Although he was not a part of the Blue Tigers’ 2019 AFC Asian Cup campaign in UAE, his team-mates and Assistant Coach Shanmugam Venkatesh believe Eugeneson Lyngdoh was instrumental to India’s qualification for the Continental championship.
Lyngdoh, who had appeared on AIFF TV for a candid live chat, was flooded with wishes from his former teammates and current rivals, as he makes a comeback from injury in the upcoming Hero Indian Super League season with SC East Bengal.
“He had a huge contribution towards our qualification to AFC Asian Cup 2019. We missed him in UAE,” said former India captain and current assistant coach Shanmugam Venkatesh. “His international career started late but on his debut, against Nepal in Guwahati, it didn't look like he was playing his first game for India.”
Current India captain Sunil Chhetri, who had made a moving speech about the sacrifices of players like Lyngdoh that allowed the Blue Tigers to participate in the AFC Asian Cup on the eve of India’s first match against Thailand, stated that the latter was a big reason why the team made it to the continental stage.
“The whole team and I missed him so much at the Asian Cup. He was an important reason why we qualified in the first case,” said Chhetri.
‘Eugene,’ as he is fondly called in the dressing room had become a regular in the Blue Tigers starting XI around four years back, playing a crucial role in the midfield as India topped Group A of the Round 3 of the Qualifiers. However, it was during this campaign that the playmaker picked up an injury and hence was not fit to be picked in the final squad that made it to UAE for the main tournament.
“Injury is the last thing that any player thinks of at any given point of time in his career. But when you get a bad injury, you require a lot of mental strength to keep going,” said Lyngdoh, reflecting on the tough times that now lay behind him. “It’s a part of the game, and I have learnt to accept that we can’t play football and not get injured. It’s something that everyone has to take into consideration.”
The 34-year-old went on to describe how difficult it gets, when a player has to sit out due to an injury for the long haul.
“Injury is the most difficult thing in football. It plays with your mind, so it’s important to stay strong psychologically. It’s not easy when you see that your teammates are fit and up and running, while you are still injured or recovering. But in the end, what really defines you is how you get back from the injury,” he stated.
“I know I’ve lost a couple of years due to that injury, but now I am fit and ready to go out there,” said Eugene, as he prepares for the upcoming season in the SC East Bengal colours. “Now I have to maintain my fitness levels and be up for selection so that I can play.”