But one thing they have in abundance is hope that better days are not far away and that their performance in the 76th National Football Championship for Hero Santosh Trophy will help them progress and reach their goal.
As Karnataka and Meghalaya gear up for their clash in the Santosh Trophy final on Saturday (March 4), their players have different aims and aspirations which they hope to achieve after helping their teams reach this stage. They believe winning the title on Sunday will bolster their chances of either getting a job as in the case of Ronaldkydon Luyngdoh Nonglait of Meghalaya or getting noticed by the talent scouts of ISL or I-League clubs like in the case of Karnataka’s Bengaluru FC players Robin Yadav, Satyajit Bordoloi and Ankith P,
The incentive for Meghalaya’s veteran defender Brolington Warlarpih, who wants to hang up his boots on a high by helping his team win its maiden Santosh Trophy. The Meghalaya players are anyway on a high as they took their state to a new high by propelling the team to the semifinals and final of the National Football Championships.
As their manager and former India player Eugenson Lyngdoh said during an interaction at the team hotel on Thursday, the state has produced many players that have played in ISL and I-League and some of them even represented the nation, the state has never excelled in the Santosh Trophy ever.
"Yeah, it’s the first time that the state has performed so well at the national level. It’s always been we’ve done well at other levels, but when it comes to Santosh Trophy, we’ve never really achieved anything yet. So for this team to qualify for the semis and then now for the final, it’s just been a testament, to be honest, for us from Meghalaya to be proud of because obviously with the amount of Work that has been done by private entities and to some extent the government to some, to every extent, all the associations involved with Meghalaya football. So we’ve all contributed to football and this is the past, you can say 30-40, years," he said.
"The thing is that now there is a sense of belief among the players, especially within the state. Before this, we have talent, but we didn’t have that sense of belief within. But now when you look at the players, you see that there’s a lot of sense of belief, there’s a lot of confidence that you see coming out of them. So I think when it comes to sports, that is very, very important," said Eugenson, whose career at the senior level was cut short by injuries and is now guiding the players as manager of the team.
Brolington is a prime example of the transformation of the Meghalaya players as he has reached the semifinals and final in his 10th attempt at the Santosh Trophy. That is the reason why the 34-year-old, who is employed as a laundry supervisor with a central-government hospital in the state capital Shillong, wants to quit as a player when on a high and also to spend time at home with his wife and eight-month daughter Abigail.
While Brolington is hoping to give his career, mostly spent playing in Shillong Division League, a fitting finale in Riyadh, others are hoping that the 76th edition of the Santosh Trophy will open new doors for them.
In the case of Ronaldkydon Luyngdoh Nonglait, who does not have a job and is nurturing a football career with his meagre earnings from playing in the Shillong league and help from his family.
Ronaldkydon, who lists his part-namesake Ronaldo (Cristiano) as his idol, hopes Meghalaya’s Cinderella run in Santosh Trophy 2022-23 will help get him a job. The team’s achievements have already generated a lot of excitement back home in Meghalaya and even the state’s chief minister has tweeted about the team’s success in Santosh Trophy.
Forward Sheen Stevenson Sohktung is hoping that his exploits in the Santosh Trophy will get noticed by bigger clubs and open new avenues for him. The 23-year-old is currently plying his trade in Bengaluru playing for a club in the Bengaluru Divison Football Association’s Super Divison Cup.
Sheen scored the winning goal for Meghalaya in the semifinal against multiple-time champions Punjab that sealed a 2-1 win for the team from the NorthEast state.
Sheen will be hoping to emulate his performance in the semifinals and help Meghalaya win their maiden Santosh Trophy. That will further nurture the dreams of the Meghalaya players.