'Meeting Phillipe Coutinho and James Milner is something I will never forget': Lallianzuala Chhangte
Written by: Punit Tripathi
Chhangte is regarded as one of the best talents in the Indian footballing genre at the moment and his moment seems to have arrived.
On 25th December 2015, an 18-year-old youngster made history. Lallianzuala Chhangte, like several others, made his debut for the Indian Senior Football team under the tutelage of Englishman Stephen Constantine. The nimble-football winger scored a brace two days later against Nepal at the Trivandrum National Stadium, announcing himself on the national scene.
After having a stop-start go at the senior level, the youngster had a breezing season at the DSK Shivajians, a club which took him to the Liverpool International Academy. In a freewheeling chat with Khel Now, Chhangte opened up and talked about DSK Shivajians, his journey to Liverpool, competition in the Delhi Dynamos’ team and more.
We started off with his journey at the Pune-based club. Having been a part of the setup ever since 2014, Chhangte understandably feels indebted and credits them a lot for his success. “They had organized a trial in Mizoram and that’s where I got selected. They’ve given me everything – coaching, accommodation, facilities and recognition.”
Talking about people back home and their love for the game, Chhangte adds, “Northeast people love football. It’s way more than just a game, it’s a way of life.” Revisiting his days before the trial that changed his life, Chhangte said, “I was already playing for Mizoram and had played in the Subroto Cup. I had my Class X exams the same year of the trials, and I was jubilated after the selection.”
Lallianzuala has a flair for taking on men and is a positive dribbler
There’s has been a lot of transfer movement in the last two months in Indian football, and the Indian Super League draft stands testimony to the same pattern. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s arrival from Stabaek, too, adds to the craze. Chhangte, just 20, was picked up in the third round of the draft, which clearly suggests that Delhi Dynamos wanted him, and he was not a fall-back option. What did he have to say to that?
“I’m very excited and pleased at the opportunity. I’m grateful to the trust they (the Delhi Dynamos management) have put in me and am ready to give my best for them. There’s a healthy competition with Seityesen Irom and Romeo Fernandes, and we’ll see who gets selected. I’m set to work hard in training and push for the spot.”
Talking about his mentor at DSK, Chhangte said that Dave Rogers has been more of a friend and a father figure. “He’s a good man. We had been together for three years and I’ve learnt a lot from him and his staff at the DSK. He’s very important to me for placing his faith in me.” Talking about the Draft method for selecting players, the left-footed player only said, “The importance should be placed on developing Indian players, draft or no draft.”
Talking about Miguel Angel Portugal, Chhangte said in high regard. “I think he’s a good coach. We’ve not had a discussion yet, but I thank him for placing his belief in me.” Talking about I-league and ISL, he quipped, “Both leagues are good in terms of the footballing quality, but the ISL is getting more money into the system and better facilities like hygiene and other important stuff. If I get more playing time, I’d prefer the ISL.”
Khel Now believes 2017-18 will be the breakthrough season for several youngsters, including Chhangte, as Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Sunil Chhetri in the final phase of their careers. We told him the same thing, to which he responded, “I think I’ll have an opportunity soon. I’ll keep working hard and I’d try to take it as much as possible.”
We asked him about a realistic target about climbing his way back to the National team, and he said that it depends on the coach and the kind of hard work he puts in as a player. He also said that he knows that he’ll be picked up at the right time, and in the next 2-3 years, he might just be back wearing the National team jersey. He also stressed that it all depends on the performances and the setup the National team manager wants to put in place.
Talking about the man himself, Chhangte opined, “He’s a good coach and likes people who work hard and would give everything for the team and for the nation. If you work your ass off, you’d play. I think he’s good, both tactically and mentally.”
Lallianzuala Chhangte making his debut against Sri Lanka
Taking a dip into hindsight, Chhangte spoke with delight about his trip to the Liverpool Academy. He said that the teams there trained a lot harder and he’d love to be there again in the future. “Training and playing with and against them were one of the best memories. Also, meeting Phillipe Coutinho and James Milner is something I will never forget.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp recently called up Indian-origin youngster Yan Dhanda to the senior team, and Chhangte remembers training with the playmaker during his Academy days at the Merseyside. The most special moment: “Playing for the country, scoring against Nepal were the best moments till date for me.”
For being a good winger, we asked him and he replied, you need to have good speed and crossing abilities. He also added that finishing was also one aspect which needed to be worked on, as football has moved on from traditional to inverted wingers.
Best player to have played with and against? Obvious choice: Sunil Chhetri. The opposition? He votes for Anas Edathodika. Chhangte chose music as an alternate career option and also said that he used to play the guitar.
The match that saw Chhangte explode on the scene: India 4-1 Nepal @ SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015
We asked him about a positive change he’s seen to happen in Indian football recently, and Chhangte said that the work ethic of the players has gone up in recent times. He believed that Indian players are training harder than they ever did and we’ll see the results of the fitness regimes and training sessions in the years to come.
On the Indian turf, Chhange idolizes Lalrindika Ralte, and globally he’d like to play with Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. We asked him for a weakness in his game, to which he replied smartly, “I’ll not say it, or else the opposition would know.”
To the Delhi Dynamos’ fans, Chhangte sent across a firm message. “I’ll give my best playing at the Den (Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi). The fans must understand that the team is hungry and is raring to go into the new season of the Indian Super League.” He signed off.
Published: Tue Oct 24, 2017 07:35 PM IST