Thangboi Singto: Will continue to recruit AIFF Academy cadets

"The AIFF Academy graduates' exposure to the best coaches and facilities with foreign exposure has made them better in terms of play, decision making, respect to the game and opponents, and are mentally very strong."

Shillong Lajong coach Thangboi Singto oversees a training session.   -  AIFF

Shillong Lajong FC will take on Mohun Bagan in the semifinals of the Federation Cup after beating East Bengal in the previous round. Head Coach Thangboi Singto, an AFC Pro-Licenced coach, spoke at length about his U-22 players, the philosophy of the club, the AIFF Academy cadets which the club has in its ranks, the forthcoming Fed Cup semifinal against Mohun Bagan and much more.


How do you manage to churn out the best from such a young squad?

It’s an exciting challenge to get the best out of the young, talented players. I have faith in the club management, the coaching staff and senior players who have the ability to deliver performances in the league. That in turn facilitates the development of the young players.

You have used the U22 rule in the Hero I-League to your advantage. How did you manage to do that?

We had some 20 U-22 players in the squad and this season we fielded 6 to 7 of them in every I-League game. They are playing because they deserve to play. And they have done well.

We have been noticing that stress on youth in Lajong over the past few seasons. Can you take us through the philosophy of the club?

Since its inception, Lajong’s philosophy has been to give opportunity to local talent and youth from Shillong and the North East. We have continued this trend and hopefully it will pay us more dividends. We keep it simple – all the players know that if they work hard, they will have more chances to play more in the starting XI than in any other club playing in the league.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of club Chairman Mr. P D Sawyan and Managing Director Mr. Larsing Ming Sawyan who have been propagating and continuing with this philosophy.

Lajong has been a regular recruiter of AIFF Academy cadets and have regularly fielded them. What speciality do you find in the AIFF Academy graduates?

The AIFF Academy graduates have been exposed to the best coaches and facilities with foreign exposure during their stay in the Academy. All these make them better in terms of play, decision making, respect to the game and opponents, and are mentally very strong. And when they gel with Lajong's philosophy, the progression for them becomes much quicker and productive. Once they mature, they stay eligible to represent the senior National Team. We expect to continue the relationship.

You have accounted for East Bengal in Round 1 of the Fed Cup. Another Kolkata challenge awaits you in the semis. How different would it be?

East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are two of the oldest and biggest clubs in India. Every coach and player wants to do well while facing them. As an opponent we have the same respect for them and take motivation from the fact that we have done reasonably well against them.

Whom do you see as Mohun Bagan’s biggest threat?

Mohun Bagan's biggest threat is its attacking line-up. Glen, Jeje, Norde and Yusa can tear apart any defence. Apart from that, it also has Indian internationals in its ranks – Pritam, Pranoy, Lenny amongst others. They are a team good in all departments. But we have done well against them and will work hard.

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