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Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Mizoram’s sporting hero ready for Aizawl FC’s I-League defence

Shylo Malsawmtluanga, one of the most celebrated sporting heroes in Mizoram, is all set to lead Aizawl FC’s title defence in the I-League as they prepare to take on Churchill Brothers in their first home game of the season.

football Updated: Dec 12, 2017 17:38 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aizawl FC,I-League,Indian football
Shylo Malsawmtluanga is leading Aizawl FC’s title defence in the I-League as they prepare to take on Churchill Brothers in their first home game of the season. (Facebook)

As a kid growing up in Aizawl, Shylo Malsawmtluanga was faced with two clear choices. Mama, as he would later come to be known as, loved playing both hockey and football in his school days.

“Hockey didn’t have a very professional set-up at that time. There wasn’t enough scope to go and represent you state, for instance. In comparison, football had a much bigger professional presence. That is why I eventually chose football,” he told Hindustan Times in an exclusive chat.

Mama wouldn’t regret his choice. After polishing his skills at the Tata Football Academy (TFA), the midfielder went on to sign for East Bengal in 2002. The move to Kolkata was significant not just for Mama, but for Mizoram football as well as he became the first among the string of players to sign for top-flight clubs. In his home state, he would go on to be one of the most celebrated sporting heroes.

“It proved that we can go outside and succeed. It opened up the door for players from Mizoram to go outside and play,” he reminisced.

Fast forward to 2017, the Mizo football stalwart finds himself back in his hometown, this time leading Aizawl FC’s title defence in the I-League. “Aizawl is my hometown, so it was an easy decision (to join Aizawl FC),” he explained.

The Indian champions have seen most of their key players leave after last season’s unprecedented title win, but as a 2-2 comeback draw away against East Bengal in their opening game showed, Aizawl have a squad capable of holding their own.

“Most of the key players from last season have left, but if these players can work together with each other and with the coach, then we can get a positive result this season as well. It’s not a problem at all,” Mama said.

On Wednesday, Aizawl FC will play their first home game of the I-League season as they host former champions Churchill Brothers.

This will also be the club’s first game since losing the Mizoram Premier League (MPL) final to Chhinga Veng last week. While Mama didn’t play the final, it is a league Mama described to Hindustan Times as ‘the most challenging and most difficult to win’ among the many state leagues in India.

With the focus now firmly on the I-League, the 33-year-old midfielder is keen on proving he still has fuel left in his tank.

“All these years I have enjoyed playing at East Bengal. They were my first professional club too. Now I want to enjoy my football in Aizawl and give good performances on the field for the club,” he said.

First Published: Dec 12, 2017 17:38 IST