Themidfielder talks about his journey over the footballing staircase, his inspiration and how his family helped him achieve his ambitions. . . 

Shillong Lajong have always been I-league regulars ever since they qualified for the top tier of Indian football. The club have given us numerous footballing superheroes and talented prodigies who have played for the national team.

Isaac Vanlalsawma is another new kid on the same block with a similar story. The deep-lying midfielder has been selected by Stephen Constantine for the national team probables and is the only player from the club to manage to do so. With more established names like Chinglesana Singh and Nim Dorjee Tamang being ignored, Isaac will have the added responsibility of carrying the club’s expectations on his shoulders.

Vanlalsawma spoke exclusively to Khel Now’s Vinayak Pandey. Excerpts:

Q- Tell us about your childhood? Also, discuss the role of your parents in your footballing career?

I love to play football since childhood and my parents supported me well. When I was 13 years old, I joined an academy in Mizoram called SOS Football Academy. From there, I started my career. I trained well there under coaches Mumoaya, Bhula and Zara. Before joining SOS, I had represented Mizoram in the U-13 football festival in Jharkhand under coaches Jonathan and Nicky. After that, I joined SOS Academy. From there, I represented Mizoram U-14 team in the Subroto Cup twice and I was the captain in the 2010 edition. Unfortunately, we lost in the Final to Chandigarh.

Isaac has been a key member of the Shillong Lajong side this season (Down-right)

Then, in the following year in 2011, I represented Mizoram’s U-17 team in Subroto Cup. In 2012, I represented U-19 Subroto national team in Siliguri. After that, I was called in India U-16 team, and I played with the U-16 team and U-19 national team. After that, I joined Shillong Lajong. In my short career, I would like to thank my parents and my family.

They’ve supported me at every step, and I am very grateful for that.  My aim is to become the best footballer in India since childhood. I was not good at studying since school days, and I am not a very educated person. My parents knew how much I loved playing this game and they always supported me in following my passion.

Q- How has the journey been over the years? Give us a brief.  

My aim was always to play for top clubs in India. Right now I want to give my 100% for Lajong and improve myself as much as possible.

Q-Who has been the most inspiring person in your life in footballing terms?

Ronaldo..!! I am a huge Ronaldo fan because he works really hard and has achieved so much in life. He started from the bottom, but his hard work and dedication took him everywhere. He is really hard-working. In life, we all have ups and downs. We don’t get everything we want and we have to work hard to achieve our goals. We have to stand tall and work towards our targets.

Isaac is one of the few good dead-ball specialists in Indian football

Q-India has very few dead-ball specialists. How does it feel to be part of a special bracket?

Trust me; the feeling of responsibility to take all the free kicks and corners is very good. I don’t think I’m a specialist. I need to improve more and practise more to be closer to perfect.

Q- What is the most important aspect to be a perfect dead-ball taker?

Whenever we get a free kick or a corner, we have scored a lot of goals. So I think you need to give a good delivery in the set pieces. The connection between the ball and the feet is key to a good dead ball.

Q- Who inspired you as a free-kick taker?

David Beckham. He was a dead ball specialist for his country and club. The way he used to deliver inch-perfect crosses and free kicks inspired me totally. So I believe in bending it like Beckham.

Q- How is the feeling of being called up to the Indian National squad?

It feels great and amazing. When I got the first call last year, I didn’t expect it. I thought I was too young to be called to the national team fold. I haven’t played in the U-23 team but still, I was called and again this year in the senior camp. It is very exciting and I will try hard to prove myself in the Indian national team.

Isaac at the National Team camp in Mumbai

Q- Do you think the growth of North-Eastern football can play a key role in the all-round growth of Indian football?

Yes off course. If you see, in I-league, Aizawl FC is doing really well and we can see a lot of young northeast players growing and playing in the top tier of Indian football such as ISL and I-league. If they keep on improving and putting hard work, I think they will dominate Indian football.

Q-What do you think is one positive and negative in your gameplay?

Positive- When I get the ball I can distribute the ball well and give a good final pass. I can create goal scoring chances for my teammates.

Negative- I need to improve my body strength and work on physique.

Also read: Another Gem from the North East: Lallianzuala Chhangte

Q-What do you make of Thangboi Singto as a coach?

Thangboi is a good coach and he always motivates the players. The best thing is that he can talk with the players in their own language. He gives chances to young players and shows trust in them.

Q- How has the season been for Shillong Lajong FC this season?

We started the season on a bad note but we started to improve and now, we will try hard for the title race. International players came late and some players playing in ISL came late but we all have gelled up together and are strong as a unit.

Q-Your favourite players? (India and International)

India- Shylo Mama. He is the one who made Mizo players famous and brought Mizoram on the football map of India. He made everything easier for Mizoram football and I respect him a lot. He is an idol for all of us and plays beautiful football.

International- Ronaldo

Favourite club- Manchester United

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