'Inside, it was killing me': Eugeneson Lyngdoh speaks about enduring frustrating years due to knee injury
Indian footballer Eugeneson Lyngdoh talks about the tough times he endured after a serious knee injury and how he negated negative thoughts with help of family, friends and music.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh is considered to be a 'late bloomer' in the context of football. After playing almost eight years in his home town clubs of Rangdajied United and Shillong Lajong, Eugeneson got his first big break with Bengaluru FC (BFC) in 2014 and life took a dramatic turn for the midfielder. At the age of 28, the footballer was at his best, producing scintillating performances in the I-League. In his first season with the club, Eugeneson scored nine goals and assisted 16 times, proving that he was the best Indian midfielder on the pitch during that period.
He won the Bengaluru FC Fans and Players' Player of the Year awards along with being named as I-League's Midfielder of the Year. In the next season, he played a crucial role in Bengaluru FC's run to the final of the AFC Cup and was named 2015 AIFF Player of the Year. He left the club in 2017 after winning two Federation Cup titles and becoming a I-League winner in the 2015-16 season. Later, Indian Super League side ATK, now known as ATK Mohun Bagan, snapped him for Rs 1.10 crore as the first pick in the draft.
Just when he had the world at his feet, Eugeneson's life took another dramatic turn. This time, it was not for the better. During a match against Jamshedpur FC, Eugeneson collided with Mehtab Hossain and suffered a serious knee injury, which resulted in him missing the entire ISL season. Since that painful injury, Eugeneson played mere 10 matches in the league, has neither scored nor assisted and missed important games for the national team, including the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Three years of hurt could've either dampened his spirit or turned him into an agitating, impatient man, trying too hard to make up for the lost time. But Eugeneson doesn't appear to fit into these boxes. While speaking to Firstpost over the phone, he sounds composed and at peace. His responses are not only nonchalant but also reveal his deep love for the game.
"Yes, you could say that. Obviously, it was not the ideal situation. But it happens in life and I have learned to live with it, the injury and what happened after that. It's part of life," a soft-spoken Eugeneson said when asked if the last few years has been the most difficult in life.
Expanding on the kind of injury he suffered, Eugeneson said, "I got the LCL (lateral collateral ligament) injury. Not the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). The LCL is a bit rarer. So my surgery was an open one where they cut the side of my leg and fixed my ligament. My recovery was longer compared to the ACL because I couldn't move my legs for two months. I had to keep my leg straight so that the wound would heal first. After that, the process of trying to bend my knee started. Unlike the ACL where you could almost bend your knee almost immediately, the process of getting the full mobility of the knee took longer for me."
By the time the footballer made full recovery, the ISL season was already over. A new season meant a fresh start and Eugeneson was raring to hit the ground running. But more setbacks were in order. After the sacking of head coach Teddy Sheringham and later Ashley Westwood, ATK Mohun Bagan appointed Steve Coppell as the new man in charge. Under a new coach, Eugeneson didn't get many chances as his style of play was not in sync with what Coppell envisioned. The English manager didn't fancy attacking midfielders in the mould of Eugeneson, and so, the player endured another year of frustration.
Last season, Eugeneson signed with BFC on a one-year contract, going back to the club where he achieved all the success, but again, he was bereft of playing time.
"Next year, after the injury, a different coach came in and things were different. When there's a new coach, there's a different plan and all that. It took a turn, again. I didn't get to play much and then I went to BFC. Again, I didn't get much opportunity to play there. But I was happy that I was training every day and I didn't have any complications in my knee. I was happy that I could play football but not many matches."
Eugeneson agreed he was feeling the stress of not getting enough playing time, but refrained from making a big fuss about it. He didn't want his family and friends to be under pressure because of him and instead took a respite from the fact that he's surrounded by the right people.
"The stress of not playing much football was there but I never tried to put any pressure on my family and friends. In fact, what happens on the football pitch or the training ground, I never take it outside of it. So when I'm home, or with my friends, I put football aside. Having the right people around me also helped. Inside, it was killing me that I was not playing but I didn't show it outside.
"I had to be mentally strong and I tried to show that I am good enough. That's all I tried to do," Eugeneson said.
Eugeneson also revealed how turning to music has helped him in negating the negative thoughts. Guitar has been his constant companion during these tough years.
"I learned music at a very young age. My dad plays the guitar so I think I got it from him. Listening to music is one thing but learning to play instruments is another. When you play music, it really occupies your mind. Because when you're idle, there are a lot of thoughts in your mind, sometimes positive, sometimes negative.
"Especially with the situation in which I was, there were a lot of negative thoughts in my head. When I was with ATK, I was in the hotel room all alone and music helped in occupying my mind. I did learn many things by playing the guitar. After learning an instrument, you start to explore more. I am exploring the instrument every day. When you don't have anything else to do and have a musical instrument with you, it's completely different."
The footballer is a huge fan of rock, punk rock and metal and had grown up idolising Blink 182's Tom DeLonge. Currently, he's into In Flames, a Swedish heavy metal band.
Eugeneson's response to a cliched question about his future lies somewhere between cryptic and philosophical. He said, "Football is what keeps me happy. As long as I am fit, healthy and not get bored of playing football, I'll keep going. I am still in love with football. I feel that I am understanding football more now. I want to make use of that now on the pitch and not off the pitch, you understand what I mean? For the future, let's see how it pans out."
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