Football.....Is Manipur India's Little Brazil?
Even though the Indian U-17 football team’s World Cup campaign ended when the host nation was humiliated 0-4 by Ghana in their last outing in their group, the eight Manipuri boys who were in the spirited Indian team continued to be in the limelight in their home state.
Joining in the series of felicitation programs held in their honour, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh handed over Rs 5 lakhs to each of the eight players as incentive for bringing the glory to the state.
“To win or loss is part of the game but what really counts is the spirit and performance on the field. Your participation in the historic FIFA World Cup brought glory to our state Manipur. I say this on behalf of the entire population of the state, both hill and valley, we’re really proud of you.” said the former footballer Chief Minister to the eight boys before handing over the cheques.
Even the Manipur Governor, Dr Najma Heptulla felicitated the ‘8 heroes’ as they are being called in Manipur and showered them with gifts and reward shawls.
Interacting with the boys and their guardians who were invited to a high tea, the Governor said that she would do her best to find ways to promote football commercially.
The Governor felt proud that the U-17 team has the team Captain and 7 other players from the State. “It is heartening to see that maximum number of players from a state like Manipur, which is known as the powerhouse of Sports” said the governor and congratulated the parents for supporting their children to play the game despite economic hardships.
Out of the 21 players selected to represent India in the U 17 FIFA World Cup 2017, eight players were from Manipur and except for the goalkeeper, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, all the others were from modest families. The eight who made Manipur proud are Amarjit Singh Kiyam (Midfielder/Captian), Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem (Goal Keeper), Boris Singh Thangjam (Defender), Jeakson Singh Thounaojam (Midfiefder), NongdambaNaorem, (Midfielder) Suresh Singh Wangjam, (Midfielder) Ningthoinganba Meitei (Midfielder) and Md. Shah Jahan (Midfielder).
“There’s no dearth of talents in Manipur, what matters is how we nurture it. Well done AIFF.” This was how Manipur’s football star, Renedy Singh, a former Indian team midfielder, turned football coach reacted when asked to comment on the domination of the Manipuri footballers in the Under -17 world cup Indian team.
Eight players from the tiny, restive border state, grappling with armed insurgency were amongst the 21 selected for the Indian squad for the Under 17- FIFA World Cup that India for the first time booked a berth as the host country. Significantly all of the eight boys who made it to the team, including the captain were all from poverty stricken families.
Kiyam Amarjit, the captain, took to football from the age of nine with his 60 plus mother supporting him by vending dry fish and vegetables door to door in Imphal, barely managing meager income of Rs 250-300/- a day.
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