FIFA U-17 World Cup: Lalengmawia’s clan has an evening to remember in Delhi

Two goals down and on their way out of the tournament, India brought on Lalengmawia to add 12 minutes to the minute he played against USA.

Written by Gaurav Bhatt | New Delhi | Updated: October 13, 2017 8:25 am
FIFA U 17 World Cup, India vs Ghana, Lalengmawia, India u 17 team, football news, indian Express Lalengmawia’s parents summed up the bittersweet moment with a smile, and tears. (Express photo)

One had to be unbelievably optimistic to cheer for an Indian substitute in the 78th minute. Or family, like the Lalengmawia clan. Two goals down and on their way out of the tournament, India brought on the midfielder to add 12 minutes to the minute he played against USA. The board flashed the number 13 and sent Lalengmawia’s family in a frenzy, halting those leaving in droves for a moment. The ones who stayed stared bemusedly, and joined in five minutes later when Lalengmawia played a 1-2 with Rahul and unleashed one from range, drawing a rare save from the Ghana goalkeeper.

The visitors responded by scoring twice in double quick time, effectively silencing all but their fans, two of which turned around and taunted the Lalengmawia family: “I-N-D-I-A. Five letters. We need another goal.”

“We are sad. But also a little happy,” Zoteizovi — a family friend who offered to translate for Lalengmawia’s parents — summed up the bittersweet moment with a smile, and tears. “Most of all, we are proud. In a way, this was the first football World Cup for India. And he will also be remembered because of it.”

The only player from Mizoram to make it to the squad, Lalengmawia, who turns 17 on Tuesday, wasn’t in the scheme of things to begin with. It wasn’t until the 1-1 drawn friendly between players from northeast and India U-17 team that the management took notice of him. His father, who works as a butcher, says Lalengmawia was inspired by the exploits of Aizawl FC earlier this year and “was going to make the cut no matter what.”

“He has been playing since he was six and we have always supported his dream,” he said. “In India, it’s tough when your child wants to play a sport professionally, that too football. Northeast is a little better that way, but not Mizoram.”

How about Delhi? Quizzed about their experience of watching Lalengmawia play 2100km away from home, Zoteizovi said, “It can be painful. I live and work in Delhi, and watching the match here, it has been clear. There are some who don’t understand football.”

“But they are very polite,” Lalengmawia Sr jumps in. “Delhi is wonderful. Also, I like watching ‘Apua’ play, no matter where he is.”

Zoteizovi explains the nickname ‘Apua’ is Mizo for “something… that will get… bigger.”
And Lalengmawia?

“A bright, handsome king.”

For all the latest Sports News, download Indian Express App

    Live Cricket Scores & Results
    indian super league 2017 schedule

    indian super league 2017 points table