By: Seram Neken
The story of the neglected turns out to be of the spirit and perseverance. Kothajit’s disgrace on two counts does not deter him to aim for future Olympic games. In spite of his excellent performance in qualifying rounds, he was not given opportunity to show off in the London fields. He was again excluded from the state reception ceremony. 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. The real talents of a good player can not be forbidden by the Indian sports administration’s usual tendency of discriminating the region’s players. Kothajit is a symbol of perseverance and a lesson to future players.
The brief drama of exclusion abruptly ended with a public apology from Manipur Chief Minister followed by a simple felicitation with cash award of rupees twenty lakhs at the latter’s office. Intervention of the Manipur Olympic Association and the Manipur Hockey cleared the decks for his Olympian status and convinced the state government to accord necessary honour.
Kothajit had played in all the qualifying rounds of the Indian team for the London Olympics, 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 which earlier created confusions to the state authorities was later resolved with intervention of 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. The Posterior Hockey Academy Manipur (PHAM) is his mentor and trainer that brought him up to his present position. 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 IIIrd Junior National Hockey Championship (Guntur, AP-2007), 34th Junior national Hockey Championship (Chennai-2007), 13th Sub Sub-Junior national Hockey Championship (Bhopal – 2008) and the 4th Junior Hockey (Hyderabad-2008). Kothajit was adjudged 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 Manipuri 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 Nation Olympic Test in London and the 21st Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia where India team stood third position. On the eve of London Olympics, he took part in 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.
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 up more Kothajits from the state.