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Football

'It feels amazing', Lalrinzuala Lalbiaknia reflects on breaking Chhetri's record

Lalrinzuala Lalbiaknia, the 23-year-old sensation from Aizawl FC, reflected on breaking his I-League goal-scoring record in an exclusive interview.

It feels amazing, Lalrinzuala Lalbiaknia reflects on breaking Chhetris record
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Aizawl FC player Lalrinzuala Lalbiaknia ( Image via Aizawl)

By

Parashar Kalita

Updated: 30 March 2024 9:48 AM GMT

Lalrinzuala Lalbiaknia, the 23-year-old sensational forward from Mizoram playing for Aizawl FC, etched his name in history by setting a new record for the highest number of goals scored by an Indian player in the I-League.

This milestone surpassed the previous record held jointly by his idol Sunil Chhetri, who scored 14 goals for Bengaluru FC in the 2013-14 season, and Mohammed Rafi, who achieved the same feat while playing for Mahindra United in the 2009-10 season of the I-League, the then premier division of Indian football.

"I feel really good and feel proud after breaking the record," said Lalrinzuala in an exclusive interview with The Bridge.

β€œI really like Sunil Chhetri. He is one of my idols. During my stint with Bengaluru FC (developmental squad), I got the chance to train with him for once, but I was very shy. I don’t think he knows me personally," Lalrinzuala spoke of his meeting with Chhetri.

Lalrinzuala recalled an encounter with his other idol, the 'Mizo Sniper' Jeje Lalpekhlua. β€œDuring a friendly match against a team of Mizoram's professional players I met Jeje. I was 19 at the time. After the match, Jeje said to me that he liked the way I played. At the international level, I admire Cristiano Ronaldo,” he added.

The 23-year-old attributed his success to divine providence and the family support. "First of all, it was all because of God. Without him, nothing would have been possible. Aizawl FC set the stage for me to perform in the I-League. Without them, no one would have known me. And my mom always supported me whenever I needed her the most," Lalrinzuala remarked.

Mizo culture

Lalrinzuala also reminisced about his footballing journey, highlighting the deep-rooted passion for the sport within Mizo culture. "In Mizo culture, football holds a special place, with many of us naturally drawn to the game," he reflected.

"Growing up, we would often play football in our streets for hours, fueling my love for the sport," he added.

His journey took a significant turn when he was 16. He began playing at the local level at the time. Subsequently, he honed his skills at the Bengaluru FC academy for three years, representing various age group teams.

Despite a setback for failing to secure playing time in the I-League with Gokulam Kerala, Lalrinzuala's determination led him to Delhi FC, where he clinched victory in the second division on loan. Finally, he found his true calling with Aizawl FC, cementing his place in the first XI.

Humble background

Speaking about his family background, Lalrinzuala shared a glimpse into his humble beginnings. "My dad used to be a driver, and he does not engage in sports. Similarly, my mother is not a sportsperson either," he revealed.

Reflecting on the challenges he faced early in his football journey, Lalrinzuala recalled, "When I started playing football, I did not have the means to afford football boots, and financial struggles were commonplace,"

He acknowledged the unwavering support of his parents, who worked tirelessly to help him. "My parents worked hard, doing everything they could to meet my needs," he emphasised. Lalrinzuala recognised his role in contributing to the family's financial stability, stating, "Perhaps I am the one in my family who can earn some money for us."

'Playing for India is a dream'

Lalrinzuala also expressed his desire to represent India. "It is up to the coach," he said pragmatically. "If he sees me playing and is interested in me, then it is up to him." Lalrinzuala reiterated, revealing that he has been cherishing the dream of playing for the national team for a long time.

"Playing for the national team has always been a dream, but it’s very hard," he admitted.

Reflecting on Aizawl FC's current standings in the league table, Lalrinzuala acknowledged room for improvement. "Yes, I think we can do much better in the second phase," he admitted.

"Our results are not that good. I do not know how to say it. I think we can... maybe, yeah, it is what it is now," he added. Despite the challenges, Lalrinzuala maintained a hopeful outlook, asserting, "We cannot control anything now, but we will try to win all the matches remaining."

Regarding his future plans, Lalrinzuala emphasized his commitment to Aizawl FC, stating, "I did not want to take this thing too seriously because I still have one year left with Aizawl FC." His focus remains on maximizing his contributions to the team's success in the present, demonstrating loyalty and dedication to his current club.

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