If you think of Indian football, then think of Manipur, the whole and sole supplier of premium football player round the year. The Northeastern part of India is generally marked as the Indian football ground where a copious number of football players are produced throughout the year. Remarkably, the majority of the football players inside the Northeast itself are from Manipur and is ever increasing. Many football players from Manipur represented the country in many international arenas including world cup qualifier matches. However, due to insufficient facilities receive by our young players, they often find a way to migrate from the state.
A glimpse of Indian Football
Once, India was qualified for the FIFA World cup in the year 1950. Although the Indian Football team qualified for the cup, they’ve never played the game. Many football historians cited various reasons as to why the Indian football team withdrew from the World cup. Since then Indian Football team never get qualified for FIFA Worldcup. But, that is not the end, our young players are training very hard from the grass-root level in order to face international players.
What do you expect, If you ask anyone to name any Indian Football player?
Absolutely, No one will give you any right answer!
There is no place for Indian football in the mind of our people like they do for cricket. If you ask any question related to cricket, even a child of 5 years will give you a name, Sachin. That’s the reason why there is only the downfall of Indian Football.
Indian football lacks infrastructures, standard playing ground, coaches, and funding from various sources.
Contribution of Manipur to Indian Football
Renedy Singh, Gouramangi Moirangthem, Tomba Singh, Irungbam Surkumar Singh, Bijen Singh, Sushil Singh, James Singh, Bungo Singh, Dharamjit Singh, and Govin Singh are some of the big names in the history of Indian football.
No, doubt Manipur is known as the power-house of sports in the country. She has been producing a numerous number of sportsperson since the merger to India.
Recently, Manipur has been in the limelight for producing the maximum number of football players in the ISL (Indian Super League). With the induction of professional football leagues like ISL, many young players are getting chances to mingle with many foreign players. This will help our young players to gain experience and familiarity with foreign players.
Football can be considered as the synonyms for Manipur’s sports. Most of the young people of the state love to play football rather than playing any other type. They don’t need any big playground full of soft grass to play football. You’ll find children playing football with Nobap (Pomelo) in the street with bare feet. This is the love of football by our people.
Once, the most prestigious football event of India, Santosh Trophy was held in Manipur in the year 2002. In that year, Manipur won her first maiden trophy defeating the then-defending champion Kerala. Since then the flare of football has been lit up inside the heart of our youngsters.
Absence of infrastructure
Since the last decade, the status of Manipur football has been changed drastically. There was a time when the senior Indian football team used to be a majority of Manipuri players. But now, you’ll find only one or two players from Manipur in the senior Indian football team. Since 2012 we haven’t won any matches against Mizoram. Once, Manipur used to be the number one in Football but now, we’re far behind Mizoram and Meghalaya. We’re no more the Manipur we used to be, former Indian football captain Renedy Singh told in an interview by thenewsmill.com.
Manipur lacks the infrastructure to support its players. This absence of sports infrastructure has been the major cause of concern for our players. However, this has not stopped our players to pursue their dreams. With the limited resources available, our players are training very hard to compete with the players of other states. The main reason behind the downfall of Manipur football can relate to the poor facilities given to our players, no financial support, and less opportunity to reveal talents. This has lead to the migration of our young talented players to other states.
In the makeup of New Manipur Football
Since the last decade, the representation of Manipur football players in the senior team has been drastically changed. At present only two players namely Udanta Singh and Amarjit Singh Kiyam from Manipur feature in the team India.
In order to retain the glory once again, many former players are establishing football academies to train our players from the grass-root level. With the reviving of old football clubs like NEROCA and TRAU, a new ray of hope has shone upon our young players. Like any other football club, these clubs include many experienced foreign players which helps our young players to eliminate the fear of playing with foreign nationals. NEROCA was the first professional football club from Manipur to qualify for i-League football in the year 2015-2016. And thereafter, TRAU qualified for the same in the year 2018-19.
Manipur produced 47 football players, the highest ever football players from a state, in the ISL 2020. Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, Amarjit Singh Kiyam (Captain), Jackson Singh Thounaojam, Boris Singh Thangjam, Md Shah Jahan, Nongdamba Naorem, Suresh Singh Wangjam and, Ningthoinganba Meetei are the eight players from Manipur represented Indian in the U-17 World Cup.
We’re able to achieve all these milestones not just because of our youngsters but also the relentless, selflessness, and dedication of former footballers who had come across all the hardship in their life.