Where The Meiteis Beat The Chinese

S. Kunjabihari Singh *

An action from Men's Sepak Thakraw Team Event Final at the 33rd National Games in Guwahati on Saturday, February 17, 2007
An action from Men's Sepak Thakraw Team Event Final at the 33rd National Games in Guwahati on Saturday, February 17, 2007
Pix - Shyam Singh

It was 6 pm, 30 August, around a week back. I happened to switch on DD Sports channel for any chance repeat- telecast of the just concluded London Olympics, particularly my favorite volleyball. It was not to be, but the game was something I would love to see again and again and would cherish forever.

I saw a repeat telecast of Seprak Takraw match between India and China, may be in Guangzhou city of China. First urge was to change channel, but in a sweep of impulse, lingered for a few seconds. And, lo! that was the beginning of a match I relished for the next 45 min.

The game was between world super-power China and minnows India. Where India and where China? No soul worth the name would think of a match; to be precise, any kind of match, any sports, any field between China and India. They are not, I repeat, not compatible even by the faintest of imagination, let alone a real one.

China is a sports powerhouse, bagged 2nd position in the recent London Olympics, next to the USA, with a haul of 38 Gold, 27 Silver, 22 Bronze- a whooping 87 Medals. And where were we! the Indians-a total of measly 6 Medals-2 Silver and 4 Bronze.

But mind you, this one match between China and India, was eye-catching, a close neck to neck fight, the audience unconsciously pulled forward to the edge of the seat. The big question was, however, how could, India manage a neck to neck fight with China in any game under the sun?

Yes, there is one and it was Seprak Takraw, where the Indian Team was all-Meiteis, not one from the mainland. The Manipuries, resident of a tiny state of 22,327 sq ft., approximately, 0.69 % of India's geographical area, with a population of only 0.22% of the country's population, could boast of being a sports powerhouse; could constitute 100% 0f the Seprak takraw team of the country.

Paradoxically, the coach was not a Meitei (despite Meitei coach producing international level players, rather one from the mainland-dark brown, rather fattish, dull, pensive looking to be a Coach, (contrast with the Chinese coach-thin, athletic, agile).

The match was the first set; was at 15-10 India-China when I chance encountered; was soon 16-12, 16-13, 18-14, 18-17, 18-18, 19-18, 20-18, 21-18; the Meities got the first set. The second set was equally thrilling; the Chinese with a near total support from around the stadium, with thunderous shouts something like - "Chiyo-Chiyo", visibly with an apparent air of superiority, started aggressively.

The Meities were not to be beaten though. The 2nd set too was taken by the Meitei lads 21-15. The match was thus snatched by the Meities. Do you care to believe? The Meitei lads beating the Chinese lads, that too in China? Unbeleivable, fantastic. But it's true, I have seen with my own eyes.

The second match was too between the Chinese and a second set of 3 Meitei boys, the same brown color, broad face, narrow eyes, and flat nose, like anybody of us. The Chinese lads were too having the same features, even narrower eyes, same as our boys but for the complexion, "a honorary white".

I could perceive, the Meities boys were, understandably less flambouyant, had some element of complex in the all-Chinese city with the air of dominance and superiority hanging around. Despite this unfavorable climate, they did superb. The scores were even more exciting, more competitive.

The Chinese had to save this match; having lost the earlier, for them it was a do or die. It started 7-3 Meitei-China. Sooner than later, it moved to 8-4, 10-8, 17-18, 18-19, 18-20, 19-20 and finally, 19-21.The Meities lost but with heads high, considering the odds.

The 2nd set was much more exciting, near nail-biting, with scores at-Meities-Chinese 18-19, 19-19, 20-20, 20-21, 21-21, 21-22, 22-22, 22-23, 22-24.

A narrow loss, indeed, but what degree of fight. Anything could have happened. The Meities could have won too, given the score sheet. The dictum goes, "Fortune favors the prepared". But in the backdrop of the environment, our boys have excelled. Forget loss or win; it was sports, a game, but look at the edge of the fight, the competition, the encounter, the courage, the skill.

I could hear commentaries where there were mentions of something like, Ibomcha, Gopen, Premchand-I am not sure if these were the true names of the players. I could also note with delight, adjectives used by the Commentator like-absolutely brilliant, by Ingocha or Ibomcha-not very sure; spectacular service, impressive, amazing and the like.

The Chinese sports authority must be wondering how India, a non-entity in the arena of sports could face the Chinese onslaught, that too with aplomb and in style. They must be all the more curious how an Indian team could dare beat their team in their own land before their own supporters. They must be also finding difficulty understanding how India could field Mongolian- looking faces nowhere to be seen in the mainland India.

The meticulous Chinese must not be taking too long a time in deciphering that the Seprak Takrow players from India who could match their own players, set by set, could throw a beating hands down, were not from mainland India. They were from a tiny state called Manipur in the north eastern corner of the great country India where the youths excel in games and sports without much of the standard sports facilities.

The hard fact, however, remains that the tiny Meities, for sure, did beat the mighty Chinese hands down.

* S. Kunjabihari Singh wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition) and The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 16, 2012.

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