Lyngdoh, back to where he belongs
Amid familiar faces and in surroundings that should remind him of how good he once was, Eugeneson Lyngdoh will try to resurrect a football career. Lyngdoh, 32, is back with Indian Super League (ISL) champions Bengaluru FC (BFC) for one season and all he wants to do is, “get on the pitch every weekend”. Since December 1, 2017, Lyngdoh has played only 206 minutes, according to the website Transfermarkt.
“Only if I play regularly now will I be able to keep playing for a few more years,” he says over the phone from Bengaluru, looking back at the time lost, first to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and then to a coach in whose plans the attacking midfielder didn’t fit.
Lyngdoh says it feels like starting all over again and BFC, where he spent three seasons from 2014, is the best place to do that. “I played under (head coach) Carles (Cuadrat) when he was (Albert) Roca’s assistant and I like the way they play. I think coming back to BFC would propel me back to where I was. Now it depends on how hard I work and what I make of this opportunity.”
It was at BFC that Lyngdoh scored from a corner-kick in a Champions League qualifier, played an AFC Cup final, won two Federation Cup titles and the 2015-16 I-League, made his India debut (2015) and, along with Sunil Chhetri became the first Indian to break the R1 crore barrier in the ISL when FC Pune City signed him in 2015 for R1.05 crore at over three times his base price. It was with BFC that Lyngdoh became the 2014-15 I-League’s best midfielder and the 2015 Indian Player of the Year.
So would 2014-15 be a benchmark? “It will depend on the kind of football we play; whether I am allowed to move up and score. That season, (coach) Ashley (Westwood) allowed me to go forward,” says Lyngdoh who had nine goals and 16 assists that season.
Comfortable shooting with both feet, Lyngdoh left BFC in 2017 because ATK made him their first pick at the draft, signing him for R1.10 crore.
Three matches into ATK’s season, when they played away to Jamshedpur FC, Lyngdoh took a knock on his left knee.
“I thought it was just that, a knock. But when I tried to run, I felt my knee lock. I had never felt that kind of pain before. Then I realised it was different from a knock and asked the coach (Teddy Sheringham) to be substituted. Even then I didn’t think it was that serious. Then the MRI showed I had an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury,” says Lyngdoh. His season was over.
He recovered in time for 2018-19 by when Sheringham had been replaced by Steve Coppell. “Eugene needs minutes under his belt to build the confidence of going into a tackle and coming out of one. He will get stronger as the season goes on,” said Coppell before ATK’s campaign began.
Lyngdoh made five appearances in ISL 2018-19 and two in the Super Cup, says Transfermarkt. “Four or five games into the season, I realised I was not in his (Coppell’s) plans. Maybe he felt I was too much of a player who wants to go forward while Steve preferred midfielders who could help more defensively,” he says.
It took him out of the equation for the 2019 Asian Cup. “The biggest disappointment would be not being involved in the Asian Cup. Having been part of the qualifying journey, it was difficult to deal with not being part of it when the team made it to the finals.
“I remember watching India’s games with my family and even though they didn’t say it, I could feel what they were trying to tell me: ‘you are missing this’. That was hard. Years from now when I will tell myself that I could have gone to the Asian Cup, I would still be sad but that’s life,” says Lyngdoh.
When India host Oman in a World Cup qualifier in Guwahati on September 5, Lyngdoh will be training with BFC. “The only way I can be visible to Igor (Stimac, India’s head coach) is by playing for the club. If I can do that, things will fall into place,” says Lyngdoh.