India’s north-east has long been touted as the nursery of its football. With two clubs from Shillong representing the region in the I-League and Mizoram winning their maiden Santosh Trophy in Siliguri earlier his month, defender Gouramangi Singh feels this is the best phase of the sport in the region. Gouramangi speaks about the transition of football in the region and his club Rangdajied FC. Excerpts:
Is this the best soccer phase for the north-east?
As of now, you can say that. There are two clubs from Shillong in the I-League and there are also Royal Wahingdoh, who are in the second division league final round. So there is plenty of representation from Shillong as far as the I-League is concerned.
Not to forget Mizoram, who recently won the Santosh Trophy and a lot of their players are being looked at by I-League clubs. However, I hope this can only get better and spread over to other states as well. We need professional clubs from Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam to come into the I-League at some point.
Shed some light on the transition there.
The north-east has always been a hot bed for talent, but never for clubs. In the past two decades, if you see most clubs would have had at least two to three players from the north-east in their teams in the National Football League and the I-League.
However, with the emergence of clubs from Shillong, presently there are more options for a player. Nowadays, a footballer from the area need not necessarily venture out to play outside his region. Personally, I hope for a full transition and wait for the day when all Manipuri players can play in a Manipur I-League club and so on.
How do you assess the current talent from the region?
We have good players but need to do much more work at the grassroot level. With the 2017 Under-17 Fifa World Cup approaching there should be plenty of academies, football schools of excellence etc. in the region. Schools should also tie up with academies to make better educated players, who excel in the game and also have a back-up career from education.
Your take on the likes Lalnunpuia, David Ngaihte, Munmum Lugun, etc?
All of them are very talented but need to keep upgrading ourselves. We need to train hard and put in 100 per cent both on and off the field. Talent alone cannot win you anything. Systematic training, development and education are of paramount importance too.
What has been at the heart of Rangdajied United’s incredible run of form of late?
We have won three macthes on the trot. Since I joined the club in November 2013, I have always maintained that the squad have quality players and after getting to know each other, we have started working well as a team.
A few more additions in January including that of Ranti Martins have made a difference. If you look carefully, each member is playing his role. Even when Subrata Paul was here, though only for a short stint, he made a difference with a couple of match-winning performances.