Chennaiyin FC’s Jerry Lalrinzuala, the latest from Mizoram’s football factory
Lalrinzuala has played 776 minutes and started in eight games winning four Emerging Player of the Match awards; the maximum so far in ISL3.football Updated: Nov 19, 2016 14:15 IST
In the league of not-so-extraordinary foreigners that the ISL3 has been, Jerry Lalrinzuala stands out. Because he is not a foreigner but from Mizoram, India’s newest football cradle. And because at 18, the left back has played in all 10 games for Chennaiyin FC. “He can have a great career ahead,” Chennaiyin FC coach Marco Materazzi has said. I-League clubs are said to be courting Lalrinzuala.
The start was anything but auspicious. Soon after coming on in their opener, away to Atletico de Kolkata, Lalrinzuala pushed Sameehg Doutie and Iain Hume converted the penalty to make it 2-2. “I felt responsible for throwing away two points,” said Lalrinzuala, in an interaction over e-mail.
Materazzi though gave him another substitute appearance in the next game and Lalrinzuala got a break when Dhanachandra Singh was injured out of the ISL. “At 18, we all made mistakes… I saw his quality during pre-season,” said Materazzi who has preferred him over the more experienced N Mohanraj.
Lalrinzuala has played 776 minutes and started in eight games winning four Emerging Player of the Match awards; the maximum so far in ISL3.
Football’s like a religion in Mizoram, he said. After Shylo Malsawmtluanga broke the glass ceiling, the fervour’s just got more intense. Lalawnpuia Pachau meteored through the top flight but Malsawmtluanga has stayed the course. India striker and Chennaiyin FC teammate Jeje Lalpehklua and ATK’s Lalrindika Ralte are two top names in the ISL from Mizoram which won the Santosh Trophy in 2014.
Twice rejected in state trials, Lalrinzuala didn’t give up, just as he ignored parents to focus on academics by hiding football shoes and taking them to school. “When I got selected for Mizoram U-14 team after trials, I knew I wanted to become a footballer,” he said.
From there to India U-14 trials and progress through age-group ranks with the national team has been an eventful journey with a memorable stop in Nepal in 2013 when India won the under-16 SAFF Championship. Lalrinzuala scored the matchwinner in the final with a screamer of a right-footer from nearly 30 yards, unusual for a naturally left-footed player.
This year, Lalrinzuala, for whom Real Madrid and Brazil left-back Marcelo is the player to be, was among five under-19 players from the All India Football Federation’s Elite Academy in Goa to train at Ligue 1 team FC Metz. Chennaiyin FC picked up the tab and signed the quintet.
In four years, Lalrinzuala has gone from being a rejected triallist in Mizoram to training at Metz and lining up against Helder Postiga. It could get even better should he, like Sandesh Jhingan and Dhanachandra, make it to the national team riding on performance in the ISL.