Beyond The Pitch: Redeem's Story

November 29, 2018

 


My journey started from a small village named Dkhiah in the East Jaintia hills of Meghalaya. Like most kids in my village, I used to play football in our local school ground and at school.

 

When I was in class I, my father got transferred to Shillong and I got admitted to St. John's School, Shillong where I studied till class III.

 

After a few months, I moved to St. Anthony's School and that's when I really got stuck into football. In class IV, I started to play in the inter-class football matches and that's when I received my first football boots. That moment was special for me, the joy I experienced having my first football boots, was beyond words.

 

The moment I realized football was my life when I was in class VII and I was selected to represent our school (St. Anthony's Higher Secondary School) for the U-14 Subroto Cup. We had a good run in the tournament, but we missed out in the finals where we lost 2-1 in extra time.

 

Back at home, Sunday mornings were special for me. I used to visit the Polo ground with my father for the morning practice session and used to enjoy having ‘Jah-doh’ after practice. Hot steaming Jah-doh during the chilly December evenings used to fill me up with happiness after the practice.

 

My father used to take me to the shops to buy my football kits and he often insisted me not to buy the expensive ones. My father always said, "one day when you make it big you can buy the expensive boots for yourself", and I always kept that motivation within me to reach that level someday, where I could buy the best boots in the market.

 

I used to repair my boots often, like most of our academy kids, and used to clean my boots every night before going to bed. My father always taught me about respecting the ‘tools of the trade’. Till today, I always clean my boots for the next day’s practice before going to bed.

 

The turning point in my life came in 2008 when I was playing in the Meghalaya U-14 Football Festival and Coach Boby Nongbet spotted me and asked me to join the Shillong Lajong youth team.

 

Lajong changed the way I looked at football. The high tempo practice of senior boys mesmerized me. I used to stand for hours behind the iron mesh nets and watch the senior boys play and tried to emulate their skills.

 

I would often stay back after practice and kept honing my free-kick skills in the empty stadium to achieve that tad bit of perfection.

 

I would imagine in my head the stadium to be full and executing the same drills I was practising for the Lajong senior team. I’d always push myself to perfect a cross or to put a proper right swing on my free-kicks for long hours after practice.

 


I’d keep an empty bucket in the penalty box and practice my crosses into the box till I was satisfied. I did it every day, every single day after practice and tried to land my crosses into the bucket till I reached a point where I achieved a realistic result.

 

I was already believing that I will have to do this for my team sometime soon. I could see the vision, I was prepared.

 

So when it came, I was ready.

 

 

 

I kept my routine simple and it’s still the same. I try to switch off before the game and try to divert my nervous energy before matches by listening to music. I like long drives, I often drive out of Shillong towards Jowai and my native villages to free my mind from all complexities of life. It gives me a sense of freedom and rhythm.

 

We are a close-knit family, but I don’t like speaking much about my game with them. My sister is always very keen about my game. On my 15th birthday, she saved money in her piggy bank and gifted me a Man United jersey. She knew I was a United fan but she didn’t tell me and it was really a pleasant surprise for me. Till today we share a strong bond.

 

The following season (2009-10), I joined the Lajong Youth Team and started to believe in my potential and it was the time of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed staying in the hostel with other academy boys, training hard every day and just enjoying the game.

 

I was living the life of just another schoolboy. Dropping classes to go play football with my friends while my parents were not convinced about pursuing football as a career. They kept persisting me to focus on studies and were not happy with my long practice hours.

 

In 2012, I joined the U-19 Shillong Premier League and we also qualified for the U-19 I-League for the first time. This opened a completely new window for me and gave me an opportunity to travel and experience different parts of our vast country.

 

After 2013, Shillong Premier League season ended, and I went through a serious hamstring injury that put me in tremendous pain. I started to doubt myself whether I would be able to compete at the top level again, but by the time the next season started I recovered and was ready to take my career to the next level.

 

Though I was slowly progressing as a footballer, my parents were still not convinced that I could be a professional footballer. They wanted me to study Automobile Engineering and wanted me to become a successful engineer.

 

However, I ended up enrolling in Shillong College for a general B.A course and the main reason for choosing Shillong College was that the management was extremely supportive to sportsmen and I could really focus on my training without having to worry about attending regular classes. It was fantastic to win the inter-college tournament during this time three times in a row (2013-15).

 

At this point, I was happy the way my career was progressing though I wasn't sure about my future and my mind wandered everywhere.

 

I even had a brief thought about studying Hotel Management because the hospitality industry attracted me, but I am happy I stuck to football.

 

In the following year, I finally broke into the Lajong Senior squad under Thangboi Singto. This was 2013, I made my debut against Churchill Brothers. Life was on a different mode now, I enjoyed the change from a junior footballer to play in the senior squad. From travelling in trains to travel by flights, from staying in sports hostels to fancy hotels.

 

At this point, my parents were slowly convinced seeing me on TV playing in Lajong’s colours.

 

 

 

 

For any player the first senior goal is always special, I remember scoring a winner in the Federation Cup in Kochi against Salgaocar. In 2014, I was loaned from Lajong to NEUFC and I officially signed for the Highlanders in 2018.

 

I am happy with my life and grateful for whatever I have achieved in my life so far. It gives me immense pleasure to see my parents happy, my father often comes to watch me play. He always has a word of advice for me on how to improve and my sister never misses my game.

 

My family has been a good support system but staying away from my family can be hard at times. Whenever I am down, I watch Pelé: Birth of a Legend.

 

The movie inspires me a lot and gets me going when the chips are down.

 

Finally, I am very happy with my life at NEUFC and to be coached by Eelco Schattorie who always gets me going and brings the best out of me. I have learned a lot in this club since training`sessions are scientifically structured here and everything is done in a systematic way which I wasn’t aware before like our injury prevention and recovery sessions.

 

I enjoy staying together with the team and I really cherish my friendship with Rupert, whom I, of course, know from the Lajong days. When we are free, we often go out to restaurants and try to find ‘Khasi foods’ which we miss from back home. I feel blessed to be part of this team and the way we are playing.

 

The Coach pushes us every day, sets realistic goals for us and we as a team try to always achieve it. I hope we can bring glory to the club together as a team and fight for the league title!

 

 

 

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