In an exclusive interview with Khel Now, the 19-year-old spoke about his journey so far, time at Aizawl FC, Bengaluru FC and more.

The signing young Isak Vanlalruatfela was recently announced by Odisha FC ahead of the seventh edition of Indian Super League. Before moving to Bhubaneswar on a four-year-deal, he was part of I-League side Aizawl FC for two seasons. There, he scored three goals and delivered three assists in nearly 1200 minutes of playing time. Moreover, Isak Vanlalruatfela has previously also represented Bengaluru FC U-18s during the 2017-18 season.

Unlike many other Northeastern players, Isak doesn’t belong to an athletic family despite the fact that his father casually played football during his younger days. “My father is in government services and my mother is a housewife. There was no sports background, but there was the love for the game. When I was about two, my father brought me a football and I started kicking around in the house. I grew up and so did my love for the game,” he told Khel Now in an exclusive interview.

Talking about his first competitive participation in the game, he said, “When I was at Bengaluru FC academy, I had been to Mizoram on a vacation. I visited Bungkwan to meet my grandmother. There only, Bungkwan LC offered me to represent them in NECS Cup. I took the opportunity because I knew it will make way for me to play at bigger clubs like Aizawl FC.”

During the 2017-18 AIFF U-18 Youth League, Isak Vanlalruatfela was a part of Bengaluru FC U-18 squad that came out on top in Chennai-Karnataka zone. Talking about those days, he said, “Bengaluru is one of the best places in India to learn football. I learnt skill moves, improved my speed and agility as well as the gaming mindset. It was a big stage. Those days will hold a lot of importance in my career.”

As we all know, the Northeast holds a special place in Indian football, having provided the nation with many legendary players. Upon being asked about the same, Isak gave credit to strong domestic league structures in every state. “What has brought us (NE) to Indian media headlines for years, has to be football. The domestic state leagues share a huge role in this. They have given us the identity and made our lives better by providing a stage to prove ourselves. That is an obvious explanation to the fact that this region produces many talented footballers every year.”

“When I was picked up by Aizawl FC ahead of I-League 2018-19 season, I was very nervous at first. It was a big achievement for me at that time. But, I had to control the flow of my anxiety. Then I made up my mind that this is just a beginning; I have to try harder everyday and I did so. Towards the next season, I had started enjoying my game. I was getting more time to practice and play. Moreover, I was learning everyday,” he added.

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Moving on, he was asked about his most memorable performance in the I-League and he revealed it was the home game against Shillong Lajong in the 2018-19 campaign. “I scored and assisted in the same match for the first time. It was special because it was a derby and I was practising so much before that. I felt lucky because that performance led a long way for me.” Isak also spoke about how Aizawl FC has proved itself as a powerhouse in nurturing Indian football culture.

“Aizawl has an impressive youth development policy. If it hadn’t been there, many stars from Mizoram would not be playing in ISL or I-League currently.”

In the recently-concluded season, Isak had started all seven initial games for the Reds, but eventually missed the rest of the campaign without any concrete explanation from coach Stanley Rosario. Speaking about the issue, Isak said, “I was very disappointed with the management. I am young and I need more opportunities, but I was benched indefinitely. It was my last season under contract and I was looking for better playing time. From that day, I had convinced myself to work hard wherever I play the next season.”

“I was literally crying when I heard that Odisha FC are interested in me. I told my family and everyone was in tears. It has been a dream to play in the ISL from the day I started watching it. Also Odisha, FC have a great interest in developing youth. So, I was very happy to sign with them,” expressed the youngster.

“ISL has to be the toughest competition in India. At the club, I would be surrounded by experienced and talented players. So, I am preparing myself, both mentally and physically. I am working out a bit more than before.”

The midfield of the Juggernauts has been replenished by skillful options like Martin Perez Guedes, Vinit Rai, Jerry Mawihmingthanga and several new signings in this transfer window. Keeping all these in context, Isak Vanlalruatfela understands the fact that he has to improve himself everyday in order to claim his position in the XI. “Such a competitive environment will definitely produce extraordinary talents who will lead Indian football in the future,” he said.

During the chat, the player also revealed that his footballing idol is Neymar Jr. and if given a chance, he would like to assist the Brazilian at Paris Saint-Germain. His favourite Indian player is none other than captain Sunil Chhetri, with the youngster having trained with him a lot at BFC. Lastly, Isak Vanlaltruatfela also feels excited to play under Stuart Baxter at Odisha FC and is eagerly waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to subside so that he can join the training camp.

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