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ISL: Lallianzuala Chhangte believes Chennaiyin can go a step further and win the league

ISL: Lallianzuala Chhangte believes Chennaiyin can go a step further and win the league

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 16 Nov 2020 9:34 AM GMT

Lallianzuala Chhangte is the proverbial speedster that every team wants but very few have. The 23-year-old winger from Mizoram had a great season last term making 21 appearances for the Marina Machans and ending up with seven goals, the highest number of open-play goals for an Indian. He was one of the major reasons why Chennaiyin FC reached the final after a poor start to the season and this time, the Mizo Flash would be looking forward to taking his team a step further. We spoke exclusively to the diminutive winger and asked him about his time at Chennaiyin so far amongst other things.

So which areas did he work on to come back from a disappointing start to the campaign, we asked him. “I realized I wasn’t making great decisions after reaching the penalty area and following discussions with the coaching staff, I worked a lot on my finishing and my weak foot. The team wasn’t playing well initially but once we got our confidence and our killer instinct back things started getting better for us,” is how he put it.

One would imagine that there’s something special brewing in the Chennaiyin camp because of the number of times that he mentioned his teammates and the trust that they have in each other’s abilities. As one of the nine retained Indian players at the club, we asked him if he felt there had been a conscious shift in mentality amongst all clubs to sort out their Indian contingent first before splurging on foreign players. “I don’t know for sure. But for me it is crucial that we have the Indian core sorted because these are players who have played with each other for quite some time. You are automatically more positive on the pitch if you know how your teammates are likely to react in different situations,” he said.

Having spent time at DSK Shivajians, Delhi Dynamos, NorthEast United and now Chennaiyin, Chhangte has come a long way from his humble beginnings in Lunglei, Mizoram. How difficult is it though, to adjust to the lifestyle of a modern day footballer?

“My family is my biggest support system. They keep me grounded and never let me lose my focus from what really matters. I have now got used to the routine that I have and the pressure that I am under from fans. I just try to work hard and take one day at a time because I know things can change very quickly in football,” he replied with the same humility that is so typical of most players who come from the North East.

So how different has his experience been in each of these places? “Delhi, Pune and Chennai are all great places to stay in, you have so much to do and see. In terms of the footballing culture, Chennai is ahead of the other two of course. There people gather around you if you are outside and even during training sessions. And the North East is something else altogether, the passion of the fans there is unparalleled,” replied the youngster.

Being one of the fastest players in the league and indeed in the country, we wanted to understand how his training helps him sharpen that aspect even further and if some aspects of training differ for someone like him when compared to a slower but more technical player. “We have double sessions almost every day now with the second usually being in the gym. Coaches plan things the same way for all players, then individual players may work separately with the fitness coaches and in the gym. I focus on speed-related and agility exercises to maintain and try to increase my speed,” he expressed enthusiastically before going on to add, “It’s important to work on my strengths to understand how I can cover up my weaknesses and improve on them.”

As mentioned earlier, Chennaiyin had a very slow start to the campaign last season before picking up pace in the second half. Chhangte faced a lot of criticism during that time for missing quite a few chances. “It used to bother me a lot. But I knew that I couldn’t lose my focus if I wanted to show people what I was all about. I knew that if I could improve the speed of my decision-making in tight situations, I’d surprise everyone,” he said.

The youngster was effusive in his praise of his teammates as he added, “My teammates and coaches have also played a huge role in this. There has never been any doubt or lack of trust from any of them and that is the most important thing for a young player’s confidence. Even the foreign players who are there in Chennaiyin, they always give us good advice and make us feel important.”

With just about a week left for his team’s first match of the season against Jamshedpur FC, Chhangte just wants to take every game as they come after a curtailed pre-season. “We are working very hard to get in shape. Most of us even have gym equipment inside our hotel rooms. To be very honest we are not at our hundred percent yet because the pre-season has been very short but we will get there. I truly believe we can go one step further this season and win the trophy for our fans,” said the attacker as we wound up the chat, and an intriguing one at that.

Also read: ISL: Rating the newly launched team kits

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