“Pre-season helped us build a strong connection and understanding between us”: Lallianzuala Chhangte

Lallianzuala Chhangte has been the heart and soul of Chennaiyin FC in the past two seasons, having almost guided the club to an Hero Indian Super League title back in 2019-20. However, after a mixed bag in the previous year, which saw the Marina Machans end up at the eighth spot, the Indian playmaker is eager to make amends cometh the new season.

The ISL Media Team recently caught up with Lallianzuala Chhangte for an exclusive interview, where the footballer threw some light regarding their pre-season under new head coach Bozidar Bandovic and the targets for the upcoming season.

“We’ve been doing our best right now and there is plenty more to do and we have more time to prepare for the season and get to know the teammates better, unlike last season. The coach came with a proper plan, which is very very good. And if we can apply and play like one, I think we can achieve much more than what we have accomplished,” said Lallianzuala Chhangte.

Although Chhangte would be around familiar Indian faces, the foreign contingent at the club has undergone a huge overhaul. Apart from his partner-in-crime from the playmaking region - Rafael Crivellaro, fresh faces will throng the overseas quota when Chennaiyin FC begin their campaign. Fortunately, for the attacking midfielder and the team as a whole, the intense pre-season has been immensely helpful for the players to get to know each other and build a sense of understanding ahead of the showdown. Ariel Borysiuk, who played 12 matches for the Poland national football team, will be one of the players to watch out for in the league.

“Pre-season is going great right now and the players and coaches have been gelling very well. Most of the players are new, especially the foreigners, but we already know each other very well and we are building a strong connection and understanding between us. All the players are working hard, not to mention the coaches. There is a healthy competition amongst the players which is very very good,” added Chhangte.

Despite storming into the international scene with a sensational display of football in the 2015 SAFF Championships, Chhangte’s appearance in the national jersey has been very irregular off-late, with him left out of the 2021 SAFF Championships squad. The Hero ISL 2021-22 will provide the ‘Mizo Flash’ with the perfect opportunity to find his lost footing as well as make a strong claim for national team selection ahead of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.

However, the player who has already netted four goals for the Blue Tigers, believes that international football is quite similar to club football, apart from the fact that one gets the luxury of getting adapted to the playing style in the latter. Along the same lines, a footballer should not lose focus and always be ready for what the coach needs out of him.

“Well, nothing is much different when you play for your club or your country. Definitely, you have more emotional feelings when you play for your country, but, while you are with the national team, you don’t have extra time for extra training and you have to learn very quickly what the coaches want you to do,” stated the Chhenaiyin FC star.

“But, in club football, you have ample of time to adapt, yet you cannot lose your focus and you always need to be consistent and always be ready when the coaches need you. The coaches came with different philosophies, but, at the end of the day, they all wanted to win the game. So, it’s important that we listen carefully to what the coaches told you and try to do (replicate) in the matches.”

In the midst of all his exploits in the domestic circuit, Chhangte has had a taste of European football as well, with him featuring in a 10-day trial for Norwegian club Viking FK during his Delhi Dynamos FC days. In spite of receiving a call-up for the second trial, the Indian failed to transform his stay into a permanent deal. It was on his return to India back then, that Chennaiyin FC roped him for a two-year deal.

“Well, I had a very short time when I was away (staying in Norway). Wish I had more time to adapt to the climate, culture and I believe it would have been much different, but, at the same time, I was fortunate to go and have an opportunity to play with the lads, train with them, they were really nice to me and I have learnt that the quality of football is much better than here. So, you have to make quick decisions and you need to be mentally and physically very very strong to survive there.”

Chennaiyin FC will kick-start their Hero ISL 2021-22 campaign against Hyderabad FC on November 23, at the GMC Athletic Stadium, in Bambolin. Needless to say, Lallianzuala Chhangte will play a vital cog in their pursuit for a third-ever ISL title, while the task will be even more daunting with a truncated foreign quota at their disposal. That said and done, the 24-year old would surely want to replicate his idol Cristiano Ronaldo, who pushes the barrier every single time he steps on the pitch, no matter how the odds are stacked.

“Cristiano Ronaldo is my role model since I was kid, cause when I saw him play everytime, he plays like (it is) the last game of his life, he enjoys a lot, he doesn’t care about anything, he just enjoys playing football. But, what mostly makes him admire him is his work ethic,” said the footballer, who scored four goals and assisted once in the previous season for Chennaiyin FC.

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