Bangalore's Rebels FC is giving youngsters like Pungte Lapung a shot at success
A shy, soft-spoken youngster from Arunachal Pradesh, Pungte Lapung has been one of the stars of the recently concluded Karnataka Youth League.
At just 18 years of age, Pungte Lapung has been one of the stars of the recently concluded Karnataka Youth League (KYL). The soft-spoken, shy lad from Arunachal Pradesh played as an attacking midfielder for Rebels FC this season and notched up an impressive two goals and two assists in eight appearances.
Established in 2006, Rebels FC is one of Bangalore's foremost 'B' Division clubs. They are also the first club in Bangalore to have private residential academies for both boys and girls and play multiple leagues under the aegis of the Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) and Bangalore District Football Association (BDFA). For Pungte and many others like him, playing for a prominent club like Rebels while staying at their efficiently-run academy in Devanahalli, has been a huge relief.
The boys' academy started in 2017 while the girls' facility was started in November 2020 in Yelahanka. While football is of course the most important aspect, there is no compromise on education either. The club has tie-ups with Akash International School and Seshadripuram Education Trust amongst others in order to curate a curriculum that has a healthy balance of both. However, like Pungte, a lot of players also come on short-term contracts and for them, it is definitely a new and enriching experience.
Currently back home in Arunachal, the youngster is yet to dust off the remnants of Bangalore's warmth from all over himself. "The season was good for me personally but I feel we could not achieve the objectives that had been set for us by our coaches," he says with the maturity of someone 10 years older than him. Rebels FC finished 4th in the 10-team league which was eventually won by Stadium FC, another club with its own academy in place.
"It was great staying at the academy," he continues about the year that he spent in the city before adding, "It was my first time at a residential academy of a professionally run club. I came to know about Rebels FC from a friend and decided to join them and the experience with the coaches and all the players has been great." The fact that this was his first time in the Southern part of the country is also a reason why he feels playing in the KYL was worth it.
Before joining Rebels, Pungte was playing for his district team in Arunachal and also got called up for a trial with the state team. Unfortunately, the dates of his exams clashed with the trials and he had to let go of the opportunity.
Another aspect that the club takes pride in is the support that all of its teams receive during matchdays. We saw that recently in the Karnataka Women's League (KWL) where Rebels arguably had the best support out of all the competing sides. Giant banners and flags were constant themes in Rebels' matches which is almost unheard of in women's football. According to Pungte, that is because of how tightly-knit the entire club is. All the different teams make it a point to try and support each other as much as possible from the stands and exchange notes thereafter. "It's all about learning something new every day," the youngster says smilingly.
With Covid cases on the rise once again, Pungte doesn't know what the future holds for him yet, especially because the youth divisions are always going to be first on the chopping block if further restrictions have to be put in place. But given a chance, he would jump at the opportunity of being back in the city. "The time that I spent there taught me a lot of things about myself and made me more disciplined. Interacting with others in the campus has also helped me open up and be more confident," he says sheepishly. All we can hope for is that we get to see more of him soon.