TODAY -

Matos bhai & our FIFA boys "bravo"

Free Thinker *

Manipur's Footballer who represented India at  U-17 FIFA World Cup at Imphal International Airport :: October 14 2017
Manipur's Footballer who represented India at U-17 FIFA World Cup at Imphal Airport on October 14 2017 :: Pix - Bulluraj RK



On the first (our) FIFA U17 match against America, at the entrance, a security chap asked me, "Which team are you supporting?" I said, 'Manipur'; my daughter yelled and corrected me from behind 'India, India'.

The same security person told me to leave all my belongings at the entrance as I could carry only the mobile and wallet inside. He didn't allow me to carry even the coins in my pocket. Perhaps the coin collection on the first day itself might have crossed many thousands (number of spectators 46 thousand).

For the first time India is hosting a FIFA U-17 world Cup. For the first time 8 Manipuri boys (Amarjit , Suresh, Dheeraj, Nongdamba, Boris, Shahjahan, Jeakson, and Ninthoingamba) were in the Indian squad of 21 players who played the FIFA U-17.

For the first time India's FIFA(U-17) world Cup team was led by a Manipuri boy, Amarjit . For the first time country's FIFA (U-17) Goal keeper (playing) Dheeraj was also from Manipur.

The first Indian FIFA (U-17) goal was scored again by a Manipuri lad, Jeakson. In the near future the entire Indian FIFA team could be from Manipur. Am I ridiculously hyperbolic?

Due to the extreme uncontrollable football spirit of my daughters I had the opportunity to watch all our (India's) FIFA matches live inside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi viz, against the USA on 6th Oct, Columbia on 9th Oct and Ghana on 12th Oct.

Perhaps we were the only Manipuris who watched all the three matches free on others passes. But in all the three occasions I went by auto. To reach the stadium it took us 2 hours (distance 6 km) because of the heavy traffic. For the second match the auto dropped us near the venue in one and half hours.

On the last day (i.e., on 12 Oct) for the Indo-Ghana match luckily we could cover the same distance just in one hour. Delhi traffic is really maddening and unpredictable.

Our honorable Prime Minister was also present on the opening day though we were beaten by the Red Indians by 3 goals to nil. But we played extremely well beyond the expectations of all the football playing nations of the world. The presence of honorable Damodarji was a great encouragement not only for the players but also for the spectators and organizers.

For every match thousands of school students were invited and they were wearing blue jersey resembling the Indian squad jersey. They were the real supporters and cheerer for the home team. They were thumping their respective plastic chairs every now and then. Sometimes we also follow suit.

In almost every soccer match the limelight is always snatched either by the strikers or the scorers or the play-makers (midfielders); very rarely the goalie gets the attention.

However the attention given to our goal-keeper during the matches was unprecedented for the simple reason that he saved many goals and at the same time he defended or deflected numerous (sure-shot-goal) balls. His performance was a treat to the viewers. Sometimes the stadium was echoed with a cheering sound "Dheeraj, Dheeraj , Dheeraj"; Very heartwarming and very flattering.

In the last match with Ghana, we knew that we could not be the winner. But we expected a respectable defeat. Unfortunately it was not so; we were down by 4 goals to nil; it would have been restricted to 2; even goal keeper was injured; defense lapses took place. No doubt Ghana is one of the strongest team in the tournament.

They were 2 times FIFA U-17 champions and they have the right experience and exposure. They are also the present African Champion. Their domination was quite visible in the second half. Still our boys played fiercely and fearlessly.

The Indian team maneuvered well against the USA and Columbia; though our play against Ghana was not up to the mark. Perhaps they were much more superior and experienced than us and probably better than the USA and Columbia.

But we have no repentance. Our boys did well; they played relentlessly with full spirit and determination. This is our first hand experience of a FIFA world Cup ( U-17). Now we can fathom our standard and standing as far as international football is concerned. Next time certainly we shall prepare better and perform better.

The Indian coach Luis Norton de Matos said, "I am proud of these boys, they have shown they can play football". This is just the beginning Matos Bhai. Indian soccer is on the rise so as the Manipur football.

Bare-footed Nobab (pomelo) players will have a brighter future. I am serious; Leikai (local) rich/clubs must provide proper boots and balls to our kids with some tangible guidance and see how they flourish with football. Let us not depend only on TATAs, AIFF, AMFA and Governments.


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on October 17, 2017.


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