Mizoram! The name is sure to ring a bell for all Indian Football fans. Right from the two Godfathers of Mizo Football – Zehry Zirsanga to Shylo Malsawmtluanga (better known as Mama) – to current-day heartthrob Jeje Lalpekhlua and his best pal Lalrindika Ralte, the supply-line from the North-Eastern state has stayed consistent.
Following the footsteps, here comes another nimble-footed teenager, someone who has been quietly pulling the strings from the middle of the park for the India U-16 National Football Team ahead of the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia – Lalchhanhima Sailo.
Having been a part of India’s qualification campaign for the AFC U-16 Championship, Sailo described the Blue colts’ last qualifier match against Iraq as his favourite moment so far in his career – when they played a stalemate against an unstoppable Iraqi side in the group.
“The moment of qualification was a moment of pure joy,” he smiles. “When we realised that we had actually qualified, we were so happy that we actually cried. Tears of joy,” he went silent for some moment. “It was a completely different feeling. We danced like we had never danced before.”
Being the typical midfielder that he is, Sailo models his game after his Real Madrid star and FIFA’s 2018 Best Men’s Player awardee Luka Modric, who played a key role in Croatia’s run to the 2018 FIFA World Cup final in Russia.
Sailo is not a kid who hails from an affluent background. However, the teenager has football coursing through his veins. His father, who works as a hawaldar (police constable), plays for the Mizoram Police football team.
Sailo was quick to recollect the problems he faced while playing football in his locality. While the midfielder and his friends wanted to play the ‘beautiful game’ outside their local church, they were often forbidden from doing so.
However, that was not enough from stopping the kids from following the calling of their heart.
“We were often told not to play outside the church, but we used to come back and play anyway,” Sailo laughs. “We were quite naughty back then. Sometimes they would even get sticks to chase us away. But that didn’t stop us from going back,” he added.
Nevertheless, Sailo is a devout Catholic – he always prays before a match. “That gives me strength.”