A brand new season of the Hero I-League kicks off on January 7 with defending champions Bengaluru FC playing host to North East club Shillong Lajong FC at the Kanteerava Stadium at 7pm. The match between two of the most exciting teams in the league is sure to be an enthralling contest and will be broadcast live on Ten Action.
With renewed hopes and aspirations, Shillong Lajong FC will go into their record seventh season of the I-League with a firm resolve to start the year on a positive note. The club had a great season in Shillong last year – the young side won their third consecutive Shillong Premier League title and the Meghalaya Invitation Football Tournament, but the Reds know that bigger challenges lie ahead of them in India’s premier football league.
For 2016-17 Lajong has roped in three foreigners who will make their club debut in tomorrow’s match. These are Romanian defender Dan Gelu Ignat, Japanese midfielder Yuta Kinowaki and Cameroonian striker Aser Pierrick Dipanda. Meanwhile, Fabio Pena Henrique has been brought back by the Club for which he scored 7 crucial goals in 2015-16.
The club also welcomed back seasoned professional and local favourite Rocus Lamare, who brings with him a great deal of experience that will undeniably benefit his younger team mates significantly.
That guiding role will be crucial in this season, as in past years, the Reds will put their faith in a squad made up largely of youngsters from the Club Academy who have proven their worth. This year will see Phurba Tempa Lachenpa, Sheen Stevenson Sohktung, Allen Lyngdoh and Novin Gurung get their golden tickets to the I-League where they join their fellow young prospects Vishal Kaith, Nim Dorjee Tamang, Sh Sandeep Singh, Samuel Shadap, Pritam Kumar Singh, Rupert Nongrum, Jacob Lalrawngbawla, Joseph Lalfakzuala, Lalrammuana, Th Bipin Singh, Isaac Vanmalsawma, Redeem Tlang, Chinglensanna, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Milan Basumatary, Hardy Cliff Nongbri, Zodingliana and Alen Deory.
The Lajong gaffer is confident on his new signings and expects nothing less than a solid contribution from each of them. He has made his intentions very clear that he wishes for this season to be the best the club has ever had. He said, “I believe it’s a good opportunity to do better this season.”
On asking Singto if he has had the chance to assess the strengths and weaknesses of other I-League teams, he said, “Most team have build up their squad last month only and it is difficult to know their strengths or weaknesses. But we go forward with a positive optimism on our own strength.”
He further said, “We have a good balanced team this year with valuable experience added with youthful exuberance and talent. The right result in terms of field performance is what we need to fulfil.”
“We need to do much better defensively and score more goals as compared to the last season. The team building is done with that thought in process”, he added.
Moving on to the defending champions, Bengaluru FC will come into tomorrow’s game with a lot of confidence, in large part down to their stellar performance in the AFC Cup, where they finished as runners-up under Albert Roca, their new head coach. Home support will also keep them going throughout the 90 minutes, meaning that it will be a tough fight for the visitors.
BFC have a very strong squad this season and were busy in the transfer market, bringing in highly experienced players. Roca has built an interesting team with some fresh faces to complement an already strong line-up made up of celebrated names from the Indian football scene like Amrinder Singh, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Keegan Pereira, John Johnson, Rino Anto, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Alwyn George, Lenny Rodrigues, CK Vineeth and Sunil Chhetri.
Given the quality of these two very different sides, the Hero I-League 2016-17 will begin with what promises to be a high octane clash on January 7. Shillong Lajong FC has always punched above its weight and the target is to make this year the best in the club’s history and put a smile on the faces of the thousands of Lajong Faithfuls.