The lockdown has been going on for long enough now, but sports lovers can never stay silent. We interviewed many players in the past few months, but today we had someone special to talk with. Someone whom many of you might be familiar with and many of you won’t, but you will be familiar to him very soon if not yet. He is from the North East of India and is none other than the Captain of RYNTIH FC, Banpynkhrawnam Nongkhlaw.
It was an absolute pleasure to talk to the man who not only played for Royal Wahingdoh in past but also played in the I-League for Churchill Brothers. Let’s know more about the lad who is still just 23 years old and let’s see what he had to say about his journey so far and his plans in future.
• How’s your lockdown going and how are you spending your lockdown days?
Ans: Lockdown has been very bad for me individually and I guess for every one else who are playing football. But, then I think we are just trying to get ourselves fit by working out individually.
• How did you take up playing football and what attracted you to the game the most?
Ans: When I was a kid I used to play alot with my friends and neighbors but then like I started having a thought of playing professionally when I saw my uncle playing for Meghalaya Police and I remember the day when he was injured and he was at home and that time he told me all about football and we were sitting and talking about it so it’s because of him. Like, he inspired me to play football.
• How do you think the Royal Wahingdoh has shaped you to be the player you are today?
Ans: I started my professional career at Royal Wahingdoh. First and foremost the opportunity that I got from one of my coach, Sir Richard. It’s because of his trust in me, because when I got selected for the U19 Team, I was very young and it’s because of the trust he had in me. He gave me a chance to play and once I proved that I could play and then he kept making me play. His trust helped me to push. Whatever I am today, it’s mainly because of the opportunity I got from him.
• What about Nangkiew Irat SC?
Ans: I joined the club in 2014. Once I got released from Royal Wahingdoh because my performance was very low in 2013. I couldn’t perform well, so I got released. Then I joined Nangkiew Irat and then again from there I started working hard again. I learnt from my mistakes, whatever I had done in 2013 and then slowly slowly I came back up again.
• How was your experience in the club and how did you motivate yourself?
Ans: During those times, I was very hungry to play. I always wanted to be in the eleven and I knew that most of the players are senior to me and I was the youngest. But then I think its my mindset, I always have a target and a goal that I should play in the first eleven and every game I play, I should perform. I keep on thinking about what went wrong in Wahingdoh, because of which I got released. So that pushed me and gave me more motivation to work hard.
• You were in the club for quite a few seasons, won the U19 League in 2014 and then the First Division of Shillong PL in 2017. How was the experience with the club?
Ans: It was really good for me because I always wanted to win wherever I go, that’s my motive. I know we win or we learn(when we loose), but then my motive is always to win. Also, being in that club and getting trophies, its quite amazing to stand at the podium and to collect the trophies while getting applauded by the fans, specially the coaches and the people. It was quite nice.
• In between you moved on to play for Churchill Brothers on a loan deal to play in the I League and you even played 8 games in the League. How was that experience.
Ans: It was quite amazing, because I didn’t expect that I woud reach that far. I thought I would just end up in Shillong, because for us we don’t have proper contacts or proper fields like other place to get a spot to play in the I League. But then I would like to thank one of my friend Chesterpaul. It was because of him. He has helped me alot in my career. Like, we were good friends since we were together at Nangkiew Irat. Then we went for trials, Chester got selected in Pune FC. We were together and I didn’t get selected and so had to come back home. Then he helped me alot, by guiding me and then I went to Churchil, gave a trial and I got selected. It’s because of his beleif, he trusted in me and he knew that I can perform. The moment I got my chances, I felt really good and I perfromed. So, that’s the thing which changed my career.
• If you remember, which You surely do. You were the captain of the team in the match against Mohun Bagan. How was that feeling and what went through your mind?
Ans: For me it was quite big. Playing for Churchill Brothers, a club which has won soo many trophies and has a very good name for themselves and being the captain of it really makes me feel so proud of myself, being the captain of such a great team like Churchill Brothers. It was quite good, playing in an atmosphere like that against Mohun Bagan, those fans and that Stadium. Even though we lost, I am glad that I captained the team that day. But then, the only thing was the scoreline.
