The Juggernaut Was Halted In Mumbai, But The Night Will Be Remembered For The Boss Turning To A 19-Year-Old Edmund Lalrindika With The Belief He Could Get The Blues What They Were After…
Diminutive Israeli shepherd is pitted against abnormally-sized Philistine giant in a mismatch for the ages. Philistine giant has his sword in a scabbard and is covered from head to toe in an armour made from bronze. The shepherd boy has a sling and five smooth stones. Like we said, mismatch for the ages. We wouldn’t call it banter, but words are exchanged and the shepherd lets a stone fly from his sling that hits the man mountain square in the forehead before he sinks to the ground on his knees and falls flat on his face. Dead. Everyone knows the tale of David and Goliath. Few know the incident that preceded the big fight.
Israel needed a King and David was not even a contender. He had seven strapping older brothers ahead of him, but it was David who was turned to, to lead the redemption.
Down a goal at the Mumbai Football Arena and an unbeaten record in danger of being molested, Carles Cuadrat turned to the bench in the 84th minute. Two changes had been made and there were five to choose from. Yet it was nineteen-year-old Edmund Lalrindika that got the nod. There was no Goliath-slaying act that night and in what was a deviation from habit, Bengaluru couldn’t rescue the game. But a statement had been made with that last substitution. Bengaluru FC B wasn’t a project to simply make the numbers. And the Colts weren’t going to be handed chances in inconsequential games, ones that were beyond clawing back or those where the Blues had opened a gap of daylight between them and the others, on the scoreboard.
“We were without Miku and had to try players in positions that weren’t really theirs. We asked Edmund from the B team to help us. Everyone tried,” Cuadrat would go on to say at the press conference.
Cuadrat, with his flask of green tea in tow, was in attendance every single time the Bengaluru FC B were in action at the BFS in the Super Division. He’d drag his big, black chair out and make mental notes between swigs of the herbal beverage. Edmund and Ajay Chhetri had done enough to earn a travel with the team to Mumbai.
“We come from the kind of philosophy that protects young players. As a coach it’s easy to throw in one youngster today and another one tomorrow. But if they don’t do well, they won’t have an opportunity again. Barcelona are working a lot with a youngster called Carles Aleñá, helping him grow step by step. It was the same with Messi and Iniesta early on. This is my plan. We are going to use these youngsters, but we will be protecting them. We aren’t going to be throwing them in the middle of a situation and say ‘good luck’. And if it doesn’t work, saying ‘sorry, goodbye’. These are talented youngsters and we will do everything to help them make a career in the senior team and even in the national team,” said Cuadrat.
At the end of it, there was only one way Mumbai knew how to play. And there was only one way Bengaluru liked to play. Neither team looked like altering plans, so it was down to whose ploy worked at the end of the ninety. The Blues had a passage of play at the beginning where it looked like a goal or two was in the coming. Xisco, donning the garb of a false nine, saw an acrobatic volley tipped over by Amrinder Singh early on. Rahul Bheke and Juan Gonzalez could have had their moments too. Instead it was Mumbai who would stitch a rapid transition from a Bengaluru corner and get the goal that would pull the plug on the BFC juggernaut.
Did any of the big guns have anything to say to Edmund when he entered the pitch? “No one said a thing,” says the youngster with a chuckle. But he soon brings his maturity to the fore. “But that’s understandable. We were chasing the game and I was expected to know what to do. It wasn’t the time for someone to come pat my back and encourage me. It was the time for me to try and help all of them. But I remember Erik Paartalu coming up to me in the locker room before the game and telling me not to fear.”
Six minutes was too little time to show bravado or suggest panic, but Edmund coming on to save a streak that will mean little in the grand scheme of things, but one that the team held close to its heart, will always be an act of faith more than a gamble for the gallery.