By making the main round of the Federation Cup with a 3-1 win over ONGC on Tuesday, Royal Wahingdoh have surprised even themselves. This is a club whose yearly expenditure is roughly equal to the contract amount of a star defender of any top I-League team. But it has not stopped the Shillong team from giving priority to connecting with the community, in the real and the virtual world.
Though pressed for funds, Wahingdoh always donate match fees and tournament earnings to a school for underprivileged children in Shillong.
Named 'Providence', the school also finds place on the back of Royal Wahingdoh's team shirt. And like most teams, they are on social networking sites and have their own webpage.Sunday start
It started as an experiment with Sunday afternoon football after church and a hearty lunch.
"Since we couldn't make time to play on weekdays due to work, we had to wait till Sunday to play among friends, with full gear," Royal Wahingdoh president Freddy Nongkynrih told HT.
"We made our own team and started playing in the league," said Nicholas Nangkhlaw, the team's media-coordinator. "We beat all the teams then. That success prompted us to build a professional team in 2008."
Originally Wahingdoh, the club merged with Royal Football Club to be renamed Royal Wahingdoh in 2008. With support from a liquor brand and their managing director Dominic Sutgna Tariang, Wahingdoh have survived.
"This is a great moment for us back home and further inspiration for others," said Nongkynrih about the Fed Cup qualification where Wahingdoh are clubbed with Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers and Lajong in the main phase at Pune.
Shillong Lajong FC have shown how it is done by reaching the Federation Cup final in 2009. Wahingdoh, older than Lajong FC and undefeated champions of the Shillong Premier League, are hoping to follow their example.
Having former India skipper Carlton Chapman as coach helps calm nerves. On board for almost nine months, Chapman has no regrets joining an unknown team. "The opportunity to teach young boys was alluring," said Chapman, who first joined as mentor but is now coach. "And they have worked very hard for these wins."
One of the 'wins' came against United Sikkim, co-owned by Bhaichung Bhutia, who was handheld by Chapman during his early days in East Bengal. Special win? "Why should it be?," retorted Chapman. "It's not as if Bhaichung played. Neither is he the coach," he said.