• Well finally lets talk about Ryntih FC. It is being so much talked about them at the moment and lot’s of expectations. First say me how it all began and what made you join Ryntih FC?
Ans: When I joined Ryntih, the management and the Coach already had plans to be in I League one day. But, they didn’t say when. When they came to me, they told me if I am interested, we want you in our team. They said to me about the plans but we didn’t know when we would join I League or may be 2nd Division ILeague, but for this season, we would play the Shillong Premier League and slowly slowly when we get sponsors and opportunity then we will try for 2nd Division I League. That made me think because I came back to Shillong, like I left Churchill and came back to Shillong to play for Santosh Trophy and I knew if I wanted to play in the Santosh Trophy, I won’t be able to play in the I League. So, I just risked my career and came back to Shillong and I just kept on praying that I am gonna get another opportunity. With Ryntih right now, bidding for the ILeague, it’s giving hope to me and other local players as well. Because Ryntih has a plan of bringing young players of Meghalaya upfront because there is a lot of talent out here, but there is not much scope or platform to show. So, really glad that Ryntih went for the bid and let’s just hope we get through.
• Ryntih FC might probably join I League and we also hope it happens. What would you like to say about that?
Ans: For me, it will be a very proud moment to come back in the I League after 2 seasons. After leaving Churchill, everyone thought that my career was over. Many people were talking about me, specially some people talk about it like, “why did you come back to Shillong”, “Playing for a Local Club”, but they didn’t know the struggle that I faced or may be some other individuals faced. But then, I’m just glad that Ryntih gave me this opportunity. If we go through, it’s going to be a very good season for me and for my whole team.
• How’s the atmosphere in the club and how’s your experience so far?
Ans: For me personally, it’s very nice. The club officials, the owners and management everyone in the club, all of them are young. The only thing that’s in their mind is we want to play and enter I League and that determination they have and they have been pushing each other, and where it is all today, is because of their hard work. For me, having some experience, also in the I League and playing for Churchill, I can say this is one of the best right now. Like, I don’t know about the other clubs but for me I feel it’s one of the best clubs, because out here not just the players get along, but the club officials, the owners as well as the players we all get along as one and that’s what makes Ryntih really different from other clubs.
• How is the atmosphere in the dressing room I’m Ryntih FC?
Ans: It is always alive. There’s no stress, we have fun. When we went to Sikkim, I didn’t expect that our team will lift the trophy because we heard about the tournament and all the good teams from different places, like Transport United came from a different country to participate in the tournament. Because of the atmosphere we have in the club, with no stress, we play music, we dance, like we concentrate on the game but we like to have fun as well. When you have less stress and you are always happy and have fun, you eventually get results and that’s the atmosphere we have in the club right now and it’s really nice.
• So, you won a pre season tournament with the club and also won the Best Defender award. How does that feel? Take us through those moments.
Ans: It feels really nice. The hard work put in individually. The blood, sweat and tears that has gone through all these years, trying to come to the top. Getting awarded as the best defender is the best feeling. So, for me, I just keep on trying, keep on working hard on everything I need and I just keep on doing my best.
• So, you are a Defender basically but also played at Defensive midfield. Which position do u prefer the most? Also u had 8 goals for Irat SC.
Ans: For me, comfortably I play as a Center Back. I know I am not the tallest but I prefer playing at the center back position. Even when I first went in Churchill, the height that they had I thought that I was the shortest. But then I thought that it was just the determination and the hard work in the training ground that payed off and I got to play each and every match in the Goa Pro League.
For fun with friends, yeah I do play upfront. For fun, you always like go score but then you don’t have those chances always. So, if you just play with friends and play for fun, you can play as a striker. But when you play for a professional club, then you have to play in your position only. But then yeah, if I get a chance, then surely I would take that chance to play upfront.
• Any memorable incident from your career so far which you would like to share?
Ans: Memorable incident. For me, when I got selected for the first time, by one company, for the TATA Tea Football Tournament in 2012 and went to Kolkata for all India trials and when I got selected to go and train with Inter Milan, that is the memorable moment that I can remember.
