Beikhokhei Beingaichho has played an important role in the success of the Bengaluru FC this year
Last summer, Beikhokhei Beingaichho’s future in football did not look particularly radiant. He had not played for a year, did not have a club and still carried signs of a troublesome knee injury. “I phoned people here and there,” he recalls. “I couldn’t find a club. I was really worried.”
He then rang Pradhyum Reddy, the assistant coach at newly-formed Bengaluru FC, who invited him over for a trial. Beingaichho, at this stage, was not a rookie. His career had begun brightly a few years ago at George Telegraph, when he had been declared the U-19 Player of the Year for 2009. Mighty East Bengal had then snapped him up, and still only 18, he had scored in the AFC Cup. So a trial was not a great endorsement, but still it was a chance where there had been none.
“The trials began; a week passed and then two and I had heard nothing. I wasn’t fully fit. I was taking a risk. So I went up to Ashley Westwood (the BFC Head Coach) and asked him. When he said I would be signed, I was so happy.”
Eight months since, Beingaichho’s life in football has changed unrecognizably. As BFC closes in on the 2013-14 I-League title, he has turned into one of the keystones of the side, providing assist after assist from the right (eight – more than any other team-mate), taking free-kicks and corners, and being generally indispensable. Last week, he was nominated for ‘Fans’ Player of the Year’ in the Indian Football Awards, organized by the Football Players’ Association of India. Nobody was surprised.
“I could never have imagined that I’d have a season like this,” he says. “The management, the coaches and the players have helped me a great deal. I’d never expected that something as good as this (the award nomination) would come my way in life. Whether I win the award or not, it’s a big honour to have been nominated.”
Beingaichho hails from Saiha in Mizoram, where he grew up playing football in his village alongside his two brothers.
He travelled to Kolkata for a trial at the Indian Football Academy in Haldia, and soon he was on his way, playing age-group football for Mizoram and turning out in the Calcutta League for George Telegraph.
“I joined East Bengal in 2009 at 18. I felt it was a very young age to go there. But I went there only to improve myself. Even then, I got chances to play.”Things didn’t turn out according to plan and he was soon farmed out on loan to United Sikkim, where he suffered an unfortunate knee injury.
However, the 23-year-old has been a revelation at BFC, not just for the nature of his performances but for what part of the pitch they’re coming from. He had been moved to central midfield at East Bengal, before Westwood moved him to the right from where his crosses have been telling. “I’ve played on the right wing earlier and when I was in the village, my crossing used to be very effective. But my position changed a great deal and my crossing had become weak. At East Bengal I was playing in central midfield and my crossing was not required. But I came here and improved a lot. Now I’ve started crossing again,” he says.
His best moment at BFC came in a home game over Mumbai FC, when he received enormous applause from the club’s raucous fans. “I managed an assist for the goal and as I was coming off, the fans started clapping. I was so happy. But at the same time I was coming off injured and I was sad, so I could not wave at them in return. Also we didn’t win that day, it was a draw.”
BFC is now two wins away from becoming I-League champion and Beingaiccho is confident that it will happen. “There are two games left. We’ll win both of them,” he says calmly.
Such a development will not hurt his prospects of playing for the national side one bit.“I’ve thought about India,” he says. “If I continue training and playing like this at this club, then one day, I’ll get a chance for sure.” All it takes, Beingaiccho has shown this season, is one chance.