The Shillong Lajong Football Club’s Federation Cup semifinal triumph over favourites Churchill Brothers at Guwahati’s Nehru Stadium on Wednesday was a buoyant moment that not just Meghalaya but the rest of the Northeast too would cherish. After all, here is a football club from the region that has caught the nation’s soccer imagination, proving there is no dearth of soccer talent in the region that only awaits exploration. Many are saying the final, to be played on January 3, is now inconsequential because the Lajong players, groomed meticulously by coach Stanley Rozario, have already proved their merit. True, in the wake of the marvellous display of speed and skills on Thursday, the final outcome cannot be allowed to act an instrument of distraction: if they win, it is fine; if they lose, they have nothing to lose except the touch of the cup. That is, if they win, the euphoria must not eclipse the fact that one should remain humble and remain a student for ever; if they lose, it must be a moment to reflect on the journey traversed so far and grow as ever.
That said, there is a message following the Lajong glory: that the country’s soccer authorities cannot now ignore the northeastern region where talents endowed with great stamina — so vital for the game — are aplenty, and that it is time the region too shifted its games focus from cricket to other arenas like football. If Lajong can happen to Meghalaya, so also could a gem as that adorn the soccer canvas of the rest of the northeastern States, provided of course one locates the right talents and finds a competent coach to guide them. Let now the region’s soccer bodies be pro-active, free from political grip. THE SENTINEL