Mizoram has always been ahead in terms of sports in the country and with so many footballers coming out from the region, it is no wonder that the country has turned its attention to the state.
Apart from football, the state also has a huge following for basketball and the state even has its own league. The Mizoram Super League (MSL) is not unknown to basketball lovers especially in the Northeast region. The league is quite competitive and also quite entertaining.
The league is owned by Zonet who also owns the Mizoram Premier League (football league).
Speaking to Jessica Passah , Tato Tluanga, the General Manager of Zonet who is also the brainchild behind the MSL and MPL, he gives us an insight into the MSL and what he hopes will become the beginning of something bigger in terms of basketball.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
TNT(The Northeast Today). What was the idea into bringing about the Mizoram Super League? What are its main objectives?
T.T. Zonet believes that basketball is a growing sport and is very popular among the youth of Mizoram. The Mizoram Basketball Association (MBBA) has been very doing very well in developing the sport and when we got together, we both felt that we could organise a basketball tournament bigger than ever which will have a positive impact on Mizoram Basketball.
The Mizoram state government also played a pivotal role by developing the infrastructure of basketball.
The objectives of MSL are:
To improve and develop the standard of basketball in Mizoram
To encourage youth to play the sports
To entertain viewers
To give a profession to basketball players and officials (Players & Official salaries)
TNT. Basketball is very popular in Mizoram, do you expect it to gain popularity as much as football?
T.T. Football will always be the number one sports here in Mizoram, I feel that basketball is the second sport in terms of number of players. Many basketball courts have been developed in the last 10 years, it is very popular among the youth so it will gain popularity in the coming years. But since the scope (in terms of professionalism) of football is much better than basketball; given the same interest players may opt football over basketball.
TNT. What are the realistic goals of a basketball player who plays in the MSL? Is the UBA now a league where players would be hoping to play at given its ability to provide a larger platform to their talent?
T.T. After the conclusion of MSL 2, 3 Mizo players went for trials for the UBA but sadly they returned unsuccessful, but I have good feeling that a Mizo player will play in the UBA soon.
In MSL 2, the current Indian Captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi played on behalf of the Champions Khatla TBL and there were other 6 inter-state players who have National level experience including Aravind Annadhurai (Currently also with the Indian Team)
TNT. The Northeast presently does not have any team or player in the UBA, there is talk of putting a team together, is this the right direction to go in?
T.T. I honestly feel that there should be a Northeast based player playing in the UBA first. Once we have the experience then only we can have a team (The I-League is a good example)
TNT. How are players drafted into the MSL? How many teams are there in total? Tell us a little bit on the coaching staff and methods?
T.T. Six clubs participate in the MSL where these clubs will sign players for the tournament. Each club is allowed to register 2 interstate and 1 foreign player.
Coaching is one area which we need to improve, currently we have Coach H. Laldinsanga (Mapuia) who completed the FIBA Coaching Certification Course Level. Apart from Mapuia we have several NIS coaches. The qualified coach gives training to other local coaches. The MBBA is taking necessary actions regarding coaching so we can improve in these department too.
TNT. Given that basketball is still very far behind in the country, are the wages competitive enough (compared to football) for players to see it as a viable career?
T.T. Not competitive enough as compared to football, so players cannot take it as a viable career option. But if the national tournament standard improves it will definitely have an impact on the state level.
TNT. Many players in the MSL have amazing talent and skill, the league has given them an outlet to shine and the infrastructure and quality of players is as good (or even better) as the UBA, but the popularity of the MSL hasn’t reached the national level. Is that something the MSL intends to do or would you like to develop the MSL into a league where other players from all over see it as the main platform?
T.T. Yes, it is one of the objectives of MSL. As mentioned earlier inter-state and foreign players also feature in the previous MSL. We want the players to be developed for the National and international level.
TNT. Given that the UBA has mainly military personnel enrolled in many of the teams, why do you think players from the country and ones that are playing in the MSL haven’t tried out to play in the UBA?
T.T. 3 players went for trials after the completion of MSL 2. Hopefully soon some of our players will also succeed and play in the UBA.
TNT. Mizoram is definitely doing something right in terms of sport especially since Zonet has taken a very keen interest in it, what do you think other states should learn from this so that sports in the country (or NE region) will grow and develop?
T.T. There’s a saying “Lights, Camera, Action!”. Here lights refer to the Government and the Sports Association. Camera refers to the Media (TV, Print and Web). If there is good cohesion of light and camera then there will be good action.
TNT. Lastly, where do you see the MSL growing from here? What is the eventual goal of the league?
T.T. MSL will definitely grow as the interest among the youth is huge. The goal will be help Mizoram achieve better heights and have an impact at the national and international level.
TNT. Thank you Tato for taking the time to talk to TNT-The Northeast Today. We wish you and the MSL good luck and hope for greatness.
By Jessica Passah
Featured image(courtesy): Facebook