The 23-year-old center-back spoke about his stint at Hyderabad FC, working under Manolo Marquez and his Indian national team call-up. 

After 19 appearances across three seasons at FC Goa, it was a no-brainer for Chinglensana Singh to agree to an offer that promised regular starts. As a player who made regular appearances ever since his I-League debut in 2015, Hyderabad FC came knocking at the right time. His decision to join the Nizams before the 2020/21 season came after an “interesting” offer, Singh tells Khel Now.

“I was really happy that I signed for the club. I got the game-time, I got the opportunity and I was ready to step up to it and I did well,” Singh reviews his recent ISL season at Hyderabad. “It’s a healthy competition which I have at Hyderabad FC and I really enjoy the environment. I went on to play the season all out. That’s what we plan to do – to push ourselves and do better.”

Hyderabad’s season, infact, was much more than finishing just out of the top four. After a shaky start to the campaign, a decent comeback saw them maintain a 12 game unbeaten record in 2021.

Hyderabad went into the decisive week requiring two wins to finish inside the top four. The first match out of the two, against ATK Mohun Bagan, saw Singh get sent off in just the fourth minute. The match ultimately finished at 2-2 with a late ATKMB goal and thus, shattered Hyderabad’s chances of finishing in the top four. Singh takes this very instance to talk to us about the learning experiences at Hyderabad FC, that have accelerated his development.

With David Williams through on goal, the 24-year-old conceded a last-man foul, resulting in a red card. It is a mistake that Singh accepts and says made him reflect and better his last-minute decision-making skills. “They (ATK Mohun Bagan) had a lot of 1-0 results throughout the season and I wanted to avoid that,” Chinglensana Singh begins his explanation. “Laxmikant Kattimani would have had a chance to save that because he’s a very good goalkeeper. Even if he scored, we still would have 11 men on the pitch to get the game back.”

Experiences like these, according to him, have turned fruitful because of personalities like Manuel Marquez and Thangboi Singto. Marquez, replacing Albert Roca, has had a noticeable impact on the club’s journey. Singh credits him and his staff for his exceptional season, including the Indian national team call-up.

“He has eyes on everyone’s quality and what the player can contribute to the team. He tells us about our weaknesses very clearly,” Singh says about the Spanish tactician. Marquez’s ability to “make one know better about themselves” helps everyone in the team, as per the defender. Hence, the Spaniard’s decision to continue at Hyderabad for two more years comes as positive news for the centre-back.

In addition to Marquez, he was reunited with Thangboi Singto – a figure that he admires and credits all his development at Shillong Lajong. Singh considers him to be the best coach that he’s ever worked with and finds him the right person to groom the talent at Hyderabad’s depository. The club is currently home to some of the most promising youngsters in the country, including but not limited to Mohammad Yasir, Akash Mishra and Asish Rai.

“Mohammad Yasir has a very good left foot and if he keeps working, he can go on to become a very special No. 10 for the country. Akash Mishra on the left side, Asish Rai on the right, they have the energy and never get tired. They all possess good vision too,” he comments on the young starlets. From having Singto beside him and the uprising of new talent, he finds the environment homely – just like that at Lajong.

When asked about learning experiences, he places playing alongside Sandesh Jhinghan in one of the top spots. After an impressive domestic season, the 24-year-old recently played in India’s World Cup Qualifying games. That’s where he came close and got to work alongside Jhinghan. “Sandesh (Jhingan) bhai is a very passionate man. Whenever he speaks something, we want to listen. He’s someone that I learn a lot character-wise and also in terms of giving your all for the country,” Chinglensana Singh praises the ATK Mohun Bagan defender.

National team experience has also made him realize the potential that the outfit carries. While he also dreams of playing in Europe someday, the Hyderabad FC defender thinks a bunch of players can actually make the leap from India. Like many, he credits this development to the ISL and the quality that it has brought to the football circuit.

However, he considers this to be a “one step at a time” process. In his personal diary, the plan is to do well one season at a time to reach that level. “The main aim is to help the team go all the way to the final and win it. Having said all this, we have our own targets and goals, but we don’t want to put pressure on ourselves. We just want to enjoy football because by enjoying football and expressing ourselves, we know we can get results,” Singh says.

Before signing off, Chinglensana Singh mentions that despite having a good individual season, playing behind closed doors wasn’t favourable at all. “Fans are beautiful parts of our lives and we play for you,” he says before signing off.

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