‘One team, one passion, one colour.’ That’s how a billboard on the outer fringes of Shillong showcased their pride – Lajong FC.
Welcome to the Scotland of the East and the latest addition to the I-League. Come Sunday, the city hosts its first I-League match when Lajong FC face an upbeat Air India, making it the first time that teams from every corner of the country will participate in top-flight football, giving it a truly pan-India colour.
Shillong, too, is decked up to greet their visitors. A festive atmosphere surrounded the Jawaharlal Nehru sports complex as cars brandishing Lajong FC banners honked their way down the steep roads.
Located at 120 kilometres from Guwahati, this former capital of undivided Assam could however be a difficult bastion to conquer. Set amidst the Khasi foothills at an approximate height of 4,900 feet and badgered by bad weather, this sleepy city offers the most extreme conditions to teams, most of whom hail from the plains.
Add to that the local support. And they are aplenty. “Tickets are selling fast and we expect a full capacity crowd on Sunday,” informed the man behind the ticket counter. “I don’t think any seat will be empty,” he added.
“It’s comparable to the popularity of cricket all over the rest of India and it’s time our own do well at the national stage.”
‘Our own’ – that’s what Lajong means in Khasi. And the 26-year-old club is ready to take on a ‘mighty’ Air India, determined to give the home crowd a memorable match.