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From Engineering dropout to Indian Football star – the rise of Eugeneson Lyngdoh

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From Engineering dropout to Indian Football star – the rise of Eugeneson Lyngdoh

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Amlan Majumdar

11/29/2015

Eugeneson Lyngdoh's life is not a run-of-the-mill story of an engineer. It is of one's desire to break the norm and pursue a path not many dare to venture into. If you are still thinking about making that unpopular career change, this Bengaluru FC & FC Pune City midfielder's story might just give you the final push you need.

A study in 2014 showed that nearly 1.5 million engineers pass out every year in India, which is more than the total number of engineers produced by China and the USA combined together. This staggering number is not a projection of the intellectual capability of this nation, as the same study also showed that only a tiny percentage of these engineers are 'employable'. It is just the most convenient route, and one of the most reliable, to get a job in today's India.

In a nation where parents often decide what their son or daughter will grow up to be even before deciding their names, 'unconventional' jobs are often frowned upon. People do not like to entertain the risk and the 'headaches' that aberrant career choices bring.

“I have not always chosen the safest path. I've made my mistakes, plenty of them. I sometimes jump too soon and fail to appreciate the consequences. But I've learned something important along the way: I've learned to heed the call of my heart. I've learned that the safest path is not always the best path and I've learned that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted,” Steve Goodier, author of Lessons of the turtle, said.

Thankfully a few do not follow the norm.

FC Pune City midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh's success story is what a lot of engineers aspire for in our nation, but are just left to regret 'what could have been' due to their reluctance to take the leap of faith.

Like many, Eugeneson made the long trip from Shillong to Pune to pursue a degree in electronics and telecommunication from the Maharastra Academy of Engineering. Being the son of an engineer brings along a lot of expectations – expectation to follow the same path, to uphold family tradition. All these expectations stifled Eugeneson's love for football, at least initially.

But he could never stay away from the sport he excelled in, since his school days. The 29-year-old never had the proper guidance at an early age to pursue his passion.

“Football has always been a part of my life since school. I played for my school and university. I was focused on academics then too, and pursuing my degree. And it’s not that it held me back, but I just didn’t have a clear path to follow my football ambition,” Eugeneson said in an interview to Live mint.

Lyngdoh rose quickly in Pune's footballing circle and went on to represent both the district team and Pune University.

"I represented the college football team, then Pune district team and then Pune University .I was more involved playing football than engineering. I was playing every tournament there was. I also played for local team Thundercatz for a while,” Eugeneson revealed to Times of India.

But his dedication for the game came at a cost. The midfielder received a backlog in his studies, and eventually he dropped out of the college in his third year to return to Shillong. Back in his home town, Eugeneson represented his father's club, Ar-Hime, which was later renamed as Rangdajied United.

His talent did not go unnoticed and Pradyum Reddy, who was the coach of Shillong Lajong in 2011, persuaded him to leave his boyhood club and join Shillong, convinced that Eugeneson was destined for greater things.

“I first saw him when I was coaching Shillong, and he was playing for the opposite team, Ar-Hima, which is now known as Rangdajied United. He was easily the best player on the pitch, and I really didn’t know why he was wasting his talent for a team that was playing in the second division. After the match, I went and offered him the opportunity to play for us. He was a little reluctant because he wanted to play for his boyhood club and help them qualify for the top division. But he made a good footballing decision to play for us. Part of the deal was that he play for free,” Reddy told Live mint in an interview.

Eugeneson stamped his class on I-League immediately and became the club's top scorer in the 2011-12 season. Following two impressive seasons with Shillong Lajong and then a short return to Rangdajied, who were promoted to the I-League, Eugeneson received an offer from none other than the reigning I-League champions Bengaluru FC. That was the start of the most extraordinary phase in his career.

Pradyum Reddy, who signed him for Shillong Lajong, was the assistant manager of Bengaluru FC at that time (he still is) was once again a major factor in orchestrating this move. Eugeneson would go on to have a stellar season for the Blues, and would break a lot of records.

He scored Bengaluru's first-ever goal in an Asian club competition, when he found the back of the net in the AFC Champions League qualifier against Malaysian club Johor Darul Ta'zim. The goal arrived directly from a corner, as he showed glimpses of his footballing idol David Beckham. That goal also meant he became the first I-League player to score in all the four club competition in a season.

Eugeneson scored nine goals and provided 16 assists in 33 appearances for Bengaluru as they lifted the Federation Cup and finished second in the I-League points table. During his time, he won over the West Block fans and won Fan's Player of the Year award, along with the Player's Player of the Year award. The club management did not waste any time and offered him a two-year contract extension.

The dynamic midfielder became one of the hottest properties in Indian football and found himself in the 10-man list of Indian players who were put up for auction for Indian Super League 2015.

Eugeneson's base price was set at Rs 27.5 lakh and the measure of his demand was visible during the auction when six out of the eight ISL teams started bidding for him. By the time FC Pune City managed to win the bidding war, his price tag had risen a whopping Rs 1.05 crores – only Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri earned more.

It was a fantastical change in fortune for a player who was signed for free by Shillong Lajong four years back.

Pune have struggled with their form in the second half of this ISL, but Eugeneson has continued to impress, even amidst superstars and big name foreign players. David Platt has praised the midfielder, while Indian national team manager Stephen Constantine has already provided him with eight international caps.

In an interview with Times of India, Eugeneson regretted the lack of proper academies in the country and wished he had proper guidance at a younger age. "I was never in an academy. I always wanted to play football but I never had the right path to go about it. I had to do my engineering then quit it midway to end up playing football. Had I started played football at a younger age and given proper coaching, who knows what I would have been by now. There has to be a proper academy to become a footballer," Eugeneson told TOI.

He also hoped that his success story will encourage parents to encourage their children to chase their dreams.

"In India, parents normally don't allow their children to take up football as a career. But my ISL contract should be an eye-opener. Parents letting their kids play will unearth more talent. I hope my example will benefit other aspiring players in the country" he added.

Make that jump. Take that risk you have been planning for a long time. Chase your dreams, fight for it. Eugeneson Lyngdoh did it – get inspired.

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