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Lallianzuala Chhangte: We represent 1.4 billion Indians in the national team

The Indian football team winger discussed his growth in the ISL and shared his experiences of playing for the national team in an episode of In The Stands.

Lallianzuala Chhangte Football

Lallianzuala Chhangte


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 12 Jan 2024 2:40 PM GMT

Lallianzuala Chhangte has risen the ranks to become a mainstay for the Indian national team and will play a key role in their pursuits in the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar. The ISL Golden Ball winner delivered impressive numbers by scoring 10 goals and assisting six times to help Mumbai City FC secure the League Winners’ Shield last season. He was named the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year for 2022-23 and his seven strikes in 32 appearances for the Blue Tigers suggest that he is hungry for success at the international level.

Chhangte trusts the team playing the Asian Cup to come on top of the challenges that they will encounter in terms of facing Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria in the group stages. Speaking in the latest episode of In the Stands, he mentioned the squad has an impressive fighting spirit fostered due to years of playing together as a unit.

“When it comes to the national team, you are representing 1.4 billion people. You can’t take off your mind and go somewhere else. You have to be focused, during trainings, gym, and especially before the games. So, the atmosphere needs to be perfect, and it is good. We have been together for three-four years, and it is a great team. We have learnt so many things from each other, so when we take this into the game, we fight for each other and the entire nation,” he said, while speaking on Indian Super League’s ‘In The Stands’ show.

“It was a huge risk to choose to be a professional footballer”

Chhangte hails from Lunglei in Mizoram, but he started his career with the Pune-based DSK Shivajians, before going on to have stints at NorthEast United FC, Delhi Dynamos FC, and Chennaiyin FC in the ISL. He switched to the Islanders in a loan move in January 2022, before his transfer was sealed ahead of the 2022-23 season. Chhangte’s parents are teachers, but he thanks them for believing in his dream to become a professional footballer. He mentions that very few players have actually made it to the top-tier from Mizoram, and hence his decision to dare to dream was actually a big risk.

“Looking back to where I came from, I am living a definite dream right now. I never thought I would be playing in one of the best clubs in India. To represent the country was just a dream back then. My dad and my grandfather were a huge fan of football. So playing football was never a problem, but doing so professionally was a problem. We have got Jeje (Lalpekhlua), Ricky Lallamwamwa, and very few players playing professionally from Mizoram. So, it was a huge challenge and a big risk to play and to decide to be a professional footballer,” Chhangte said.

“Owen Coyle trusted me at Chennaiyin FC”

The 26-year-old was a trailblazer during his time with the Dynamos, making heads turn with his piercing runs on the flank. However, it was at Chennaiyin FC where he actually took a step up, becoming a fan-favourite due to his exploits in the final third. Chhangte became dear to the Marina Machans, as they revered hosting one of the most promising talents in the country. Current head coach Owen Coyle had a big role to play in that, unlocking his potential to help him to score seven goals and spearhead their run to the final in ISL 2019-20.

Chhangte believes that Coyle saw the willingness within him to put in the hard yards and work for the greater good of the team, which helped the coach connect in a good capacity with the player. “The best thing about him is he recognises who works hard in the training pitch. He doesn’t judge players by their abilities, or talents, but he judges by the way they give their best on the pitch. That’s what he saw in me. I was not the most talented, but he saw that I wanted to give everything. He respected that, he trusted the players, he wanted them to explore themselves, enjoy themselves, and that’s the best thing for any player,” Chhangte said.

“Des Buckingham told me he will make me the best player in India”

However, no coach had a bigger influence on him than Des Buckingham at Mumbai City FC. The Oxford United FC head coach had inspired his switch to the Islanders at a time when things weren’t clicking for him at Chennaiyin FC. Despite his lack of form, Buckingham assured Chhangte that greater things were in store for him if he just put his head down and worked towards the same. The tactician undertook an all-round, holistic approach to help the player reach successes that he had never seen before, fine-tuning multiple aspects of his gameplay.

“Coach Des and I had a chat and he told me that he was going to make me one of the best players in India. He said he believed in me, in my abilities, so, he told me that he knows what I can do and as a player you don’t need to think twice. I joined Mumbai City FC knowing that and he was on his words. We put the words into action after that. It was all about training, extra training, whether it’s shooting, crossing, analysing my game and training sessions every week,” Chhangte said.

The ongoing season has been one of self-reflection for Chhangte, who is juggling between a change at the coaching personnel at Mumbai City FC to find his best form yet again. He has scored and assisted twice each in 11 games, but will be heading into the Asian Cup on the back of good form after scoring in the last league match against his former club Chennaiyin FC. Nevertheless, Indian fans will be hoping that he brushes aside any concerns to be at his level best and help the national team get their desired outcomes at the continental stage.

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