2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers: Lalruatthara shines on his debut for Indian national team
In their last match in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers, Kyrgyzstan halted India's 13-match unbeaten run as the White Falcons defeated Blue Tigers by a close margin of 2-1. Nevertheless, both the teams had already qualified for the Asian Cup 2019 from their group.
The scoreline could have been far worse for India if it wasn't for the debutante Lalruatthara, who kept their star-man Zemlianukhin quiet on many occasions. But he didn't mark him well in the first few minutes where the Kyrgyz man scored the first goal.
But as the game went on, Lalruatthara only got stronger and stronger. He just didn't give any space on the left plank for Kyrgyzstan.
The 23-year-old had won the emerging player award in the Hero Indian Super League season four and his performance said it all. Those who saw him play in this match could never tell that he was a debutante, such was his confidence. The one thing that he has to improve is the service to the box whenever he overlaps through the wings.
Rise of Lalruatthara
Born in Champari, a small district in Mizoram, he left for Chandigarh at the age of 13 to pursue his dreams of playing the beautiful game. He attended the trials of Chandigarh Football Academy in 2009 and cleared the skill and physical fitness tests. But he was rejected by the academy for unknown reasons.
Then he joined the youth team of Luangmual after which he joined Chanmari in the Mizoram Premier League. In between, he also went on to win the 2014 Santosh Trophy with Mizoram.
Lalruatthara signed for the newly promoted I-League side Aizawl FC for the 2015-16 season. He started his professional career there onwards. His I-League debut was against the mighty Mohun Bagan when his team lost 3-1 and he earned a yellow card. It was after this that he began getting noticed among the Indian football fans. Eventually, he grew on to become a crucial player for the team which won the 2016-17 I-League.
Then, began his ISL career. Lalruatthara signed for Delhi Dynamos on loan last season, but wasn't called up to play a single game.
On 23rd July 2017, the defender was selected by Kerala Blasters in the fourth round of the Player Draft of ISL 2017-18. And there began his stellar performance at the back for the team in yellow. He was simply amazing at the left-back postition, due to which he played all available matches (17, missed a game due to suspension). He became much stronger as the tournament progressed and was able to learn a lot from the experienced Wes Brown, Lakic Pesic and India's very own Sandesh Jinghan.
With crucial blocks, clearances, last-ditch tackles and important interceptions, he was awarded the ISL emerging player of the match award seven times this season and eventually became the ISL emerging player of the season.
The Mizo left-back has signed a 3-year contract with Kerala Blasters FC which will see him don the yellow jersey till 2021.
Lalruatthara will be looking forward to cement his place in the back-line of the Blue Tigers along with shot-stopper, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, and the rocks, Sandesh Jinghan and Anas Edathodika. India needs a strong line-up ahead of the AFC Asia Cup which is to be held in 2019, this looks like a promising defensive setup. So, they only need to worry about and sort out the rest of the squad, i.e. the midfield and defence. But going by Tuesday's performance, there's a lot to change in both the departments.
Let's hope that this Mizo youngster will grow stronger to be one of the best defenders in the team.