Eugeneson Lyngdoh: ‘Foreign exposure will help Indian footballers’

Sportstar caught up with the 2015 AIFF Player of the Year, who is in Chennai for FC Pune City’s match against Chennaiyin FC, for a quick chat.

I’m 30 and I think it’s too late in the career to go abroad, says Lyngdoh.   -  S. R. Raghunathan

After having helped his parent club Bengaluru FC (BFC) >reach the AFC Cup final, Shillong-born midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh has returned to the Indian Super League (ISL) club FC Pune City for the remainder of season three. And his arrival could not have been better timed for Antonio Habas’ men — his late goal against Mumbai City FC in the ‘Maha derby’ giving them three vital points to stay in hunt for a top-four finish.

Sportstar caught up with the 2015 AIFF Player of the Year, who is in Chennai for FC Pune City’s match against Chennaiyin FC, for a quick chat.

Excerpts from the interview:

Question: How was the experience playing in the AFC Cup final?

Answer: It was great, living a dream that was thought of as unrealistic. We learnt that to play at that level, one needs to be physically very strong. The Iraq team was very physical. Also, in such high-profile matches, the chances that you don’t capitalise on could prove too crucial. If you look at it, the Iraq team had a couple of chances and it converted them. At that level, you need to finish off the chances that you manage to create. You cannot afford to err.

After joining BFC, you said you wanted to win the I-league and you did. Then, you wanted to win the AFC Cup, which you almost did. What’s your next target?

To qualify for the Asian Cup with the national team. It will be a big achievement to play in the Asian Cup.

How challenging is it to keep switching teams as a professional footballer?

It’s very difficult. But then, it’s just a matter of getting along with your teammates; that’s the most important thing as well. How you get along with your teammates reciprocates on the field. Otherwise, as a professional footballer, it will not take much time to settle into a new setup.

Were you in conversation with Antonio Habas during your stint with BFC? And, after you joined FC Pune City, did he have anything specific to say to you regarding your role in the team?

No, I wasn’t in touch with him. After I joined, we worked out tactics and he helped me ease into his system.

AIFF has now proposed a three-tier football league. How do you think it will be helpful for a player?

It will be good for a player to play with one team throughout a season. I think that’s the best advantage. It helps a player grow better.

You’ve played under two managers with contrasting styles at BFC — first, Ashley Westwood and now, Albert Roca. How are they different from each other?

They are both top coaches. They differ in their approach to the game, and training regimen. You can’t really say we only played possession football under Roca because Ashley (Westwood) wanted us to keep the ball as well. But the training sessions are quite different and a great learning experience.

You entered the National team when you were 28, and the coach Stephen Constantine has been a constant source of guidance for you. Tell us about your time with him and the team.

I’m quite grateful to him. I had a late entry into the team at 28. It’s good of him to have faith in me, and field me regularly. To approach the game through his eyes, as to how he wants me and the team to play, has helped me perform well.

Constantine, with the players he’s been calling up for National duty, has managed to bring down the team’s average age. How do you think this will help the team?

If one gets to play at a young age, he becomes well-experienced by the time his career peaks. He grows confident, quickly gets to know what to expect at the higher level, and how to prepare better for it. That, I think, is what he’s trying to achieve.

It’s been observed that the Indian footballers play a lot without adequate break through a season. Is the amount of football played a concern?

The amount of football, as in the number of games we play here, is similar to the European leagues, but it’s well spaced out there. Here, the schedule is cramped. Too many matches are played within a short span of time which gives the players little time for recovery.

Do you think Indian players should explore options of playing abroad?

Definitely. It’ll certainly be of immense help for any young Indian player to play in the leagues abroad. Not necessarily in Europe, but at least in Asia. If you look at teams like South Korea, Australia, and Iran, they’ve got a lot of players who play outside their country and gain exposure.

You previously said you don’t have any intentions to play abroad. Yet you keep improving every year. Having second thoughts?

No. I’m 30 and I think it’s too late in the career to go abroad. Perhaps if I was young I would have considered it.

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