Considered the ‘Godfather’ of Mizo footballers, ShyloMalswamtluanga is quick to dismiss the moniker as a kind gesture and that he likes to go by ‘Mama.’ Asked why current India players like JejeLalpekhlua and LalrindikaRalte credit him fortheir desire to follow their dreams, he simply remarks: “I was just the first to leave Mizoram, become a professional player and to play for so many clubs in India. This was an inspiration to others. I’m aware of the examples I continually set. It’s not pressure, but it’s being aware of yourresponsibilities.”
Having made his debut for the mighty East Bengal, the diminutive 30-year-old went on to play for major clubs such as MohunBagan andSalgaocar. It was during his stint withPrayag United that he got some major distinctions under his belt, winning the Federation Cup, Durand Cup, two league titles, IFA Shield and the SAFF Championship as an India U-23 player. All this success came at a sacrifice for Shylo who found life tough after he was picked to leave Mizoram in order to learn and study football while not knowing how to speak English or Hindi.
“There was a huge language barrier when I moved away from Mizoram. I would secretly cry at the Tata Football Academy in Jamshedpur. But I told myself that football is all I have to back myself up.”
It is with this courage that he laid the groundwork for his own career and a blueprint for other footballers from the small north-east state to follow, in particular Lalrindika, who says of Shylo: “He is an inspiration. We used to see his interviews on TV and read about him scoring goals. That is when we thought that we could make it too. We have to leave the state to get recognized in the rest of India.”
Playing as a quick right-winger all his life, Shylomay not have registered a goal or an assist this season so far but it’s his combination with experienced players such as the Italian legend and captain Alessandro Del Piero and Mads Junker that has teams and fans sit up and take notice.
Manager Harm van Veldhoven may have taken time to teach the team his methods and exactly what he wants out of them. But, things are changing. Delhi won just once in their first nine matches.However, in the current scenario they haven’t lost in three – winning two of those, sitting just outside the top four places and as a shoo-in to qualify.
Coach van Veldhoven is cognizant of how adjusting to tactics may take some time. For example, talking of the match against Kolkata he says, “They were playing with three defensive midfields in the middle. Our attackers were unable to find free players or free space. That is why I had later substituted Mama in. In such a game you only get a few chances, but unfortunately we were unable to take the ones we got.” This shows just how dependable the Mizo winger can be but unfortunately for him and Delhi Dynamos, they couldn’t find a breakthrough.
With only two matches to go, van Veldhoven will be wise to start with Shylo in his team knowing his runs up and down that right wing can help his team both defend and attack with astuteness.