During my childhood days and before the advent of television (1982, Asian Games) in Manipur, we used to play football in a very localized and haphazard manner in our local playgrounds. It is both amusing and nostalgic to remember the soccer jargons we uttered in those days. Those were extremely hilarious and chuckle some to recall with. For instance, we called penalty as ‘feninty’, off-side as ‘off-charge’, corner as ‘conna’, handball as ‘henbon’, foul as ‘found’, defender as ‘back player’ so on and so forth. It is heart rendering to remember the fact that we the children of lesser mortals could not afford a football; we contributed 5/6 rupees each to buy a football otherwise we had to manage with ‘nobab’ (pomelo) or a dilapidated second hand ball.
After the arrival of TV, Computer and of course internet we can see a sea change in our understanding and standards of the game of football. Today we are extremely exuberant of the fact that 8 of our boys are in the Indian squad for the FIFA World Cup U-17. They are namely, Amarjit, Suresh, Dheeraj, Nongdamba, Boris, Shahjahan, Jeakson, and Ninthoingamba. In addition to the captain Amarjit let us hope and pray that all of them get enough opportunities to play in this prestigious tournament.
I am certainly not an expert in football but I am definitely a great fan of football, rather a great lover of football. From 1986 onwards I have been watching almost all the matches of FIFA World Cup finals and other important soccer championships of the globe. These days my daughter is watching more number of football matches on internet much more than I do. Right now she is enjoying the Champions League matches which are held in the middle of the night (IST). Sometimes I also join her.
I strongly believe that selection for sports must be done only on merit basis and nothing else. Quite often we feel that the selections are made on the basis of political reasons and other considerations. Our selectors ridiculously try to form teams consisting of players from as many states/UTs as possible in national interest compromising quality. The advantage of having foreign coaches is that all the players are neutral to them and are treated equally. They try to select the best players or in other words try to tap the best talent, regardless of who they are and where they belong. It is reliably learnt that in the last three years or so the role of foreign coaches play a very significant role in the formation of the U-17 Indian National Football squad.
Being the host country India gets direct entry to the FIFA World Cup U-17 (without playing a single qualifying match). Honestly speaking we are a feeble team; not strong enough to beat any of the 23 countries which have qualified for this World Cup. Still we must try to give our best performance and prove to the world that we are an emerging soccer playing nation. In Group-A, we are to play against the USA, Ghana and Columbia. All the matches are going to be tough; the toughest will be against Ghana; and the easier match will be against the USA which is to be played on 6th October at New Delhi and which is also our first match. If we can win the first match against the USA it will be a great morale booster.
The Indian coach Luis Matos is supposed to be a good coach who knows the play and power of our boys. Sometimes it is necessary to see how the players challenge or tackle their counterparts. In this respect our players are on top; they can never be cowed-down by their adversaries. At this critical juncture the Indian team can rely on our 8 magnificent Manipuri Players. Historically it is proven that Manipuris are martial people. They are diehard fighters against opponents and also amongst themselves. Hence a martial spirit is already in our veins. On the ground they will behave like committed soldiers, not afraid of their opponents and ever ready to encounter any challenge.
When we were in schools we learnt a poem titled “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Lord Alfred Tennyson. The poem was very inspiring for every one of us. It was a poem based on Crimean war; it was about a group of extraordinary 600 soldiers (cavalry) who rode into the jaws of death; they had to fight a huge army overwhelmingly outnumbered and more powerful than them; but the 600 soldiers fought so courageously and fearlessly that even when they were completely routed, the world still remembers their valor, spirit and discipline.
Finally, we wish that team India with our 8 gallant youths will fight till the end like Tennyson’s 600 soldiers and win the hearts of the world even though the Cup is still a far cry. Buck-up, Buck-up!
Source: The Sangai Express