Lalhrezuala: I still don’t believe that I have scored a goal in the Hero ISL

Odisha FC midfielder S Lalhrezuala played just two games in the 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) – his firsts for the club -- but his performance against SC East Bengal continues to linger in memories well beyond the season. In what was both teams’ last match of the season having failed to advance to the semi-finals, free-flowing, attacking football took over and Odisha FC claimed the high-scoring contest 6-5, a record for the Hero ISL in terms of most goals in a match.

Lalhrezuala played an important role in his team’s win as it was his goal in the 33rd minute that restored parity between the two sides after Anthony Pilkington had put SC East Bengal ahead. “It was amazing. I still don’t believe that I have scored a goal in the [Hero] ISL – the highest league in India. It was really a moment to cherish. I don’t know how to say it. It was just amazing. It surprised me a lot and motivates me to develop and encourages me to grow in my professional football career,” the 20-year-old told sportslightmedia.       

The Mizoram-born player also emphasised the importance of academies in the development of a budding footballer. “The most important thing for the development of young players is having good academies and good management at the grassroot levels,” he said.

“India has to get more academies coming up in the country so that more and more young and talented players like us can come up and improve. We have developed from the proper academy. All the states in the country should have a proper grassroots structure and academy for the growth of the players.”

Talking about his Aspire Academy experience in Doha (Qatar) where he learnt a great deal thanks to Odisha FC’s initiatives in 2019, Lalhrezuala said: “First of all, I want to thank Odisha FC for believing in me and giving a chance to be a part of the team. But during my Aspire Academy days, I learnt numerous things like how to develop and deliver, how to become a good and more skilful player and finally how to become more professional. Many big and experienced players used to come over there and we learnt a lot by seeing them in the academy. I really had a good time at the Aspire Academy with my mates.”

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