By Malsawm Kipgen
The beautiful game of football is very popular among the denizens of the multi ethnic mini-India like State of Manipur. No other sports dare to penetrate as much as football does in the sports loving people of this troubled torn yet nature bounty State. In terms of Nature Beauty, Manipur is well described as “Switzerland of the East”. Likewise, if we are to describe the greatness of Manipur in the field of football, then sure enough, Manipur can be rightly described as the “Brazil of India”. The kind of gifted players and fans and football lovers sprouted naturally in Manipur has no match in any parts of India. It seems football runs in ours veins just as football is in the blood of every Brazilians or Argentines.
Despite petite in geography and not many in population, Manipur is rightly called the India’s power house of football. To be precise, Manipur as a State has a population less than that of the city of Guwahati but Assam State as a whole is far behind Manipur in producing one of the finest footballers for country India. The kind of support the Manipur clubs and footballers receive from their fans and football lovers is immense. This has no doubt pumps up and helps the local talented footballers to go for higher platform.
Thanks to the introduction of ISL 1st Edition last year, we could see the result of the Manipur people’s unfailing support and love for football. Last year, many footballers from our State played for different clubs including our own Northeast United FC. This year too, 12 or so players from Manipur play for 8 different clubs in this ongoing ISL 2nd Edition. The names are: Raju Singh, Seityasen, and Reagan Singh for Northeast United FC; Dhanachandra and Thoi Singh for Chennaiyin FC; Jacky Chand Singh and Gouramangi Singh for Pune FC; Subhash Singh for Mumbai FC; Seiminlen @Len Doungel for Delhi Dynamos; Thokhosiem @Semboi Haokip for FC Goa; and Boithang Haokip (nicked name Beckham of North East) and Siam Hanghal for Northeast United FC. Athletico Kolkata and Kerala Blasters are only the two clubs our footballer did not set foot. Mizoram came second in North East States in terms of the number of footballers playing for different clubs in ISL. Nagaland, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh have none playing in ISL.
Mizoram is on the verge of overtaking the crown of Manipur in the field of football. Mizoram Premier League (MPL) 1st edition was kicked off in 2012. It was a great success in promoting football in Mizoram. The prize money of Mizoram Premier League is a whooping Rs 25 lakh. It has attracted talented young players and orchestrated a lifeline for dreamed footballers. The immediate result one could see from MPL was the winning of Santosh trophy (the highest national football event in India) in 2014 and thus becoming the second States from North East to lift the trophy, the first being Manipur in 2002. Mizoram government is paying sincere attention and doing all it can in promoting football in its State. Not just in Aizawl, it has its eyes on other district such as Lunglei to promote football from grassroots’ level. Laying of world-class artificial grass in Thuamluai, the largest public ground in Lunglei of Southern Mizoram apart from Assam Rifles Ground, Aizawl and providing other required facilities for budding young footballers is the signature mark of good job by Mizoram government. Mizoram Premier League has made inroad for Aizawl FC to qualify for India League.
Is our (Manipur) government in par with its counterpart Mizoram in promoting football? Can we be fortunate to see a quality playing ground coming up in the near future? We are fortunate enough to have a Main Staduim in Khuman Lampak but when can we see the development in the playing field of Main Stadium? Can the tribals of Manipur who have reservation of Manipur government style of development, dream for a future high standard quality playing ground for their talented and football addict players? Can these players who mostly come from a poor background have an opportunity of financial and technical aid from government?
The entry of FC Zalen from Sapermeina in the final of Manipur State League this year has enliven the morale of other hill based clubs that they can too enter final and win it if they show sincerity to football and work very hard despite troubles. FC Zalen has created history by becoming the first tribal or hill based club to enter final of MSL as well the first 1st debutant to reach final. However though, FC Zalen is not the only club from Sadar who play in State League. Before it, there were clubs such as FC Khanglai and JSYC from this not yet full fledged district. FC Tuff of Sadar Hills had also entered semi-final of CC Meet. Thongkhosiem Haokip, Boithang Haokip, Len Doungel, and once upon a time I league player Kiran Khongsai are all from Sadar Hills. Government of Manipur, keeping in mind the potential Sadar Hills has in football are called upon to do the needful before it is wasted and set an example for other hill districts that whoever works hard will be rewarded.
It is very shameful that the prize money of Manipur State League and CC Meet is way lesser than Tamchon Trophy, an annual football tournament sponsored by Delhi government at Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi for North Eastern students studying in Delhi. Despite having good clubs like AIM, NEROCA (a club playing in 2nd Div I league), NISA and TRAU, and despite the jam packed stadium, the prize money for such events is not making any meaning. This is sheer injustice to clubs as well as the spectators who came in large numbers. Some online media has made estimation that the number of spectators in the final clash between FC Zalen and AIM in this year MSL is 30000+ and the revenue generated from it is Rs 25 lakhs. How much would the organizers get as revenue from the tickets of CC Meet and State League? In this trend of price rise of all essential commodities, will prize money of 2 or 3 lakhs do any good for the tired players as well the managing teams? Wake up and learn! Mizoram Premier League is giving away Rs 25 lakhs to the winner.