NEW DELHI: When Eugeneson Lyngdoh had walked into the dressing room of the Indian National Team in March 2015, India were languishing at 173 in the FIFA Rankings, facing a stern test against Nepal in the FIFA World Cup Preliminary Qualifiers under newly appointed Head Coach Stephen Constantine who had taken over a month earlier (in February 2015).
For India thing looked bleak. It was a start of a process to undergo massive change, gradually crawling back and gaining strides in the FIFA Ladder after slumping to their lowest FIFA Ranking ever in March 2015.
Lyngdoh, in his late 20s had been overlooked till then and made his National Team debut in the first leg of the match against Nepal, which India eventually won 2-0 on aggregate. The process was, hence, underway engineered by Head Coach Stephen Constantine.
Recollecting moments from his debut Eugene says, “It was a bitter-sweet feeling for me. Sweet because I was making my National Team debut and was so proud to represent my country and bitter because there was this fear of Nepal defeating us.”
“When I was lining up on the pitch it was more like nervousness that you have before something big. Those emotions cannot be put into words.”
“We were 173. Nepal was ranked higher than us in that moment so the fear of them (Nepal) upsetting was already there,” he adds.
Thereafter, India’s climb started and so did Eugene’s. Since that 2-0 win against Nepal in early 2015, India have progressed by leaps and bounds. So much so that the Constantine’s men have jumped 78 spots and now are ranked 96 in the FIFA Rankings which were released on July 06, 2017.
As an integral member of the National Team setup under Coach Constantine, one is forced to ask the ‘Midfield Maestro’, was it all envisioned? Eugene laughs and shrugs it away. “It wasn’t but that’s the beauty of Football. We took one match at a time. We focused on our opponents and things started happening.”
“Our rise in the FIFA Ranking is because of the matches we have won. We never really cared if our Ranking was progressing. All that mattered was that we have to win the next match and hence our Ranking also improved.”
“We lost a lot of games by a one goal margin. Games were could have won, but then that is Football. However, the main thing was that we believed in ourselves, in the Coach and believed that good times will also come,” he states.
Lyngdoh was also part of the Indian Team, which won the SAFF Suzuki Championship in 2016 defeating higher ranked Afghanistan in the Finals.
“Our belief became stronger from that moment. We believed that we have the potential to go a long way. It was a surreal feeling (to win the SAFF Championship).”
It has been a year of high for the Indian National Team, breaking into the top 100 of World Football is a herculean feat for a Nation that was languishing at 173 just two years before.
So where does the Indian Team go from here? Perhaps as Eugeneson Lyngdoh said: “We take one match at a time and we believe,” seems to be the formula of India’s success at the moment