"When I started playing football, I had no idea that it could be turned into a profession" - Hyderabad FC's Nim Dorjee Tamang speaks of meteoric rise

Nim Dorjee Tamang in Hyderabad FC training. (PC: Twitter)
Nim Dorjee Tamang in Hyderabad FC training. (PC: Twitter)

Nim Dorjee Tamang, Hyderabad FC's sacrificial lamb whenever players of (seemingly) better pedigree are fit and available, is a man of few words.

The genteel center-back, whose technical skills with the ball at his feet as well as his positioning without it is often talked about, is candid about how much it hurts to be relegated to the bench despite having put up superb performances during his time in the starting lineup.

Tamang started for Hyderabad in their inaugural game of the ISL this season against East Bengal at the Salt Lake owing to regular center-half Chinglensana Singh being called up to the Indian team for the Asian Games.

He was picked yet again in their next game against Jamshedpur at the Furnace, and that is where he showcased why he is so highly rated. Tamang gave his heart out for the Hyderabad badge and stood tall like a rock to prevent any attacks from going past him.

Despite this stellar showing of his, he was left out of the next two games that Hyderabad played, against Chennaiyin and Mumbai City, respectively, ostensibly to be replaced by Mexican center-back Oswaldo Alanis, a new arrival at the club.

In this exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Tamang bares his heart out and says how challenging it is to come to terms with such disappointments regarding team selection.

"Look, I am going to be honest with you. I am a human being and I have feelings. It hurts a lot when you are dropped from the team despitee performing well but I look at it positively. Every player wants to play. That is what we are here for. So yes, it hurt a lot and I used to get very discouraged. However, I tried to take things positively and work on what I was lacking. I tried to go back to training and work on what I could improve," Tamang said.
"If I looked at it negatively, it would have affected me and prevented me from going forward in life. That is why I take it positively and wait for another opportunity to showcase my wares. At one point, you have to understand that some things are out of the coach's hands as well. I need to take these things in my stride and keep working hard. My wife also tells me to keep working hard and not focus on the negativity. She tells me to keep the faith and believe that I will get another opportunity to play, and that is when I have to make it count. She is a source of encouragement and positivity to me," he added.
Nim Dorjee Tamang put up a stellar showing against Jamshedpur FC earlier this season. (PC: HFC)
Nim Dorjee Tamang put up a stellar showing against Jamshedpur FC earlier this season. (PC: HFC)

Tamang comes from humble beginnings and admits to having not even had the privilege of playing with 'real' footballs while growing up. Coming from the town of Melli in Sikkim, Tamang started playing with plastic balls before the bug of football bit him, and from there, his rise has been meteoric.

"When I started playing football, I had no idea that it could be turned into a profession. I did not even know that you could get paid for playing football. I started playing it solely because I loved it. I did not have much of an idea of how important technique was in this game and why it played such a big role. It was only after I got selected in the Air Force Academy for training after a good performance in the Subroto Cup that I understood the nuances of technique. I used to be a defensive midfielder back then, but turned into a centre-back soon after," Tamang elaborated.
"I took the brave call of attending the trials of Shillong Lajong when I hardly knew anything about professional football. I still remember going to Guwahati and not knowing what to do there. Shillong was an equally frightening experience because I was a boy from a small village and had hardly seen a big city like that. Thankfully, they picked me to be a part of their Youth team, and later gave me a contract with the Senior team. I am immensely grateful to Lajong for having given me an early break in my career," he added.

"Coming to Hyderabad was a big blessing for me" - Nim Dorjee Tamang

While Shillong Lajong gave Tamang the break in his career, it was the now-defunct FC Pune City that brought him into the ISL. However, a knee injury prevented him from playing much in the two seasons that he spent there.

Thankfully, NorthEast United signed him in 2019 and provided him with the opportunity to establish himself in the top league.

"When I moved to NorthEast United from Pune City, I was extremely happy. It was a matter of great pride for me to play for a side that was representing the region I come from. The supporters of NorthEast are extremely passionate about the game, and I enjoyed having them around. They would appreciate us when we did well but also criticise us when we did not. We would be astonished to see that they remembered every pass and every attempt in a match and then take us to task about that. The supporters are extremely knowledgeable there," Tamang stated.

After NorthEast United, Hyderabad FC came calling in 2021 and signed Tamang for a project that Spanish coach Manolo Marquez was building.

Having missed out on a playoff berth by a whisker the season before, the Nawabs were keen on going a step forward this time around.

What happened, eventually, has turned into folklore as Marquez turned his band of rag-tag mavericks into ISL champions. Tamang, incidentally, won the title in his first season at the club and the relationship he shared with Marquez is worth delving into.

"Coming to Hyderabad was a big blessing for me. I don't think I learnt as much in the past as I did with Manolo (Marquez) during his time here. Nor do I think will there be anyone who can surpass what he taught me. He treated us like family off the pitch, but in training, he demanded everything. He always wanted us to give our best and would be unhappy even when we won sometimes. It is only now that I realise that he used to say these things for our growth," Tamang explained.
"He would focus constantly on how he could make all of us grow, as footballers and as people. I have no doubt that it was because of this nature of Manolo's that we were able to win the title in 2021-22 and qualify for the semifinal in 2022-23. He is a phenomenal coach and person in general," he continued.
Nim enjoying a bit of the slush. (PC: Twitter)
Nim enjoying a bit of the slush. (PC: Twitter)

Marquez, however, has left the club, and Hyderabad have roped in Conor Nestor as their first-team coach and made former technical director Thangboi Singto the head coach. The Yellow and Blacks are struggling in the league, having been perched at the last position of the table with a mere point to their name.

They lost the first three games that they played (including one at home against Chennaiyin) but fought back strongly to get their inaugural point against Mumbai City away on Saturday.

Tamang, despite being disheartened with these performances, knows that a change is just around the corner and that it is still early days to rule out whether the Nawabs can qualify for the playoffs. They will next take on Bengaluru FC at the Maidaan in Gachibowli on Saturday.

"I have worked with Thangboi (Singto) sir since my Shillong Lajong days, so I know what he wants from us. As for Conor (Nestor), we need to understand that he is new to this country and will take some time to understand how things work in our football. He has achieved a lot of success in the past, and we are sure that he will be able to do so here as well. We need to be patient, and I ask the same of the fans too. We are not in the best of headspace at the moment because of the results, and this is when we need our fans to support us more and keep cheering us on. Whenever we have moments of self-doubt, we look towards our supporters for encouragement," Tamang said.
"It is only natural for everyone to be disappointed given that we have not been scoring a lot of goals. However, we have worked hard in training before this game (against Bengaluru FC) and are confident that things will turn around. Look, we did not have a lot of time for preseason as well, but it is not an excuse," he added.
"Our strikers (Jonathan Moya and Felipe Amorim) are new to this country and will naturally take some time to get used to the conditions here. However, I am sure that when they do, they will wreak havoc with opposition defences. We have eighteen more games to come, and we can very well qualify for the playoffs." he signed off.

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