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Promoting Futsal in Nagaland

Young and old gathered on the sweltering day to spectate the 5th edition of the futsal tournament, organized by the Amateur Club. One of the many unforgettable sights were when an overly excited little girl blithely played with the ball right in the middle where the teams were practicing and warming up just before the matches. Having felt a spark of all the exhilaration, I sat there thinking about the possibility of football academies in the Northeast region or much less, a group of NE sports pioneers, backing up a team consisting wholly of the region’s aspiring footballers. Plenty of youths in the Northeast, especially Nagaland, have a knack for sports, chiefly football, but many of them let the  passion and pursuance moulder away, either because of the pressure from their parents or because they have no platform where they could practise and participate. This makes sports become just another activity that is limited only to schools and many do not think of it as a career. I was fortunate to witness so much talent and proficiency from the youngsters at the 5th 5 men soccer tournament in Dimapur, Nagaland. The position of the scope for sports in Nagaland had me thinking why the Government hasn’t introduced incentives for the promotion of sports in the state yet. If only they would realise that these incredible footballers who dream of becoming the next versatile Messi or the sweeper-keeper Neuer have the competence of outshining many. Thankfully, there are people who actually care and tournaments like these instill a hope and help the young to never stop believing in their dreams.

The Children’s Park, located in the Landmark Colony might be an unusual spot for a tournament, but once you’re in that place and that very moment, the anomaly somehow evaporates. The upbeat ambiance and rapport between the people left an infectious sentiment till the closing of the tournament. During the opening ceremony, the Chief guest, Lipok Pongen, former DMC member and advisor to the Club laid particular stress on the power of sports in bringing communities together. “Organising events like these are not easy. It is a tough job and you have a lot of responsibility to take on, so kudos to the Amateur Club”, said the chief guest. He went on about how sports can bridge the gap between societies and promote unity. He also reminded the organizers that they were the pillars of the colony and advised all the teams to exhibit the spirit of sportsmanship.

The tournament was sponsored by NIAPA (Northeast India Academy of Performing Arts), USA (United Sports Agency), Gethsemane Eatery, Eastern Mirror as the media partner and The Northeast Window as the event supporter and Second Prize Sponsor. Altogether, 26 teams participated and the finals came down between 5 Star and Supply Colony FC. The first match of the tournament was played between Amateur-B and SM College-B. The devices and superb defending skills from the SM College-B lads were commendable, together with their coach and vice principal, who kept motivating the team with the right balance of fright and desire. He exuded a ‘play fair’ spirit that many in the tournament admired. By the second half of the game, both teams scored one goal each and the match ended in a draw. It was during the penalty when SM College-B nicked a 2-0 win. The second match between Jalukie FC and Kom Naga FC went instinctively and the Koms emerged winners through two goals scored by Joel.

The tournament continued for about a week until an intense match in the finals between 5star and Supply Colony FC took place. The crowd went ecstatic by the end of the match and everyone noticed the headstrong demeanours from both the teams. From the way they kept themselves in control of the match, it looked as though 5star would take away the trophy, but as luck would have it, Supply Colony FC had a 2-1 win over their opponent and walked home with a cash prize of 50,000 rupees along with the trophy, medals and certificates, while the runners-up 5star won a cash prize of 25,000 rupees. The award ceremony was graced with the presence of Imitemjen, chairman of Landmark Colony and Kimala, president of Women’s Society, Landmark Colony. Other trophies featured:

It is important for the people in control of the system, the players, associations and media to not lose sight of the bigger picture, that is, the joy and humbling experience that sports give us. Only those who have been to or attend sporting events will tell you how astounding the atmosphere of unity and comradery is. The teams can teach an organization a great deal about the significance of defining the requisites and establishing common success measures that unify all the affiliates. I was able to have a conversation with some of the members of the organising club, who shared their goals and opinions:

What struck the idea of starting this club?

– All the present club’s mainstay members grew up together in the same neighbourhood; we used to hang out all the time. So as footballers ourselves, we discussed about starting a club and organising a tournament in the year 2010. We had seen many young and talented footballers in our colony but they did not have the platform to expose their talent because there was hardly any tournament organised at that time. So with the intention of helping the young people and help them know that their talents and are appreciated, we pulled up all the ideas and started our very own club in our 20s’ with just 7 of us. Today we have 33 members but there are more youths who want to join the club ever since our last tournament.

Any future plans of making the club grow bigger and better?

– Yes, certainly! At present we are only focusing on the 5 men soccer but in the coming years, we are planning to organise the 11 format soccer tournament and other sports events like volley ball and badminton as well. We want to make our presence in the sports field, at least in Nagaland, start off with a hit.

So how do you plan the events and sports tournaments? What are your strategies as a club?

– Most of the club members are unemployed so the sources of organising a tournament from our pockets are literally impossible. Majority of the funds come from parents in the colony and well-wishers who have always been supporting us. But since donations from well wishers cannot always keep up, we decided to look for sponsorship and it was a huge success. We’ll be focusing on that for our events in coming years too.

That is some progress. From what I understand, you center your focus on the youth right? How do you aspire to make an impact?

– Yes, we are trying to provide these Naga youngsters a platform where they can expose and perform their talents. Our first goal is to promote Futsal (5 men soccer) in Nagaland, which we think is slowly being recognised. We also want to bring unity among the younger Nagas through sports and we wish for them to receive recognitions like that of superstars.

Speaking of which, do you guys also think that youth from the northeast region need a bigger platform to exude their sports skills? What are your views?

– Absolutely! We have so many talented sportsmen in the northeast especially footballers, but there are only a handful of them who get recognised. There is a problem with that and there is also the fund issue because without good finance and sponsorships it’s almost impossible to contest with the others. Yes, we do have a few big platforms, but not every individual can take part for financial reasons. This was why we decided to organise small events where talented individuals can participate. But we can’t argue with the fact that these sportsmen need a bigger and better platform so for this very reason, we are tirelessly working to make it happen. We all start from something small.

It truly is inspiring when we see youths like you take the initiative of keeping the importance and vigour of sports alive. Do you guys love what you do? What are the responses like, from the people?

– Thank you! We definitely love what we do because we do it out of passion and we feel like we are doing a community service by helping the younger generation, learn to help and support one another. We are overwhelmed with all the appreciation and ‘Congratulations’ that we receive and it’s quite moving when we get words of motivation and support from all the parents and well-wishers.

(Northeast Window Bureau)

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