“Apuia, Oh my word…What a shot! That has left a hole in space because tell you what, a star has exploded and his name Lalengmawia and we know him better as Apuia,” said an exhilarated Pulasta Dhar after Apuia scored his first-ever ISL goal, and no wonder it was a screamer. Truly, Apuia has become the star of Indian football in just one season.
The 20-year-old lad from Mizoram burst onto the scene in the 7th edition of the Indian Super League. Apuia, the youngest captain in the history of the Indian Super League, was arguably the best Indian defensive midfielder in the league. He clocked 1848 minutes in 22 games for the Highlanders and played a pivotal role in their quest of finishing in the top 4.
After his stunning performances in the ISL, he got his first national team call-up for the friendly games against Asian heavyweights UAE and Oman. Apuia came on as sub against Oman and completely changed the game’s complexion as India made a comeback after trailing 1-0 at half-time. Apuia was rewarded with a start against UAE, but things didn’t go as planned as Bart Van Marwijk and his men ran riot against the Indian team. We caught up with the Northeast United star ahead of crucial World Cup qualifiers.
Apuia made 93 successful tackles as well as 46 interceptions. Even at this young age, Apuia showed maturity and always looked confident while breaking opponent attacks. “Well, it’s mostly to do with self-belief. You gain experience with every match you play and that helps in decision making,” says Apuia when asked about his success mantra behind those tackles.
Northeast United qualified for the playoffs for 2nd time in 3 years. Unlike some other teams, The highlanders didn’t make any high profile signings, but their grit and determination were second to none. Apuia went on to say, “There is no magic formula as such. It’s a team game at the end of the day and the more we play together, it gets easier to gel and that can probably be seen towards the latter part of the season. We were determined to do well. There was a lot to prove to all. The camaraderie in the squad was exceptional.“
Apuia was part of the team which made historic appearances in the U17 World Cup. It has been a fantastic journey for Northeast United midfielder. He says, “I’m happy the way it has gone so far. It’s always a proud moment to represent the national team and it’s good to see that your hard work gets recognized. I’m glad I’ve made it this far so early in my career. But it is just the start. I still have a very long way to go.“
Apuia made his debut against Oman and also featured in the UAE game. “It’s a wonderful experience, and I love playing against tough teams. There is so much valuable experience to gain. I find the pressing a lot quicker at the international level that I have played against so far. But I relish these experiences. It helps me to understand the game better and improves me as a player,” says Apuia when asked about his experience as a national team player.
Apuia was consistent throughout the Indian Super League and maintained his form when he donned the Blue of India. Apuia emphasizes the hard work he has done to reach the level of consistency at this young age as he says, “You’ve got to put in a lot of hard work for sure and be disciplined in this profession in order to do well. I always pay close attention to the advice given to me by my coaches, senior players etc.”
“We want to do well in Doha. Being the World Cup qualifiers, we have to make sure we get settled in quickly and start on the right note. Owing to the covid pandemic situation, we lost some valuable days of training. We need to make up for it,” He concluded.
Apuia will be a crucial player for India in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers as the Blue Tigers gear up to face Asian heavyweights Qatar and arch-rivals Bangladesh. The Mizo lad is likely to start in the midfield in all games and will be an asset for Igor Stimac.
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