TODAY -

For the love of football

Ningthoujam Rameshchandra *

Final Match : 1st RKFD Sangai Trophy Veteran Football Championship at Khuman Lampak :: June 04 2017
1st RKFD Sangai Trophy Veteran Football Championship at Khuman Lampak on June 04 2017 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



Since FOOTBALL was introduced to the people of Manipur during the fag end of the nineteenth century (by the colonial British), there is no dearth of football fan and football lover/players in Manipur. Many footballers from this hinterland have achieved their goals of becoming successful national as well as international football players who have made football as their career.

Mention may be made here that the NEROCA FC which was formed in 1965 as a local club [1] (and that has recently focussed into professionalization of football) has created a history in the annals of Manipur football to become the first club to qualify for India's top division – the I-League. That too, undefeated in the entire 2nd division home-away league matches that made them an invisible team – the champions of I-league II-division.

This turn of events has made the people of Manipur even crazier about football, and this particular event will pull more crowds to witness this beautiful game for sure. Many local clubs may follow suit of NEROCA FC in the near future too.

There is no concrete evidence found on the website of the All Manipur Football Association (AMFA) (that hardly update or never care to update) or District Sports Associations (DSA), regarding the numbers of football clubs that has affiliation with them, but there can be more than one thousand local football clubs (irrespective of their affiliation) whose main focus is football.

Likewise, the Sainik School Imphal Old Boys Football Club popularly known as SFC is one among many football clubs that was formed very recently (not even a year old). This club was particularly formed by the alumni of the Sainik School Imphal, who believes in brotherhood, where football is used as a means to spread peace and harmony at every nook and corners of the north-east India, or even farther/wider in the near future.

So far, SFC has taken part in many local tournaments and their popularity gains momentum in and around Manipur. In fact, this club is a mosaic of all the ethnic communities in Manipur or you may say north-east India. Because this club has many fans from Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and even from Bhutan who are alumni of Sainik School Imphal. But what strike the most to me is their accidental approach towards Manipur's fragile ethnic structure and its elusive peace, albeit this club was formed on an apolitical line.

It is not an uncommon scene of today to witness most of the local clubs playing football for the love of this beautiful game, but SFC's approach towards football is much more beyond the love of this game. In fact, no other local (football) clubs might have never thought of playing a friendly match at far corner and remote areas of Manipur.

But SFC does. This club does not have a benevolent funding or Good Samaritan but put an effort to run this club from their pocket money. They had managed to organise many football friendlies in and around Imphal Valley, but what commendable thing about this club is that they have the guts to have football friendlies even with the clubs from Ukhrul, or with some clubs at Chandel District, Senapati District and so on [2].

This is the reason why I find noteworthy to say that the approach of this club's is beyond the love for football, as this club's approach is very much toward spreading brotherhood, peace and harmony in the already peace hungry hinterland like Manipur.

SFC has not achieved much in terms of trophy, (with all their ambition of becoming a professional football club which are only in natal stage), nevertheless it has certainly achieved something in terms of winning hearts of many people, particularly at the hill districts of Manipur.

It was the organizer – Chandel Football Friends (CFF), who had organised a football friendly with SFC– the Connecting Cup-2017 on the theme of 'connecting people through football', who expressed their gratitude towards SFC saying that, "this is more than just a football game, but a day to remember for many of the people in Chandel....".

Perhaps, the organiser must have said this because they see a sight of positive peace not far and smell the fragrance of brotherhood in an ethnically disturbed state like Manipur, or perhaps, they are delighted to have some former international as well as national football players like Mr. Mutum Bijen Singh (former Indian football captain), Mr. Thangjam Saran Singh (Midfielder of the year 2017, NEROCA FC), Mr. Leishangthem Raman (former Pune FC player), and so on, who are also happen to be the alumni of Sainik School Imphal.

Whatever the case may be, SFC has done a great job to connect people through football, irrespective of caste, creed, hill or valley in and around Manipur. Let many other local clubs of Manipur follow the suit of this club and its approach to bring peace and harmony in this region. Let SFC shine in their future endeavours. Lets football!

References:

[1] Most of the Sports/Football clubs in Manipur are born out of the idea of ''Civil Society" that focus on the idea of vigilantism and advocacy, and football or other sports become a part of it. While, NEROCA FC is the only Clubs in Manipur that functions as a professional football club so far.

[2] Hill-valley divide in Manipur, either emotionally or ideologically perhaps due to religion or economic imbalance, is almost tangible


* Ningthoujam Rameshchandra wrote this article for e-pao.net
Ningthoujam Rameshchandra is an ICSSR Post Doctoral Research Fellow at Sikkim University. He has played up to National level football tournament. He has also played in State Level football tournaments including, Manipur State League with USA-Khurai, CC-Meet with Citizens Club – Soibam Leikei and so on
The writer can be contacted at rameshningthoujam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on June 13, 2017.


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