KOCHI: Friday was a day to remember for Kerala Blasters FC's promising defender Lalruatthara. First came the news that he was included in the 32-member probables list for the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers match against the Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek later this month by Indian national team coach Stephen Constantine.
The icing on the cake came a few hours later when his Indian Super Leauge (ISL) club announced that the 23-year-old's contract with the Kochi-based franchise was extended till 2021 on the back of standout outings in what was otherwise a forgettable season for the Blasters.
The left-back was one of the first picks for Blasters in the player draft with the club tieing him down on an initial one-year contract worth Rs 25 lakhs. The youngster had shown glimpses of promise a season earlier playing for I-League club Aizawl FC in their historic championship-winning campaign.
"Kerala is like home for me now. People love the game there and I have made plenty of friends on and off the field," said Ruatthara who is spending a well-deserved but brief vacation with his family back in Mizoram. "It is a great experience to play in front of such passionate fans and I have enjoyed it from the start," he told Express.
"The fact that we could not qualify for the playoffs is a shame, but we did not have the best of starts to the season. I hope we will be in contention for the title this time next season," said the defender. "Personally, I have improved a lot since the start of the season. Playing in ISL is playing at a different level and I am happy I could cope with it," said Ruatthara.
That he had copped with ISL attackers will be an understatement. The youngster has dominated most of the battles with opponents and won. But his dream of representing the nation is yet to be fulfilled and at the start of the season, he had revealed his disappointment at not making the final group.
He was named among probables in May and August last year but hasn't hurt his chances to make the final squad with his displays in the ISL since. He has the best figures in the league among Indians for tackles made -- 85 -- and the most touches for a Blasters player.
"It is a dream, of course, and I hope this time I can make it to the final squad -- it would be a very proud moment if the coach sees me worthy enough to wear the Indian jersey," he said. After the AFC qualifiers, he will return to Blasters as they kickstart their campaign in the newly introduced Super Cup.
"It will be a good opportunity for the team to bounce back and make amends for the disappointment in the ISL. The players are all pumped up and we want to win it for our fans who deserve it," said Lalruatthara.