Brandon Vanlalremdika : Standing Tall At 5'2" For Aizawl FC
Just a few years ago, a college student in Aizawl College was asked by his professor, What he would like to do in the future?
The reply was straight and simple - “A Footballer”.
The whole class burst into laughter.
Because they never thought a guy already in the college and standing just at 5'2" would have any chance of making it as a professional footballer - he is good enough only for a college football team.
But the then 18-year-old boy proved everyone wrong and became the cynosure of all eyes in Mizoram with his bursting speed, sublime skills and pinpoint crosses.
He is known as BRANDON VANLALREMDIKA.
"All I ever wanted to do is play football," he said, like every Mizo boys of the 90s, who all grew up with street football.
Born with outstanding talent, the 18-year-old, who was a subject of laughter in class, grew into a man who has lightened up the I-League - the country's top tier league. Many doubted Brandon when Aizawl FC awarded him his first professional contract in 2012. But he rose above all critics and slowly made a mark for himself in the team, becoming an integral part of the set-up.
There was no looking back since...
Road to Professionalism
Brandon's dream run started the same year, which coincided with the launch of Mizoram Premier League. Known as The Little Wizard to his fans, Brandon recalled the day when his football journey started with Aizawl FC.
"Aizawl FC was being rebuilt under the ownership of Robert Royte and there was a trial organised in our locality. I turned up there, got selected and I knew this is my ticket to professional football."
He minced no words while crediting his journey so far. "I will always be thankful to Francis Paul and Gosen Rammawia, who believed in me and picked me from the trial. Had they not believed in my talent and ability, I will not be here donning Aizawl FC jersey in the I-League matches," Brandon said.
The two local coaches would also be equally proud of the shy and introvert boy they picked up from the trial. Because, the boy they helped realise his dream, help Aizawl FC clinched the Mizoram Premier League title twice in 2014 and 2015 along with Mizoram Super Cup and Independence Day Cup. He was also instrumental in getting the club promoted to the I-League
But, the ever hard-working attacking midfielder regards the National Games Football Gold his favourite achievement.
“Playing for Mizoram itself is an honour and when you double that up with a Gold, you just cannot explain how it feels. It's just fantastic.”
Welcome to I-League
A sports columnist for a Mizo Daily, Vanglaini, Mr Lalzarzova, states, "Brandon is technically gifted and very fast. But it was hard to imagine that with his small built, he would be successful in the country's top tier league. But I am glad, he proved me wrong."
Having played a stellar role in the club's I-League pursuit, Brandon was an automatic choice when the team qualified for the I-League. In fact, it was his goal against local rivals Chanmari FC in the last match of the 2nd Division that helped Aizawl FC sealed a spot in the I-League. It was only in the 2015-16 season that the diminutive footballer made his mark in the Indian Football circuit under Aizawl FC's coach Manuel Retamero.
Speaking about the man, who showed tremendous belief in him and fine-tuned his techniques in a short span of time, Brandon was all praise for the Spaniard.
"He is an exciting coach to work with. There is something I cannot explain about him; He is just special.
A man with few words, Brandon continued, "It was always easy to understand his [Manuel] game plan. His coaching helped me a lot to improve myself."
However, sadly and surprisingly, the Aizawl FC management decided to sack the coach after six matches from which they earned only four points. Youth development coach Jahar Das was put into the task of saving Aizawl FC but the club ended up getting relegated.
LIKE & SHARE Brandon's FB Page
Despite being relegated, Aizawl FC were given another chance in the I-League because of the sheer flair they brought into the I-League coupled with the exodus of Goan Clubs from the league. Brandon was quick to grab this opportunity and added a new chapter in his football journey.
But things were not rosy as it looked for him when the season started. Like everyone, the new coach Khalid Jamil too was sceptical about starting him straight away. But an exquisite attacking display whenever given the chance, and his hard work in training convinced the former Mumbai FC coach that the Little Wizard is someone he can rely on.
Brandon soon became a vital cog in Khalid Jamil’s Aizawl FC and have repaid the trust the coach has shown in him. So far this season in the I-League, he has scored 3 crucial goals while having played a role in many of the goals scored by his teammates. His work-rate is also something that any coach would love.
"He is small but when he plays, he outclasses his opponents. He is half the size and weight of his opponents but that never bothers him. The statistics say it all. But still, there is plenty a room for Brandon to improve and he needs to sustain himself at the top tier now," says Lalnghinglova Hmar, the newly appointed deputy chairman of AIFF I-League committee.
The Road Ahead
Aizawl FC under coach Khalid Jamil are having a dream run in the I-League and are challenging for the title. But Brandon was quick enough to brush aside title talks.
"We never talk about being the champion or whatever. We gave our all in every match, and we would love to continue it that way. We only think about the upcoming match and once that is done and dusted, we shift focus to our next match," the diminutive winger said.
"Whatever I achieved today is only because of God’s grace and the coaches, who have helped me in my short journey so far.”
“I also don’t look far. I just want to focus on my present and do the best I can. If I do well today, I know, I will have a better tomorrow,” Brandon concluded.