Puitea – I wish to make history with Odisha FC

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Lalthathanga Khawlhring, commonly known as Puitea in the Indian football circuit spoke with IFTWC in an exclusive interview where he talked about his past stints, life in Odisha FC so far, and more. Puitea, whose name was given by his mother, refused to reveal its meaning when he was asked about it. Nonetheless, he has shown what his name means on and off the pitch for his club in the 23/24 Indian Super League or even in the 2023 AFC Cup South Asia Zone Groups Stages.

The 25-year-old midfielder has a goal and an assist to his name in the 7 ISL 23/24 games for the Juggernauts so far. Additionally, Puitea also scored a goal in the 2023 AFC Cup as well having played 4 matches to date. Although a player of his position is not known to contribute a lot with goals and assists, Puitea can still serve as a creative midfielder when needed other than the destroyer role.

How has the complete experience been for Puitea in his new club so far?

I see myself here, but there’s a long way to go as we just started this season. There are a lot of things we need to improve on as a team, and even as an individual. So, I am enjoying myself in Odisha FC because my family is happy with me and my club. But, I will say my goal is to reach as high as possible as an individual and with the team. So, I wish to make history with Odisha FC, and that’s my plan this season. But there’s no hurry for us, and we will only go forward game by game.”

What was the reason that led him to leave Mohun Bagan, the ISL winner?

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“No, there is no such specific reason or anything. My time at Mohun Bagan has been very short, but it’s been amazing. All my teammates, coaching staff, club’s president, directors, and even their fans welcomed me. I won the championship with them, and I will always remember it and will never forget that moment in my life. But, this is football, sometimes some players stay, while some players leave. So, I think at the time after the season, I thought it was better for me to go and find another club.”

“I didn’t see myself in the team and dressing room. So when I could move to another club, I took it. I think it’s about life and professionalism, and with us football players it’s all like this. But, I think my time is still there at this moment. So maybe someday in the future, I will go back there who knows? So I felt it was better for me to leave at that time thus I made this decision.”

What was it like to leave Kerala Blasters FC, a club he still misses a lot?

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“Last season before I left Kerala, to be honest, I wouldn’t say the exact words but in my whole career, it was the most difficult thing for me. I need to leave the club because of some reason that I can’t say why. But not because I want that I need to leave. So to be honest personally for me, it was difficult, and even for my family, and the club it was difficult. For the Kerala fans also it was very difficult.”

“So I think it’s normal like I said, this is football life. Sometimes these things happen all the time. But I still tell people that I always miss Kerala a lot. It’s very difficult for me, especially in those last few months. You can ask Sandeep Singh, my roommate there at that time. He knows how difficult it was.”

A choice of his favourite position where he excels the most on the field.

“Well, to be honest, I don’t know whether it’s in the defensive or the attacking or even number eight position. For me, the most important thing is to enjoy football. When I was a kid I played on the left wing-back, sometimes on the left wing. I am okay with wherever the coach needs me maybe in the right-back position, the striker role, or even the goalkeeper. I will play there, and try to do my best.”

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Instead of picking his favorite coach, Puitea hopes to utilize the learnings from all of his ISL coaches to become a great coach himself in the future.

“No, to be honest, I always have a good connection and great memories with all the coaches. I am so lucky to have been able to work with all these amazing coaches. I always learned from them not only on the pitch but off the pitch as well. They are all so professional, but I can’t say anyone personally.”

They were all good for me. I learned so many things from there and I think it was a good experience for me. I feel that from all these good coaches and their connection with me, maybe in the future one day, I will grow to become a good coach after combining all the things that I understood from them.”

Views on seeing some familiar faces in Santosh Kashyap at Odisha FC.

“Yes, I think before I joined Odisha FC, he was already there in the club. At Aizawl FC it was great working with coach Santosh. He’s a great funny, and positive guy. It’s always good to work with the coach again as he was guiding me in the earlier days. There are lots of players in the club who played under him already. So it was easy for me to adapt here, and it’s the same for other players as well.”

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On Odisha’s chances of progression from group stages in the AFC Cup.

“Obviously, it’s going to be incredibly tough games. That’s also because they’re the top teams right now. At this moment, both teams are performing very well. But of course, we want to make it to the next round, and for us, it’s one match at a time. When every match is important we aim to give our all to enjoy the game and achieve the best possible results we can to try and finish as high as possible.”

Opinion on the performances of the Indian National Team, and its future.

“They have been very good. I think right now, we can see a lot of improvement in them. Even from the gameplay, the players’ physicality, and mentality, we are improving a lot. I think this is because of the Indian Super League. ISL is improving and, of course, if the league improves then the national team will also improve. So I think and hope maybe we can also play in the FIFA World Cup very soon”

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Can performing well in the ISL give Puitea a ticket to Qatar’s Asian Cup?

“Of course, for all the Indian players it’s their dream to play and perform well for the national team. But, it’s not about me, as in my opinion, it’s also not about performing well in the league but it’s about how you play. Like for example, the national team coach Igor Stimac may have a different game plan. So if you don’t fit in his idea and gameplan, you cannot stay in the Indian national team.”

“If you are fit as per his gameplan then you will be there. So I think that in my opinion, some players who are playing right now maybe they are good for his team, meanwhile the players including myself who arent there yet maybe we are not good for his game plan, and ideas. So, it’s about the coach’s philosophy, but of course, if we perform well then maybe we will have a very big chance to be there.”


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Liven Bose
Liven Bose
A die-hard Mohun Bagan supporter and Indian Football fan from Kolkata who dreams of seeing glorious and successful days ahead.

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