Shillong Lajong FC have become known in recent years as a youth-oriented club and have continued this trend in the 2016-17 season of the Hero I-League, fielding as many as eight U-22 players in the starting XI in all matches thus far.
However, despite being young on paper, these players are starting to show maturity beyond their years and one of them – Nim Dorjee Tamang – has proudly worn the captain’s armband in the last four games, all of which have seen Lajong victorious.
Nim, though, is no newbie to India’s top tier of football, having made his I-League debut for the Reds in 2014-15 and the defender pulled off a sensational goal in Shillong that season with a bicycle kick against cross town rivals Royal Wahingdoh FC.
Nim Dorjee Tamang said, “Wearing the captain’s armband is a big responsibility in the team. But looking at the last four games we played in Shillong the team has done exceptionally well and I hope I have lived up to my captain duties.”
“We have left the results from our first three away matches behind us now and what truly matters is that the team has improved so much since then and have worked so hard improving on the areas we lacked or were struggling.”
“Our forwards are converting the chances now and the back four are also defending well. We also have good support from the fans which makes things perfect for us at the moment and we wish to continue this winning momentum.”
Nim is also one of four Lajong squad members who have played every single minute of the seven matches the club have faced so far this season, the others being goalkeeper Vishal Kaith and fellow defenders Chinglensana Singh and Pritam Kumar Singh.
While Vishal’s heroics under the bar against Churchill Brothers saw the Reds secure a 1-0 victory on Sunday, Sana was also able to get his name on the scoresheet against Mumbai FC on January 28th for his second I-League goal.
Another young Red to score this season was Rupert Nongrum, whose 17th minute strike against Minerva Punjab FC on January 21st is the earliest goal for Lajong this season. This was also Rupert’s first I-League goal.
The standout feature this year has been not only that Shillong Lajong have continued again with a young team, but that the U-22 players have delivered on the confidence placed in them by the club management. The North East team are currently in fourth position in the I-League standings, but they know that the campaign is far from over.
The Lajong gaffer Thangboi Singto wishes the team to continue their good run of form. He said, “I want the team to continue playing the remaining matches just the way they have been playing but with more positive intent. We need to continue giving our best and play with more confidence and energy in order to get the positive result.”
The consistent presence of Singto, who took charge of the senior team midway through the 2012-13 season, in the team has greatly benefited the youngsters, many of whom came right through the Lajong ranks. The coach has also guided and mentored the Reds on their journey into top flight football and he is the longest serving coach at any I-League club.
The Reds are now gearing up for another I-League match when they take on DSK Shivajians at home on Saturday at 4:30PM. Thangboi Singto believes that the match will be a tough one as DSK is a well organised team and also one of the strongest teams in the I-League.
Tickets for the match went on sale today and the team are banking on the support of the Lajong Faithfuls as they seek to win a record fifth consecutive match in the I-League. Lajong Faithfuls can avail their tickets from Lajong Counter SSA Ground Polo, Sports Spirit MUDA Complex Police Bazaar, Meba Stationery Jingkieng Nongthymmai, Meghalaya Print Malki, Mobile Centre Police Bazaar.