I-League: Daniel Lalhlimpuia - 'My village is keeping me grounded'

Bengaluru FC's Daniel Lalhlimpuia is coming on the back of his breakthrough season and is currently involved in social work back in his village during the off-season...

Bengaluru FC forward Daniel Lalhlimpuia has been one of the few up and coming stars who made their mark in the 2015-16 I-League season. Winning the league title in his breakthrough season surely wouldn’t have quenched the youngster’s thirst for success, thanks to the wise head the 18-year-old has on his shoulders.

Speaking exclusively to Goal, Lalhlimpuia revealed how he had his first dalliance with the beautiful game and how he landed an unexpected trial with the Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA) that changed his fortunes.

“In my younger age, I used to play in my village. To be honest, I had never dreamt of going out of my village and play in other parts of the country. All of a sudden, when I was a part of my school team, I was called up for a trial at the Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA). And I got selected there, and that is how it all started for me – a trial with the CFA, out of nowhere,” exclaims Lalhlimpuia.

From then on, there was no looking back for the boy from the Serchhip district of Mizoram. Under the tutelage of former India international Harjinder Singh he went on to represent Chandigarh in age level tournaments and various age group teams of India as he patiently lays out.

“In 2007, I joined the Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA) and from there, I got selected in the Indian Under-16 national team in 2011. We qualified for the AFC Championship that year and played in the Championship in 2012. The next year, in 2013, we played again in the Under-19 AFC Championship qualifiers, but we couldn’t qualify from there. Then I was in the AIFF Elite Academy. There I stayed for three years and was able to learn a lot and improve myself both on and off the pitch. Then I joined Bengaluru before this season,” he explained.

Lalhlimpuia scored three goals in the qualifiers for the AFC Under-16 Championship 2012, before netting one in the final tournament as well, as India bowed out in the group stage.

While boys his age at the cusp of stardom would see their nights become dawn in clubs and take the partying route ever too often, Daniel has been spending his time in his modest village, which he believes is well preserved from the culture of the cities.

“My village is not like a city, where you can go to pubs and nightclubs, party all your time. Here, I think it’s a very good place to live for someone like me. There are no distractions, like I won’t go out for a drink in the night like it happens in the cities. My village is keeping me grounded. I’m far from the cities and those happenings. Here, I get called to schools, to the church, to motivate the children, there are some interviews, there are some organizations here that want to give me rewards here or to felicitate me. During those ceremonies, sometimes there are interviews with television channels where I am asked to motivate people and say that football isn’t just a game. Football can change a person’s life. It is a viable career option,” presses the captain of the Indian Under-19 national team, sounding mature for his age.

He reveals upon further pressing what his speeches in the schools have been. As is evident from the youngster’s Instagram page as well, he has been speaking to the kids not just about football but also about the importance of being educated.

“Here in my village, school principals call and asked me if it would be possible for me to come over and motivate the children and give them some advice. So I went and told them that in sport you can go as far as you want and reach whatever heights you want. I told them that they could get a chance, like me, if they wanted to pursue playing football as their careers. Maybe some other schools will again call me for something similar, and it is good for me as well to pass down what I have learnt and to give them my experience. Also, I could get to know them better as well. So it is beneficial for not only them but for me as well,” reveals Lalhlimpuia.

He also reveals the players he idolizes, and when one looks at the international star he looks up to, his level-headedness and maturity come as no great surprise.

“In the domestic circuit, I idolize my club teammate Sunil Chettri. Among the overseas players, I am a huge fan on Kaka,” he said.