BENGALURU: Khalid Jamil will long be revered as the architect of Indian football’s best-ever fairytale. Under his guidance, Aizawl FC clinched the I-League title for the first time and created history in the process. While Jayesh Rane and Mahmoud Al-Amna were the heroes of the Mizoram outfit’s title-winning campaign, Zohmingliana Ralte aka Zotea was the unsung one for them. Zotea started all 18 games for the Reds and established himself as the wall in Aizawl defence, which conceded the second least goal in the season.
Within four months however, Aizawl had lost their coach and all key-men including Zotea. The 26-year-old defender said he wanted a new challenge and sought a chance in the Indian Super League. Almost 3,500kms away, he found a new home with ISL debutant Bengaluru FC. “Winning the I-League with Aizawl gave me recognition, but I wanted to improve and needed a new challenge. So I had to move although they (Aizawl) wanted me to stay,” he said.
Zotea started his career at the Mohun Bagan Youth academy where he spent just a year before moving to Rangdajied United and then to Shillong Lajong FC, where he made his first team debut. He then travelled far west to Pune and played for Pune FC for three seasons before making a switch to DSK Shivajians for a brief stint. He also played for NorthEast United FC in the ISL. Now that he has moved to a new city and club, Zotea says he is enjoying the professional atmosphere at BFC. And within 30 days of joining the club, Zotea says he has already improved a lot in terms of technique.
“I’m very happy to have come here. The facilities and coaching staff here are great. I see senior players like Sunil (Chhetri) working so hard in training. It motivates me to work a lot harder. My fitness and touch have already improved after coming here as the training is very structured. Competition among the players is also very strong which will help me improve,” he said.
BFC will have an early season as they look to repeat their AFC Cup success. Their immediate target will be to overcome a difficult North Korean side April 25 SC in an inter-zone play-off semifinal. Zotea, in the absence of BFC’s defensive mainstay John Johnson, will have to replicate his form at Aizawl. However, the Mizo lad is still adjusting to Albert Roca’s style, where he plays either five or three-man defence.
“I have always played in a four-man defence. Here, the coach plays us in a different formation. It’s a bit difficult for me at times but I am adjusting to it. I have to buckle up as Johnson is not there, but we are confident,” Zotea said.