• So, how was your expereince at Inter Milan:
Ans: The experience out there was really different. You get to learn so many different things which we don’t learn out here. It was just a training camp for 10 days, we went there and the trainings we had there from different coaches, for me individually it was quite difficult because I was not born and brought up in those surroundings, those trainings they had internationally. For me it was very different, because I was quite raw. But then slowly I learnt it, and when you put it in your game and it helps alot in the career and that is what which helped me.
Even in 2014 I got another opportunity to go to Boca Juniors and we got training there as well. It was quite different from Europe. The games were different and the trainings were different and I learnt alot from there and that is what has changed my game.
• Your dreams in career?
Ans: Hopefully one day playing for the National Team. Central Defenders such as Medel, playing at Center Back for Chile and those kind of players playing at Center Back, gives me hope because they aren’t tall. So, one day may be I will be playing for the National Team.
• Tell us about your I League experience in short.
Ans: It was good. The coach gave me the opportunity to play my first match against Minerva Punjab, when one of my seniors got injured and I got to play that game and it was quite decent. The next game we travelled to Shillong and we played against Lajong that was the best game that I had in my I League career. But then came a blunder in my 3rd game in Aizawl, when I scored an own goal. I couldn’t forget that and even my friends couldn’t forget that.
The next season, it was quite nice. I got to learn a lot from on of our International Coach who was sacked after the Mohun Bagan match. But, playing in the I League, it’s very different. Leagues in different states have their own different style of play, like in Shillong they have a different style of game, when you play in Kolkata, Delhi, Kerala it’s all a different style of play. But then when you play in the ILeague, it’s totally different and it’s really nice and you learn alot from there, because it’s a very tough competition.
Playing in the ILeague is not a joke and it’s really tough. So you always have to be mentally fit, mentally strong, physically fit and you should always be prepared for anything while you play against those foreigners and good Indian players. So you always have to be physically fit and mentally fit.
• What are your next goals. Where do you see yourself in the near future?
Ans: Goals for the starting of the season for next season is to win home games and start the season strong and for the rest of the 2-3 seasons I hope that we can grow as a family, and our club goes forward, and for me individually I hope that I get more to learn and I hope that I grow every season, that is what every player wants after each and every season to be consistent and to perform in each and every coming season. So, that is what I need from myself.
• Anything More which you would like to say to the people or about your journey or anything.
Ans: I would just like to say to all the people that, no matter what state, let’s just try and keep on supporting the local clubs you have, so that it’s a great experience not just for us, but for you also. So, I just request everyone that, no matter what, try and love Sports in our Nation first and our local clubs first.
So, that were all about the questions we had for, Banpynkhrawnam Nongkhlaw but we also had a small Rapid Fire round for him, so let’s see how he answered those and know a big more about the captain of Ryntih FC.
Rapid Fire Round:
FIFA or PES – FIFA
Ronaldo or Messi – Ronaldo
Favourite Defender – Sergio Ramos
Favourite Foreign Club – Manchester City
Favorite Team in India(except Ryntih) – Bengaluru FC
Toughest Opponent Player – Sony Norde
Toughest Opponent Team – Mohun Bagan
Favourite Food – Chinese Dishes
Best friend at Rynith- I get along with everyone, so I’ll say Everyone.
Favourite player Indian – Sunil Chhetri and Adil Khan.(I met him while playing against Minerva in 2017 and he’s a very good player)
Favourire Foreign player – Kevin De Bruyne as of now.
What do you like to do apart from football – Play FIFA
Which Sports do you like apart from Football – Basketball, Badminton, Table Tennis.
Favourite Jersey Number – 4
Well, Thank you so much Banpynkhrawnam for answering our questions.
That is all we had for today’s interview and we got to know a lot about a great young player, with a great mentality ofcourse and we hope to know much more about him when we see him on the big stage in upcoming seasons.
It was a pleasure talking with Banpynkhrawnam Nongkhlaw. We from IFTWC, wish you all the very best for the next season, and your career ahead and also best wishes to your team Ryntih FC for the upcoming seasons.