trophy to newer heights. The Hero Santosh Trophy is now on a revival path, with the tournament's semi-finals and final set to be hosted abroad for the first time – in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The-aiff.com is in Riyadh, and will be following the progress of the four semi-finalists and other events around the Hero Santosh Trophy closely in a series of stories.
AIFF Media Team
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: There are some names in Indian Football that generate a feverish cult like fervour, fans, critics and watchers alike gripped by goosebumps when they are uttered. Often it isn’t because of the player’s long list of accolades but just the ‘feels’ when he was seen.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh is one such. In his prime, a creative force unstoppable, Lyngdoh was the fulcrum of the Indian team and even his club side. A cult figure to many and idolised by more.
“When I was growing up, I idolised players like Rocus Lamare,” Eugeneson Lyngdoh says. “And I tell these guys that they have a chance to become an inspiration themselves.”
While Lyngdoh might talk in the future tense, the truth is that ‘these boys’, the history makers of Meghalaya, are already an inspiration, having done something even the likes of Lamare and Lyngdoh haven’t — reaching the finals of the Hero Santosh Trophy.
“Shillong has had a rich history of football,” Lyngdoh says, when asked how this result would impact football at home. “We had the first clubs from the North East in the Hero I-League and even some that gave so many good players from other states also a chance to shine.
“Mahesh Naorem is making waves in East Bengal right now, but it was at Shillong Lajong that he grew up,” Lyngdoh says.
Lyngdoh himself started his career at the city’s third Hero I-League club (the second were the firebrand rebels of Royal Wahingdoh, led by a young winger Jackichand Singh) Rangdajied United. From there a truly cult career took flight.
Now retired and a mentor to the Meghalaya team, Lyngdoh is keen to highlight the need to talk more about the players, young and old who have for years plied their trade in the Shillong league.
“A lot of these boys have so much to prove, so much to learn and it is a really proud moment for us for every young footballer in the state that this result has arrived,” he says.
“I played under Khlain as a player at a time when there were not so many coaches with such knowledge and education as him. It is a great result for him too and I hope people notice this.”
Many from their own state already are. Rajasthan United striker Shaiborlang Kharpan has keenly followed the team’s progress. Kharpan is from a generation that idolised Lyngdoh and the likes of Aibor Khongjee, and now sees his own colleagues getting a limelight long deserved. “So brave yesterday,” he said. “I was laughing and crying at the same time in the game because of their heart. It is history that will be remembered forever.”
And yet there is the promise of more. “One more step. Then you’ll never forget,” Lyngdoh says.