As actor and co-owner of NorthEast United FC John Abraham put it, the idea of having a team from the north-east of India in the Hero Indian Super League with Guwahati as the base was to project talents from that region. “That is the hotbed of football talents in the country,” he said.And he may not be the first person to say that.
Several experts had voiced the need of putting a lot more focus on the men from the hills. There are 14 men from the north-east states in this ISL side. The fact that Bhaichung Bhutia revolutionised Indian football lends currency to the importance of the region.
One such player is 20-year-oldSeiminlen‘Len’ Doungel, who is a Manipur-born lad andhas the abilitiy to go places. After graduating from JCT’s junior programme, the young striker had stints with East Bengal, Pailan Arrows and has now signed for Shillong Lajong. He may have scored just one goal so far but there is something about his approach, attitude and assurance that coaches invest confidence in picking him over others.Considering his background as an expert in structured development programme, New Zealander and current NorthEast coach Ricki Herbert is the right man to give the young Manipuri direction in a career that already promises much.
Diminutive in physical stature, Len is weak in the air and foreign defenders have often proved to be a touch physical for him, but the desire to stand out is what Herbert has seen in him. He has so far had eight appearances in the ISL and the one goal scored so far was a sweet volley in an away fixture against Chennaiyin FC that had Herbert impressed. “We gave him a chance and he scored a great goal,” he had said while acknowledging his contribution to the team.
What is significant is that players like Len are playing against players of the experience of Bernard Mendy, Mikael Silvestre and Marco Materazzi. That would only do him a world of good in the years to come.
Each match is a learning curve for Len and the young man is enjoying it. With the kind of experimentation that Herbert has been trying, this Manipuri could continue to be in the thick of action and that should polish his versatility further.