The 25-year-old spoke about his time at NorthEast United and also revealed the reason behind his move to FC Goa.
Redeem Tlang is presently one of the brightest young wingers in Indian football. The youngster first came into the limelight after his promising displays for NorthEast United in the 2018-19 season. He quickly managed to establish himself as a key player for the Highlanders and has given a good account of himself during the last two years.
A product of the Shillong Lajong Academy, Tlang credits the setup for kick-starting his footballing journey and talked about its role in developing youngsters. “Shillong Lajong played a big role in developing my football skills,” he began. “It has produced a number of players and it is the first Northeast club to take part in the I-League. It’s one of the best academies. It gives young players a platform.”
“As young players, we also look up to those players and want to represent the club on a big stage. It motivated me to work harder. Many of the Northeast players from the academy, made it to the first-team and now we are spreading everywhere (laughs),” Tlang said in an exclusive chat with Khel Now.
Following some fine displays for Shillong Lajong, the youngster joined NorthEast United on loan back in 2014 for the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League. However, he was just 19 when he first moved to the Highlanders and hence, struggled to get minutes on the field. However, it made the young attacker even more determined to make an impact ahead on his second and more successful stint with the club.
“First season, it was not a good experience for me in terms of playing time. I was very young. But, thinking from a different perspective, I got experience by playing with big names like Joan Capdevila. I got to learn many things from them. I remember I played only five minutes in a home match against Chennaiyin and that made me feel very bad that season. When they came calling back in 2018, before signing, I challenged myself that from this season, I should prove that I can play here. That is the reason I went back there and proved myself.”
Under the tutelage of Eelco Schattorie, Redeem Tlang enjoyed a breakthrough season as he became a key part of the side that made it to the playoffs for the first time in the history of the franchise. Making 19 appearances, he was a constant menace in attack and even scored the opener against Bengaluru FC in the first leg of the semi-finals.
Talking about his time under the Dutchman, he revealed, “Our relationship till today is very good. That season, it was good for me and the team as well. The team hadn’t been in the playoffs since the ISL started and that season was a memorable one. He (Eelco) played an important role in that season.”
After two impressive years at NorthEast, Tlang completed a switch to FC Goa ahead of the upcoming ISL campaign. According to the winger, one of the key reasons behind his move was his aim to get out of his comfort zone and test himself in a different environment.
“When I was very young, before I joined the Shillong Lajong Academy, I had travelled for an age-group national team camp in Goa. There was an I-League match where Churchill (Brothers) were playing, the way they play. It makes you feel you want to play the beautiful game in that stadium with all the fans. So, that played a major role, it made me think that I should be playing here one day.”
“So, when FC Goa came, like I said, I always wanted the experience of playing outside because I only played in the Northeast. I wanted to experience that, FC Goa came at the right time and I chose them,” he further added.
Meanwhile, the Gaurs finished atop the standings in the league stage last season, making history in the process by confirming their spot in the group stages of the AFC Champions League. They will be the first Indian club to compete in the prestigious competition and Redeem Tlang can’t wait to go toe-to-toe with Asia’s elite. “AFC Champions League is a big stage for the club and everyone, for me as well. I am looking forward to it.”
Despite a successful last term, a number of important first-team players like Mandar Rao Dessai, Mourtada Fall, Hugo Boumous and Ahmed Jahouh are set to leave the club. However, Goa’s newest acquisition believes that it is ultimately part and parcel of the game.
“In football, it is something that is normal, players come and go. So, new players are also coming that have a good profile. I hope we can take FC Goa to the ISL trophy, play well in the AFC Champions League and go further in that competition.”
Furthermore, the player revealed that he has been in touch with new coach Juan Ferrando through meetings online. He admitted that the situation isn’t ideal, but he is following the training schedules given to him by the coaches. Tlang also said that the coach wants to win and that is the mentality of the team too, as they prepare themselves for the start of pre-season training.
Lastly, when quizzed about his sporting heroes growing up, he said that he didn’t have a specific player that he idolized, but instead picked up a few things from a number of different players.
“It’s a mix, I don’t have only one. Growing up, I played in different positions. When I first watched TV, it was Brazilian Ronaldo, he was my idol back then. Later, when I played in central midfield, I liked Kaka and I looked up to him.”
“Then, back in 2004 or 2005, the only thing that was showed on TV was the Premier League and Manchester United was a good team. Since then, it has been Cristiano Ronaldo. I look up to (Arjen) Robben also and there are many other great wingers,” Redeem Tlang concluded.