A look at I-League debutants Royal Wahingdoh
What would you expect of a team that just debuted in the nation’s top tier football league? One would probably think the club would find it difficult to survive in the league, right? Well, that’s not been the case for I-League debutants Royal Wahingdoh, who notched up three away victories from their first three games and are now placed second in the points table, behind Pune FC only on goal difference. So far, it has been a promising start for the club in the I-League.
The route to I-League
Established in 1946 as Wahingdoh Sports Club in Shillong, the club turned professional in the year 2008 after the merger with Royal Football Club. The club was subsequently renamed as Royal Wahingdoh Football Club.
They have the distinction of winning the Shillong Premier League in their debut season, in 2010 after being promoted to the league from the 1st division, which they won in 2009. From 2011, the club was given the chance to compete in the second division of the I-League. In the 2014 season, they won the league and got promoted to the top tier I-League.
Taking the I-League by storm
The team started its campaign against local rivals, Shillong Lajong in the first Shillong derby of the league. They came from behind to beat their opponents 2-1 in a famous win that had sent their supporters in a frenzy in the Nehru stadium in Guwahati.
Their next victory was against Salgaocar five days later they shot out the Goan side by 1-0. The upset of the mighty greens was something no one was expecting but the young blood of the Meghalayan club showed great resilience to hold on to an early lead.
Royal Wahingdoh created another upset in their next encounter against another debutant, Bharat FC. After conceding an early goal, Santosh Kashyap’s men turned the tables in the second half with two goals in eight minutes to claim the three points.
Although in their next match against defending champions Bengaluru FC, they tasted their first defeat and big one at that, losing 4-0 in their first home game. Their next challenge was against five times champions Dempo SC where they again came from behind to draw the game and claim a point.
With three wins, one draw and just the one defeat in their first five matches, Royal Wahingdoh has already shed the “underdogs” tag given to them at the start of the season.
Densill Theobald: The Trinidadian midfielder has started in all the five games and has been prolific in the midfield for the Royals. His playmaking skills led to many goal scoring opportunities and he has constantly caused troubles in the opposition’s defence. The 32 year old has shown great form early in the season and the fans would be hoping that he continues to perform.
Seong Yong Kim: The Japanese born North Korean striker has scored just one goal (against Bharat FC) this season which clearly doesn’t reflect his contributions to the club. He has been the most dangerous of the attackers in the team with his speed and strength. He has combined with Theobald to create numerous chances and mount pressure on the opposition. If he perfects his finishing, we can surely see a lot more goals from the 27 year old.
Seityasen Singh: The 22-year-old striker from Manipur came into prominence when he captained and scored for the club in 2011 when they beat Churchill Brothers in the Federation Cup. Since then, he has shown great promise and has been one of the best attackers of the club. He scored the winners against Sillong Lajong and Bharat FC this season. Teaming up with Jackichand Singh, he has been a major cause of concern for the opposition teams.
Jackichand Singh: He was the other scorer in the upset against Churchill Brothers in 2011. Since then, in 23 league games for his club, he has netted 7 times. The 22 year old, also from Manipur, plays both as a forward and a winger. He scored the only goal against Salgaocar this season, causing another upset. He has been the driving force in the club’s attack this season.
In coach Santosh Kashyap’s words, “Jackichand is a tremendous talent. He is an excellent player. I have chalked out a target for him which can see him play for India at the end of Hero I-League. He is capable enough and there is a lot of scope for improvement which will erode with each passing game.”
Areas where improvements must be made
Though the team has impressed a lot in their debut season so far, there are a couple of areas where they need to work on.
Numerous times, the defensive tactics of the team have been questioned. Their weakness was exposed in the game against Bengaluru FC when they conceded 4 goals. In the other games as well, many times their defensive flanks were left open and they could have easily conceded more goals. Although their coach doesn’t find this a cause of concern sa he says, “scoring goals and conceding them is a part of the game. All I can say is that we are learning from our mistakes and will overcome them.” If the club can strengthen its defence it will emerge as a formidable side in the league.
Strength and fitness
The team needs to improve their fitness levels to maintain this good run of form. Their loss against Bengaluru FC was also credited to their tiredness from travelling and hectic schedules. As the young players show more promise with their skills, they need to increase their physical strength to support their skills and increase their chances of performing better in the league.
Royal Wahingdoh is a team full of young and promising players. They have shown spirited efforts this season in the I-League, a league they are participating in for the first time. They have been highly praised for their unique style where they build up their play from the back which transforms into their attack. Under Santosh Kashyap, they have played really well and with more such performances, they might emerge as a strong contender to win the league.