Meetei, Pradhan, Vaz, Tamang, Lalengmawia part of NorthEast’s massive rebuild
The Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 was a memorable one for NorthEast United FC. The club, led by the charismatic Eelco Schattorie, reached the semi-finals of the Hero ISL for the first time in their history, before going down to eventual champions Bengaluru FC. Nonetheless, the fans were pleased with the effort and will demand more of the same in the coming term.
The Highlanders, however, have their work cut out for the season and will sport a new-look side going into the 2019-20 campaign. Schattorie himself has departed to take over the reins at Kerala Blasters FC, while key names like Bartholomew Ogbeche, Rowllin Borges and Mato Grgic have also departed for new pastures. Hence, the Highlanders are in the midst of a massive rebuild and have brought in the likes of Ninthoinganba Meetei, Rakesh Pradhan, Nim Dorjee Tamang, Lalengmawia and Wayne Vaz. Under a new head coach this season, NorthEast fans will hope the new recruits, along with the ones to come and the existing batch can inspire the side to another productive campaign in 2019-20.
Here's a look at five of the Highlanders’ latest recruits:
The midfielder was signed following a terrific 2018-19 campaign for the Indian Arrows. He played 15 Hero I-League matches for the club and scored twice. Meetei was also part of the Arrows’ Hero Super Cup 2019 squad and played both matches. He rose to prominence after being selected for the India U-17 squad for the 2017 FIFA World Cup. The 18-year-old has the skillset to excel at the highest level and the prospect of watching him play is bound to excite NorthEast fans.
The Assam-born right back is a product of Shillong Lajong’s youth academy and made 31 appearances for club in the Hero I-League over the last two seasons. Solid at the back and potent at making overlapping runs, Pradhan can also contribute going forward and can turn out to be a big asset for the team. The 22-year-old will have no shortage of friends in the Highlanders dressing room as he has played with Redeem Tlang and Rupert Nongrum before.
Nim Dorjee Tamang
Twenty-three-year-old centre-back, Nim Dorjee Tamang started playing his football at Shillong Lajong and later got promoted to the senior side. Having made his senior debut back in 2015, Tamang went on to make a host of appearances for the club, following which the Stallions signed him ahead of the 2017-18 season. After missing his first campaign with the club due to an injury, the promising defender finally made his Hero ISL debut for FC Pune City last season and appeared in six matches, albeit mostly off the bench. With the Highlanders this season, Tamang will surely hope to pin down his place in the starting line-up.
The 18-year-old has penned a one-year deal with the Highlanders. Born in Mizoram, Lalengmawia started playing football from the tender age of six and rose through the ranks rapidly. Back in 2017, he became the only player from his state to make into India's historic squad for the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Lalengmawia is a natural central midfielder, who is also capable of playing a more attacking role and as a left winger. He made 11 appearances for Indian Arrows in Hero I-League 2018-19 and also scored a goal.
The versatile defender joined FC Pune City from Chennai City FC ahead of the 2017-18 season but didn’t get any game time. A loan stint at Churchill Brothers followed, where he made 10 appearances in the 2017-18 Hero I-League season and then turned out 16 times in the 2018-19 Hero I-League. The 25-year-old will be looking for his long-awaited Hero ISL debut with the Highlanders in 2019-20 and can have a lot to offer to the side.