Lajong ‘family’ embark on I-League campaign

Team leaves for Goa today; Minchol named captain, Wailad vice-capt

SHILLONG: All set to begin their campaign in the I-League, Shillong Lajong FC hosted a send-off for their players in the city on Tuesday, where the resounding message was that a team that acted like a family will be hard to beat.

Lajong play Dempo in their first match on Sunday in Goa and leave Shillong on Wednesday.

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Rangdajied United FC, the other I-League team from Shillong, will play United SC (formerly Prayag United) in Kolkata on the same day.

The senior team players were present at the occasion, where Korean recruit Minchol Son was named captain of the club and Wailadmi Passah his deputy.

The club also took the opportunity to honour the Lajong junior team, who qualified for next year’s Shillong Premier League and who also won the All India Invitational Football Tournament in Golaghat, Assam, on Sunday.

“Whatever we could do in training on the field, tomorrow morning our journey starts,” coach Thangboi Singto said.

“We have a long season ahead of us but I believe, looking at my team, that we have the strength, the depth and the quality to do very well this season.

“One of the most important things for me as a coach is to stay together. Like a family. We’re a Lajong family whether on or off the field.

“When we win we are happy together and when we lose we stick together. That is the way to move forward I believe.”

After the Dempo match, Singto said that SLFC will have a near continuous run of home matches before the end of November.

“That’s where we’ll be able to take maximum points and be in a confident situation and then plan our way forward,” he said.

Singto announced the captain and vice-captain, and said that choosing the skipper is a big responsibility.

“People say that the captain is the right hand of a coach, but I say that he is the right hand and left hand and the most important member of the team. But again, football is a team game. It’s not only about coach or captain – the team is most important.”

The theme of a football team being a band of brothers was stressed not only by Singto but by others who spoke on the occasion.

Larsing Ming Sawyan, the general secretary of Lajong, started by prasing the junior team on their recent success.

“The Golaghat victory will go down in the history of Lajong as one of the most important victories because it is a victory of our vision of developing Indian football through grassroot development.”

Speaking about the senior team, he said, “I can sense positive energy, good body language and I can sense brotherhood.

“All the teams are preparing very hard for this season. They have upgraded their infrastructure, they’ve got more players, they’ve all strengthened their teams.

“But I am 100 percent confident in this team. In Shillong Lajong we have some of the more talented youngsters in North Eastern football,” Sawyan, who is also an All India Football Federation vice-president, said.

“The future of North Eastern football can be found in Shillong Lajong today.”

Sawyan also praised the foreign recruits in the team, saying that they are “as good as any.”

“Minchol has proved himself over the last 12 months, while Taisuke (Matsugae) arrived in January and very few foreigners in Indian football put in the kind of work he’s done.”

The general secretary also said that he will be happy if the team gives a 100 percent.

“I don’t care where we finish as long as we give 100 percent and if you do that I do believe that there is no team in India that we are second to.”

Minchol said that the squad is a confident lot this season.

“The confidence among the boys is much higher this time as compared to last season and we look forward to a good show,” he said, adding that starting the I-League against Dempo will be ideal for the Reds.

The new captain’s views were echoed by coach Singto, who said that a win against Dempo would set the momentum for the rest of the tournament whereas a different result would give the Shillong side a chance to fill any chinks in their armour.

SLFC squad: (goalkeepers) Lalthuammawia Ralte, Vinay Singh, Kunzang Bhutia, (defenders) Minchol Son (Capt), Wailadmi Passah (VC), Kh Jibon Singh, Robin Gurung, C Lallawmzuala, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, Lalrammuana, Rakesh Pradhan, (midfielders) Taisuke Matsugae, Boithang Haokip, Lalramluaha Hmar, Samuel Shadap, Ongnam Milan Singh, (forwards) Seikhohao Tuboi, Singham Subash Singh, Cornell Glen, Uilliams Souza Silva.

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