Akhil Rawat
AIFF Media Team

MANJERI: Midfielder Lalchhanhima Sailo is one of Aizawl FC’s youngest players this season and one of the most reliable ones as well. While the Reds have been eliminated from the Hero Super Cup after back-to-back losses to Hyderabad FC and Odisha FC, Sailo has been a bright spot in the middle of the park.

“It might have been a defeat for us, but we’ve gained a lot of experience sharing the stage with the ISL clubs in a tournament where teams from both leagues are participating. Apart from not being able to capitalise our chances, I think we have played very well as a young squad,” said Sailo after the loss to Odisha.

At just 20 years of age, Sailo already has four seasons’ worth of Hero I-League experience under his belt. He was also part of the Indian squad that made it to the quarter-finals of the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia.

Sailo made his senior professional debut in 2019-20 with Indian Arrows, where he stayed until the end of the 2021-22 season. After being snapped up by Aizawl FC last year as one of their youngest recruits, he was still the fifth-most experienced player in their squad.

“The feeling of playing in my hometown club is quite different from playing for other clubs. I see so many fans who come to cheer us up and create a great atmosphere. I’m really happy with what we as a team have achieved so far. But also, I believe we can do better,” Sailo shared.

Typical of a central midfielder, Sailo always wants the ball at his feet. Scanning the pitch, distributing the ball upfront and out wide or carrying the ball forward with his quick change of pace is what makes him the midfield general of Aizawl. Occasionally, he might have a go at the goal himself from distance as he did against Mumbai Kenkre in the Hero I-League this season. And that too, twice. First with his right foot, then his left foot, he scored two screamers in the space of just ten minutes, exhibiting not just his shooting prowess but also his two-footedness.

While Sailo remains a vital player in orchestrating attacks, when asked what improvements he would like in his game, he said, “My strong areas are the middle and attacking third, but helping the team in defence is where I would like to do better.”

Aizawl still have their last group stage match against East Bengal FC coming up next Monday, and Sailo remains upbeat for that one. “We don’t want to go back empty-handed, so we will be looking to take three points. Even though we’re out of the group stage, we can still change the table and have a say in determining who qualifies for the semi-final. So yes, I expect a good game against East Bengal.”

As a team, we have gained lots of experience here, which, I believe, is an important tool in building the confidence to take us to the next level,” Sailo concluded.