Amidst the disappointment season for Chennaiyin FC last year , one player who stood out among the rest was Lallianzuala Chhangte. Despite not scoring many goals, the youngster had one of his best seasons in terms of attacking output. This is Chhangte’s second consecutive top season after we saw glimpses of his potential with the Delhi Dynamos. As a testament to his massive potential, Chhangte gave trials at Viking FC in a bid to ply his trade abroad. The Mizo player, however, failed to convert the trials into a permanent deal; as a result of which he signed with Chennaiyin FC after returning to India.
Looking back to his decision to join Chennaiyin, Chhangte retrospects, “When they came to talk to me, I looked at how they cared for the young players and thought this was the right club for my career at that time and so I went there. And just like a thought it has been great for me. I made a good decision and do not regret it. I am always looking to give my best for the club and I think they deserve it as well.”
Last season’s performance was not good enough for Csaba Laszlo to keep his job. Chennaiyin parted ways with him and appointed Bozidar Bandovic as their new manager for the upcoming season. Bandovic comes with a good resume which boasts of success in Asian Football as well. Speaking of his new manager, Chhangte exclaimed, “When the club announced that he would be the new coach, I was looking straight at his records and which clubs he had managed, and I came to know that he has got great experience and good achievements in Asia. He knows the atmosphere of Asian Football and I hope he will bring the same atmosphere to India also. The future is very bright. I think we will have a great season ahead under him.”
Bandovic will be Chhangte’s third coach in as many seasons. As a player, it will always be difficult to adjust to the tactical change that comes with a new manager. Chhangte, however, wants to emphasize the positive aspect of this. “I used to tell my friends and family that it is a challenge for me every season, but somehow I enjoy it. This is because every season under a new coach I can learn different things, different tactics, and different perspectives so this is somehow good and I like it. It gives me motivation and under a new coach everyone can start from zero again. So this for me is a very good thing. However, every time a new coach comes I don’t care as I just want to give my best every time I am on the pitch no matter who is the manager.”
Chennaiyin FC played its last match in February and is scheduled to play again in November. On being asked how this eight-month gap affects the momentum and development of players, Chhangte acknowledges, “Yes, of course it affects a lot mentally and physically but as a professional it is very important to not just sit out and do nothing. All my friends, my teammates were doing something while we were away. We used to call each other during the break and they have been working really hard. So from my side there are no issues and we are really looking forward to join the training soon.”
Despite being so good on the flanks, Chhangte had a hard time converting chances during his last season with the club. “The only problem is that I need more confidence. I believe that I will have more confidence this season and I will be coming in with full motivation this season, I believe this will change soon.” “This season will be a new season. We have learned from our experiences and realized what we have done wrong last year. The team is preparing to get better and sharper this year. We will give our best this year and will hope for the best.”
The youngster also shared his opinion about the transfer market Chennaiyin had and how the competition will be inside the team this year, “Every edition the team has to improve so that there will be a good competition among the players in the squad itself. It does not matter much whoever plays, as long as he plays for the team. Everybody will give their best and the coach will choose the best for the team. Giving our best in every training session will take us closer to a starting spot in the lineup.”
In response to a question about the long periods of quarantine during the ISL, Chhangte described motivation as an integral aspect during that time, “We used to do training through Zoom and the sports scientists worked hard with us. I would workout by myself in the morning and do trainings similar to what we did last season. To stay motivated every day was essential. Sometimes you just want to spend a leisure day but then you will not be in the starting eleven, so it is very important to stay focused and train every day.”
Despite stadiums re-opening around the world, the ISL has chosen to play another season behind closed doors within a bio-bubble. On being asked if fans not being allowed was a bit harsh, Chhangte told, “Yes it is some what sad but you know they are doing it for a reason, for our safety, and you just cannot complain because last year this was succesfull and they had conducted the tournament in a safe way. Everyone was safe so I think this might be needed for one more season. We are really looking forward to see our fans back and, hopefully from next season they can join us.”
Chhangte will be back with Chennaiyin FC when they face Hyderabad in their opening ISL game on 23rd November. It is also expected that he will be a member of the Indian team taking part in the SAFF Cup in October.
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