Shillong: Meghalaya state football team on Tuesday left for Kerala to take part in the senior men’s National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy final round.
Meghalaya have been drawn with three ex-champions (West Bengal, Kerala and Punjab) and Rajasthan in Group A.
The matches will take place at two grounds in Kerala’s Malappuram district. The state team will play their first match against Rajasthan on April 18. The 20-member squad is led by coach Bobby Lyngdoh Nongbet.
Before they left, the boys got words of encouragement from former India international and State legislator and Shillong Sports Association President Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Indian Super League star Redeem Tlang in Shillong.
“We have a young team and I believe the boys will put in all efforts and I’m positive this squad will do something different,” Nongbet said. “Looking at their efforts on the ground, I believe this time we will surely make a difference.”
Several senior players could not take part in the final round due to “official responsibilities and I-League duty” and this made the head coach a little tense, though there was enough time and players to “set the team and prepare and the team is now even more promising”.
“If the boys perform the way they have trained, there will be no problem in delivering. We will take one match at a time and plan and play with effectiveness. Hope you’ll be supporting us from all sides. God bless Meghalaya,” he concluded.
Group B consists of Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, defending champions Services and Manipur. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semifinals.
The final round was originally scheduled for January but was pushed back due to the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Squad: Henry Ford Nongneng, Maxderidoff Wahlang, Hardy Cliff Nongbri, Dawanplielad Myrchiang, Wilbert Donboklang Marbaniang, Saveme Tariang, Santi Janai Shianglong, Figo Syndai, Sambor Oneel Kharsahnoh, Stephanson Pale, Aibiangmame Nongneng, Dawanchwa Carlos Challam, Shano Tariang, Raikutshisha Buam, Eveningstar Bareh, Atlanson Kharmaw, Frolicson Dkhar, Manbhakupar Iawphniaw, Kynsaibor Lhuid, Gladdy Nelson Kharbuli Support staff: Bobby Lyngdoh Nongbet (coach), Dious Lapasam (assistant coach), Mayoustar Warbah (manager), Greater D Lapasam (physio).