Khadangbam Kothajit - a symbol of spirit and perseverance

Seram Neken *

Chief Minister O. Ibobi handing over a cheque of rupees twenty lakhs to Olympian Kh Kothajit
Chief Minister O. Ibobi handing over a cheque of rupees twenty lakhs to Olympian Kh Kothajit :: Pix - HL

Manipur is a fertile soil for grooming Hockey players, may be because of our forefathers' excellence in the indigenous Kangjei game. In addition to the three Olympians - P. Nilakomol, Ksh. Thoiba and Kh. Kothajit, Hockey has so far produced two Arjuna awardees - Tingongleima Devi and Surjalata Devi from among the state women players. The state has had a number of international players of repute and there are hundreds of promising young Hockey players under preparation for fame.

In spite of the enough prospects and potentials, the state is yet to have its second Astro-turf field for practice of the young players. Moreover, the only existing turf ground at Khuman Lampak lacks proper maintenance and is quite insufficient to accommodate the practicing players. It is time the Manipur government paid due attention to Hockey development in the state to bring in more laurels in future.

From the poorly equipped local playfield to being qualified for the Olympics, Khadangbam Kothajit strived against all odds. Again his dissuasions on two counts do not deter him to aim for Brazil Games 2016. His sporting spirit easily overcomes his disgrace for not getting berth in the London 2012 fields in spite of his excellent performance in qualifying rounds and also for his exclusion in state reception ceremony earlier.

The youngest player in Indian team deserves all kinds of encouragements and support, as his being qualified for Olympics is a matter of pride for us all. He is the third Hockey Olympian of the state after P. Nilakomol and Ksh. Thoiba. Indian sports administration's usual tendency of discriminating the region's players will prove futile in the face of real talents such as that of Kothajit.

The brief drama of exclusion abruptly ended with a public apology from the Manipur Chief Minister who was lately convinced of the technicalities of Hockey olympian-ship of Kothajit. On 27th August, Kothajit received the warmest felicitation of the state government with a monetary award of rupees twenty lakhs.

Kothajit had played very satisfactorily in all the qualifying rounds of the Indian team, but he was named as the 17th player for the Indian Hockey Olympic squad lately. Of course, the mid-fielder from the state enjoyed all the essential accords of being an Olympian in London games. The technicalities of having reserved players in Hockey discipline might have created confusions to the state authorities. It was later resolved with intervention of state Hockey's apex body 'Manipur Hockey' and 'Manipur Olympic Association'.

Born to Khadangbam Dhananjoy and Prabhabati Devi on 17th August 1992 at Khurai Lairik Yengbam Leikai in Imphal East district Manipur, Kothajit Singh started his hockey career from the U-14 Indian K.D Babu Singh Sub-Junior Invitation Hockey at Lukhnow in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Kothajit played for Manipur team at the 21st and the 22nd ONGC Nehru Sub-junior (under-15) Hockey Tournament in 2003 and 2004 respectively. He also participated in the State level JN Hockey tournament held here in 2004. When Manipur won the 11th Sub-Junior national Hockey Championship in 2005, Kothajit was in the state team. In 2005, he played at the Ser-E-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh Gold Cup in Amritsar.

He was in the state team in the 52th National School Games (U-17) (Chandigarh-2006), the XII Sub Junior national Hockey Championship (Bhimavaram-2006), the III Junior National Hockey Championship (Guntur, AP-2007), 34th Junior national Hockey Championship (Chennai-2007), 13th Sub-Junior national Hockey Championship (Bhopal - 2008) and the 4th Junior Hockey (Hyderabad-2008). Kothajit was adjudged the best center-half of the Tournament in 37th ATS Nehru Junior Hockey (U-17) Tournament (Gurgaon-2008).

Kothajit was included in the Indian 2nd U-16 Boys Hockey Team (Boys Asia Cup in Dhaka, 2007-8). He played in the winning team in 2nd Manipur Sate League 2008-09 and adjudged as best player in the 11th Dr. Kanti Mukherjee Invitation Hockey Tournament (2008-09). He also took part in Senior Nehru Hockey tournament in Delhi in 2007.

In 2009, Kothajit played at the XXII North East Games in Agartala when Manipur came up in second position and in 2011, he played for the state in the 1st Senior National Hockey Championship (Men) at Bhopal. In February this year, Kothajit played for India in Olympic qualifying match in New Delhi and India won the match. In May 2012, Kothajit played the Men's Four Nations Olympic Test in London and the 21st Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia where Indian team stood third position. On the eve of London Olympics, he was part of the Indian squad's Olympic tour in Spain from 1-18 July.

In fact, Khadangbam Kothajit has traveled a rough road from his poor family and state infrastructure to being a qualified player in London Olympics. He is presently an employee of Indian Oil Corporation, Delhi on probation. Kothajit's mentor and trainer - the Posterior Hockey Academy Manipur (PHAM) is responsible for his successful career. Its dedication and selfless service in nurturing young hockey players of repute is quite appreciable.

That India earned the 12th place in London Olympics is a matter of disgrace in recollecting its glorious days when India got eight Olympic gold medals in Hockey. For India today, mere qualifying at the Olympics is cause for celebration as India missed the 2008 Olympic berth.

For Manipur, the poor hockey infrastructure and lethargic government attention cause lots of repentance in the production of future players. In addition to the state's inability to have its second Astro-turf ground, the existing field at Khuman Lampak lack proper maintenance. Moreover, the only turf field is quite insufficient to accommodate the currently practicing young players. Besides constructing some more Astro-turf fields, the existing grass grounds in the nook and corner of the state may be improved to the standards of practice to pave the way for many more Kothajits on their way to fame.

Read a full profile on Khadangbam Kothajit here

* Seram Neken wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition) for his regular column 'The Voiceless Speaks'
This article was posted on August 29, 2012.

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