Lajong Juniors Triumph – The Superstars of Tomorrow.
Alan Hansen once said that “You can’t win anything with kids,” about the mighty Manchester United, in 1995. The sports journalists and the people in the know may not say this explicitly about the young guns at Shillong Lajong, but that was the overwhelming feeling that one got when the Shillong Premier League kicked off.
As it stands, like it did in 1995, if the players on the pitch have the heart, the desire and most importantly, the overwhelming hunger to succeed, age is reduced to just a number.
The 29th of November was the final test for the Lajong Junior Reds, in this season where they have been dominant, despite suffering an occasional blip in form at times.
The Lajong boys went into the match determined and resolute. The Junior Reds seized the game by the scruff of the neck right from the kick off.
Their excellent team work was rewarded as early as in the 16th minute when in-form midfielder, Rupert Nongrum found the back of the net to hand Lajong the lead. The team did not sit back and continued to pile pressure in the opponent’s half. Three minutes later, Rupert doubled the lead from the penalty spot. Despite several attempts, Langsning could not break the defence and the Lajong Junior Boys went into the break with a two goal lead.
Lajong Junior Coach Alison Kharsyntiew’s man management has been excellent this season and his tactics continued to be excellent in this match as well. The Junior Reds started the second half as they did the first. Despite a two goal cushion, they continued to dominate the game looking for a third goal. Like in the first half, Langsning created few chances but were not successful in front of goal.
In the 67th minute, Jacob, who scored the winner in the semi final, scored a blinder from 30 yards out, giving Lajong Juniors a three goal lead.
Impressively, the young boys did not let the occasion get the better of them & the defence stayed resolute.
As the referee blew the final whistle, the whole team was overwhelmed with excitement. Shillong Lajong Juniors finally did it as they lifted the Shillong Premier League trophy in front of the spectators who came to witness the Future Stars of North East.
This season has been a testament to the solid groundwork that has been laid and the strength of the Academy that Lajong has. It is noteworthy that the average age of the squad is only 19 years.
The Shillong Lajong Football Club Academy was set up in 2007 with the sole aim to develop the game at the grassroots level keeping in mind the abundant football talent in the North East. The academy’s aim lies in moulding and shaping the boys into future stars and ultimately paving the way into the senior team. The Academy has been instrumental in transforming and grooming the young players and has eventually helped them graduate to the Club’s senior team, and most importantly, helped them grow into the next batch of football stars, leaving no stone unturned in the quest for precision and excellence.
The Club had started the Goal 14 project in 2009 with the objective to develop local players from the North East who would become a new generation of Lajong Products for I league. This project has managed to create many football prodigies from the 8 states of the North East as the academy boast of 10 players of the Under 19 Indian National Team. The success of the Goal 14 project is evident as many of these players are involved in top flight football in the country.
The academy’s junior teams have won many accolades, and have made their presence felt in the various competitions and events which were held within the state and the country such as:
- Inter Milan Youth Tournament (Indian team)
- Manchester Cup-Winners (All India) Under-15
- Bayern Munich Youth Cup (Indian team)
- Tottenham Leapstart Tournament Winners (Under-14 team)
- Shillong Premier League Under-19 Champions – 2011
- MFPA tournament Winners 2011 (Under-16 team)
- All India Invitation Football Championship – Golaghat (Winners 2013)
With a line of academy products actively contributing to the competitive teams of Shillong Lajong FC, including the senior I-League outfit, the success of the initiative that started half a decade ago has begun bearing fruits in terms of the future line of players.
Undoubtedly, the Academy has been responsible for grooming and developing their skills and talents which have been instrumental in shaping the boys to match the challenging and ever-demanding atmosphere of football in the country.
One of the most promising players that SLFC has is the football sensation from Mizoram, Zodingliana. He was also part of the India Camp Under 14, 16 and 19 team respectively and is now regularly featuring for North East United in the Indian Super League. Along with Zodingliana, other junior players from the Lajong ranks like Redeem Tlang, Alen Deory and Pritam Kumar is part of the squad in NorthEast United FC.
Coming back to the Shillong Premier League, the Lajong Reds drew many a connoisseur in with their good combination play, high work rate & team work.
The defence was very strong for the Reds along with some superb display by the Goalkeeper who conceded just 10 goals from 17 games throughout the tournament. The midfield line was very influential as they gave a lot of support in defence and attack while the forwards worked very hard to put pressure on opponents and create goals for the team.
Midfielders Rupert Nongrum & Lalrammuana have been a revelation in the tournament as they scored a combined tally of 16 goals.
Like they say, the sky is the limit for this talented bunch of youngsters, as they continue to write history and the glory days for these creme De la creme has just begun.