Shining bright on the pitch

Shining bright on the pitch

Shining bright on the pitch

A young player impresses for his first club? Check. One of the big clubs in that country buys him after the player wins a ‘Young Player of the Year’ award? Check. The move to the big club happens while he is still a teenager and so he stops playing first-team football? Check. The player moves from the said big club before being left without one? Check.

Beikhokhei Beingaichho’s story has happened to lots of footballers all over the world.
After impressing for George Telegraph in the Kolkata leagues in 2008, he was bought by perennial giants East Bengal in 2009 when he was only 18. The move predictably didn’t go according to plan and he was soon shipped out to United Sikkim on loan with whom he played in the second division of the I-League in 2011.

He left East Bengal at the end of the 2011 season, reaching the nadir of not having a club to play for. It would have been easy for many players to retire and look for something new but Beikho decided to stick it out. It proved to be a wise decision as the phone call he had been waiting finally came from a new club -- Bengaluru FC.

“Last year at the end of the season, I din’t have a club and I was really worried that I wouldn’t find one. I phoned people here and there but I wasn’t getting any offers from clubs so in the end I called Pradyum (Reddy), the assistant coach of Bengaluru FC, who had seen me play earlier,” he says with a pensive look on his face.

“He invited me over for trials and I came. I was taking a risk because I was not fit and was working on my own in the gym. After the trials, Ashley (Westwood), the BFC coach, informed that they would sign me and I was extremely lucky,” he explains.

Born in the Saiha district of Mizoram, Beikho, 23, first played grade football in the under-16 category before moving to George Telegraph in Kolkata. While there, he also won the ‘Best Under-19 Player Of The Year Award.’

Recognition followed before East Bengal spirited away the youngster from the modest surroundings to the imposing Salt Lake Stadium and he signed a three-year contract at the club.

When asked to look back at what he feels of his move as an 18-year-old, he admits “I felt I went to East Bengal at a young age. But I din’t go there to play as much as improve myself.”  The discussion moves back towards his present club and Beikho, who used to play as a central midfielder before being moved out to the right, is quick to thank his coach Westwood.  “Everyone’s relationship with the coach is good. You have to work hard as well to play. The coach has given me a lot of chances and I have proved myself. The fact that he gave me a chance is a big thing.”

Beikho, who has two brothers and two sisters, reveals that people back home didn’t know much about BFC but have learnt a lot about the club in a short space of time. He breaks into a childish giggle when asked if they treat him as a star now. “I don’t really know that.”

While skipper Sunil Chhetri, Sean Rooney and John Johnson have deservedly got the accolades, the quick feet and crossing ability of Beikho has helped BFC’s cause immensely as they try to win the I-League title in their debut season.

Beikho has laid on eight assists this I-League season, apart from scoring three goals in all competitions, an impressive statistic because he wasn’t a crosser of the ball previously.  
“At EB, as I was playing in the middle of the park, my crossing had become weak. But I came here and improved a lot and now I have started crossing again.”

Those hardworking traits and the impressive assists to matches started ratio (eight assists from 18 league games) is what nominated the two-time Santosh Trophy player in the ‘Fans Player Of The Year’ Award category in the sixth edition of the Indian Football Awards.

Ask him how he feels to be nominated and the dimunitive Beikho turns shy and his tone turns into a whisper. “I’d never expected that something this good would come my way in life. This was a big surprise to me. But whether I win the award or not, it’s a big thing to have been nominated,” he elucidates. He will find out on April 29 whether he has won the Award.

BFC, who are leading the I-League table, can make it a unique double for the soft-spoken player who retains ambitions of playing for India.

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