From Nobap to World Cup : The Magnificent Eight

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India lost, but as regular columnist of The Sangai Express Free Thinker put it in his Sunday write up under the caption, Poking Nose Without Malice, US won, but we were lauded more.

And why not. This is the first time that as many as 8 boys from Manipur have made it together to represent the country in any team, though numerous football stars have been produced by the State earlier.

Yes India and by default the eight boys from Manipur lost the opening match to the USA, but already a statement has been delivered and this is what is important.

More significant to note is the fact that all the eight boys who made it to the Indian squad come from the economically lower strata underlining the point that talent knows no class barrier.

This is what is significant and all the more reason why talent scouts should continue to scan the boys and girls of Manipur.

India being the home State of the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup, the home support was not surprising but it is to be noted that this is football one is talking about, which does not have such a big following in the country, say like cricket.

Reading through the profiles of the young players from Manipur, in the run up to the World Cup, it is easy to discern that the boys have made it to the top not by any influence of their family members but through sheer hard work and God given talent.

No fancy football kits, no fancy coaching classes, and certainly no fancy support.

This is what has made their rise to the top all that more spectacular and endearing as well.

Not to forget the personal interest shown by former football star and former captain of the Indian football team Renedy Singh in ensuring that family members of the 8 players at least manage to go to Delhi and watch them play, the assistance from the State Government as well as the support rendered by Tata Sports, AMFA and some well placed individuals who all run successful business establishments in Imphal.

From Nobap (Pomelo), pieces of old/torn clothes tied together to pass off as a ball, to the highest level and surely the kids from Manipur have come a long way.

It was this, other than their skills which have stolen the hearts of the people, especially the people of Manipur.

That the media, particularly media based outside Manipur, took the trouble of publishing their background and narrated their journey to the top from the humblest of beginnings reinforced the belief that in sports it is hard work and talent that count.

It also stands that if it was not the beauty and the vast following that football commands, their story may not have been told in such a manner.

The team may not do much better in their latter matches, but what is significant to note here is the point that the Indian team this time will largely be identified with Manipur.

Not only are eight boys from Manipur in the team, but the team captain is also from Manipur.

No wonder then that the U-17 World Cup has generated so much interest in Manipur and in cheering for the team, the fans here are also cheering the performance of the boys from Manipur.

Whether they perform better or not, the boys will be heroes and this is something to cheer about here in a place where there is not much to cheer about when one opens the day’s newspaper.

Source: The Sangai Express

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