Scrawny, wiry frame and sporting a close cropped mane, Eugeneson Lyngdoh appears too reticent and mild-mannered to be a footballer. People associated with Bengaluru FC, a club he has represented with some distinction, view him as this intensely shy guy with steely determination and loads of passion for the beautiful game. For those who have been following the recently concluded I-League, Eugeneson, or Eugene as he is popularly called, needs no introduction.
In only his first season with the the club, this central mid-fielder from Shillong has captivated the imagination of Indian football lovers with his deft touches and intricate box-to-box movements. He may have scored only six goals in the domestic league, but his presence gave Bengaluru FC the energy in the midfield.
His brilliant run in his debut season with last year’s champions brought him into national reckoning as coach Stephen Constantine picked him in the squad for the World Cup qualifiers — beginning with the game against Oman in Bangalore next week.
Eugene has played just one international so far, also a Cup qualifier, making his international debut against Nepal last month. His delayed entry into the national fold, though, has baffled many, including Constantine himself. “Where was Eugene all this while?” he said, on the sidelines of India’s practice session at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi. “I’m surprised he has not played for India before.”
Lack of experience, however, has not stopped Eugene from impressing the English coach, a man known to be a hard task-master, a man renowned for his hardwork and professionalism.
“I think Eugene is very dedicated and a sincere guy. He is an asset for us in the midfield, and going forward, I think he has a bright future ahead of him,” Constantine added.
The asset might have gotten off to a flying start in the domestic circuit, Eugene claims that he was more interested in academics than sport earlier on in his career.
“I grew up in Shillong and like other youngsters I was attracted to football early, but studies were my priority,” he said. The trigger to make the switch to football full-time took place when he was pursuing electronics engineering in Pune. In his third year, with too many papers in arrears, he quit engineering altogether.
“I was 20 when I quit the course in the third year and returned to Shillong to play for Ar Hima (later renamed as Rangdajied), where my father was the owner,” he said.
After spending five years with his native club, Eugene switched to Shillong Lajong in 2011. Here, he met Pradhyum Reddy, Lajong’s then deputy coach. Reddy took him under his wings and for the next two years, honing his skills and refining the player to press ahead as a creative midfielder.
Then, when Reddy was offered the role of the assistant coach under Ashley Westwood in Bengaluru FC, you know just who he brought along with him to the southern city. Here, Eugene spent time under Westwood and played alongside his national captain Sunil Chettri and Robin Singh. It proved to be the ultimate learning curve, which made him realise that football was his true calling.
“BFC has been unbelievable. I didn’t expect so much love and attention. But that’s how they function in Bengaluru, making even newcomers feel right at home,” he said. For me, my club is like one big family.”
That family pushed him towards achieving him ultimate goal, representing his nation. The first match was great, he provided an assist in India’s 2-0 win, but he knows that Oman will be a tougher challenge.
“I am looking forward to the game in Bangalore. It is going to be a challenge but we have a good coach in Constantine who knows what he is doing. I hope I can help put up a fight.”