New Delhi [India], June 3 (ANI): Indian football team forward Lallianzuala Chhangte burst on the scene during the 2015 SAFF Championships when he scored a brace after coming off the bench against Nepal, which was just his second appearance for the senior national team. For 18-year-old Chhangte, the tournament culminated with hosts India winning the SAFF Championship title for a seventh time.
Having also represented the Indian team at the U-19 and U-23 levels previously, the Mizoram-born winger has become one of the mainstays in the Indian football team setup since 2015. Raw pace, close-control dribbling and the ability to score from distance are some of Chhangte's key attributes, but he also remains one of the fittest players in the Indian team at present.
Chhangte took part in DSK Shivajians' Liverpool International Football Academy trials in Aizawl, and later moved to Pune for the second phase of the trials. After impressing the scouts, he signed for DSK Shivajians and represented them in the U-18 and U-19 I-League for two seasons. His performances earned him an opportunity to train with the Liverpool FC youth academy in England, along with Odisha FC's Jerry Mawihmingthanga.
Chhangte soon made his way to the DSK Shivajians' first team and has gone from strength to strength since then. Chhangte, who was awarded the of the League award in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season, recalled how his time with the Liverpool International Academy shaped him as a professional player.
"When I joined the Liverpool DSK International Academy back in 2014, I was around 16 years old. And since I joined that academy from the first day, my dream was to become one of the best players in India," he said in an interview with The AIFF.
"But then I looked around at other players and my teammates, they were much stronger and bigger than me, so I knew that I had to work very hard and I did that very well. There are times when we had a day off and when the other players were resting, I knew I had to go to the gym. I had to maintain my diet very well and I did that very well since the time I was in the academy. Until this day, I continue to take care of myself, especially outside of the pitch. That's put me to where I am now," he added.
Having worked his way up to full fitness following a back injury in 2021, Chhangte has made his way back into the Indian team and remains one of the key attacking players for the Blue Tigers. India head coach Igor Stimac also heaped praise on Chhangte's professionalism and commitment towards the game and mentioned how it has reaped rewards for the 25-year-old.
"He's shoulder to shoulder with (Sunil) Chhetri. He has been with us from the very first day. And at the beginning of our work, we could clearly see that he was a boy who was very committed even though he was young. In all the initial tests we executed, he was among the top three. You can see now his professionalism, his hunger is providing results," Stimac said to AIFF.
Having been named in the 27-member squad for the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championships, the Mumbai City FC winger will be aiming to cement his place in the Indian squad and make the cut for the AFC Asian Cup 2023, having missed out on the previous edition in 2019. (ANI)