Eugeneson Lyngdoh talks about his Bengaluru FC return and reflects on his spell at ATK

Eugeneson Lyngdoh is back at Bengaluru FC and is hoping to play regularly this season.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh is back at Bengaluru FC and is hoping to play regularly this season.
Zaid Khan

As I make my way up the flight of stairs which lead me to the most pleasing and pristine view a football fan could ask for at 9 AM on a Friday morning, there was this one unwavering and unshakable element that set off an adrenaline rush and gratified my senses in equal measure.

Bengaluru FC, the champions of last year's Indian Super League, were back at their den. And, as has always been the case, an allegiant and enthusiastic sea of supporters, proudly sporting the blue and red of the club, was right behind them whilst they were being put through their paces at the Bangalore Football Stadium by coach Carles Cuadrat.

So raucous were the chants and so enjoyable was the feeling of standing between them as they watched their heroes begin another pre-season campaign, that you're compelled to believe that the fans' gumption is reflected in how these players go about their business on the pitch.

Our topic of interest though was a man, who after years of success at the club, had departed, not enjoyed a particularly fruitful time in his new home, and was finally back to where he has always belonged.

A smile on his face, a discernible verve in the way he was moving around and sporting the #7 on his training kit, Eugeneson Lyngdoh was back in Bengaluru colours.

It was good to see the 33-year-old finally smile again and enjoy a kick about with his new teammates, especially considering how difficult the past couple of seasons have been for him, courtesy of a few injury issues and his inability to break into ATK's starting eleven despite being fit.

Naturally then, a return to familiar environs was enough to springboard a wave of positivity and optimism for the man from Shillong.

On being asked about how he felt after returning to the club where he's enjoyed the best years of his career, Lyngdoh beams and says:

“It’s good to come back here. I know the place, I know everything and it just feels like home."

"I’ve had a chat with the coach and he’s very delighted that I’ve come over and is hoping that I can help the team."

Lyngdoh also mentions that club captain Sunil Chhetri played a big part in his decision to return to the club. He also speaks about how the stability provided by the top brass at BFC is something that appealed to him and played a significant part in his decision to rejoin the club.

"I spoke to the coach, the management and obviously Sunil has been a big part of it (decision to rejoin the club). I’ve played for BFC before and I’m accustomed to the way they play so I wanted to go back to a team which I was accustomed to."

"BFC is the only team that actually sticks with the coach and build on a philosophy according to which they want to play. So you want to go back to a team which is like that, unlike a team which has a different coach every year and you never know what’s going to happen."

The frustrating two-year spell at ATK

The 33-year-old midfielder enjoyed a glorious first spell at BFC, where he won four titles before departing to FC Pune City on loan, and then ATK, where he spent two seasons. Not being involved in the thick of things is obviously something that no footballer likes and at ATK, Lyngdoh either found himself relegated to the bench or on the treatment table.

An ACL injury at the start of his debut season at the club cruelly impeded his progress and ruled him out for the entirety of the 2017/18 campaign. He recovered and returned for the new season, only to find himself not fitting into new manager Steve Coppell's plans, who had replaced Teddy Sheringham at the helm of the Kolkata-based outfit.

Consequently, the Shillong midfielder ended up making only five appearances all season and decided to mutually terminate his contract at ATK at the end of the 2018/19 season. When asked how frustrating and taxing it was for him to sit on the sidelines despite being fit, Lyngdoh's tone turns somber:

"It’s frustrating, you know," he says.

"In the first season, I played three matches and then I got injured. And then you come back and a new coach comes, he’s got a new philosophy which I didn’t fit into, and not being able to fit in was frustrating."

"But, as a player, I have to live with it, give my best in training sessions and never lose heart, because, at that stage, I felt like I could’ve just weathered away."

So what kept the midfielder ticking despite the adversities he was facing?

"From within, I’ve always just wanted to play football so that’s what kept me going."

"Even going for the training sessions and knowing the fact that the coach doesn’t see you in his plans…it was a hard thing to face knowing that you won’t get picked for the team, so it was a very tough time. Here, the coach has a lot of faith in me so it’s just feels right again."

Getting back into the thick of things again

Given the history of the club and the honours it has won, it won't be an overstatement to say that winning is something that is expected at BFC - it's ingrained within every individual at the club. There's no doubt that the players will be fighting tooth-and-nail on the pitch to retain their crown, but Lyngdoh has some personals targets of his own that he's determined to hit this campaign.

“I haven’t played a lot in the past two years, so obviously my first target is to play and be available for selection every week. My aim is to get back into the national team, which is something I’ve not been a part of, so I want to achieve these targets."

"The training here is different, the training there was different. When you have a coach that fully supports you, it just gives you an added boost, it gives you more faith."

"In my first training session here, I just felt nice and free that I can come here and play football so it’s just a relief. When you go to training sessions, you have the license to express yourself."

The return to BFC

There's no doubting that Lyngdoh is a figure who is adored by the BFC faithful - the chants dedicated to him during the open training session were a testament to the kind of popularity he enjoys at the club. I ask him how excited he is to don the red and blue jersey of BFC again and walk out to a capacity crowd, which evokes an impassioned reply.

"When you’re in a foreign country and you have the fans singing from the start, even when you’re warming up, I haven’t seen that kind of support at any other club, even at Pune or ATK where I was at," Lyngdoh said.

"It’s just that the importance that the fans give to the players makes you feel special, makes you want to play for them and not disappoint them."

"When I came over here last season whilst representing ATK and saw the crowd support the team the way they did, I felt that I really missed it. To be back here, playing in front of them, not on the bench but to actually play, it’s a feeling that I cannot express and you can only feel it when you’re there."

Edited by Amar Anand


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