I-League: Nidhin Lal plans revival with Shillong Lajong

After his ISL dream with Chennaiyin FC was cruelly cut short due to injury, Nidhin Lal is harbouring ambitions of playing for his State's top football clubs.

Nidhin Lal Mumbai FC

Nidhin Lal during his time as a Mumbai FC player.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

Goalkeeper Nidhin Lal was warming up the bench in the initial stages of the I-League when his team Shillong Lajong FC's fragile defence was letting in bucketful of goals.

The 27-year-old was coming back from a long injury forced break and Lajong's coach Bobby Nongbet was reluctant to expose him straight away to the rigours of top notch competition.

But with his young defenders making mistakes and number one goalkeeper Novin Gurung looking vulnerable, Nongbet was forced to throw Nidhin in to the deep end. The goalkeeper reposed the coach's faith by keeping two clean sheets and leading the team's revival late in the season.

In the crucial North-East derby against Aizawl at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Shillong on Monday, Nidhin thwarted Aizawl's attack to keep his side in the match. Nidhin's good work under the bar was responsible for Shillong's win.

"Ours is a young team. Players are learning. We made mistakes and let in soft goals in the earlier matches. But our defence has improved and personally I am happy with my performance. I have got my confidence  back and I am looking forward to end the season on a high note," he said.

Injury lay-off

Before joining Lajong, Nidhin was brought in by Chennayin FC during the second season of ISL.

But the Keralite injured his elbow during Chennayin's pre-season training in Italy and was away from the game from more than a year.

Though he couldn't play a game in Chennaiyin's triumph in 2015, Nidhin says the experience of spending time with a professional setup helped him to improve as a player.

As a professional footballer Nidhin made his mark with Mumbai FC in the I-League, for whom he played for six seasons from 2011. 

As he was growing up in Kasargod, Nidhin had heard stories about the exploits of K. T. Chacko, the former Kerala Police and national team goalkeeper, from his elder brother Midhun Raj, who was also a footballer.

Chacko created a lasting impression on the mind of the young Nidhin, who had decided to be a goalkeeper himself.

Dream homecoming

His life as footballer began when he joined SAI Kozhikode. After passing out from SAI, Nidhin was playing Sevens football for clubs in Kozhikode, when he learnt that Akbar Travels was starting a football club in Mumbai. Nidhin enrolled himself for trials and was selected. He played for Akbar Travels for three months where his performance earned him a selection to the Pune FC squad. He also played for Indian Bank and represented Tamil Nadu in the Santosh Trophy.

Nidhin nurtures ambition of playing for an ISL club and makes no bones of the fact that his aim is to wear the yellow jersey of Kerala Blasters. He is also not averse to coming back to Kerala to represent an I-League club. "I spent 10 years of my professional life outside Kerala. I would love to come back and play in Kerala for an ISL or an I-League team. And maybe even represent Kerala in the Santosh Trophy one day," said the player, who idolises Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

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