What was quite shocking to a few people during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit was that he was very impressed by Shillong footballer Marlangki Suting who has made his city and state proud with his football prowess. The Indian international was known by the PM and was mentioned by name. This is how huge an impact football has where our players are not only known by football fans but also by the Prime Minister. The Northeast region has a huge football following and young footballers have made their mark not only in their respective clubs but also with the Indian national team.
Football camps are being held and young aspiring footballers are seeing it as a very viable and lucrative career option. Shillong will see a one of a kind tournament later this month (June 13 to June 25) in Polo Ground. It has created a buzz among clubs and youngsters as it will feature a five a side team which will be played at shorter intervals and in smaller fields. There have already been about 20 clubs who have agreed to take part in the tournament. The aim is to promote local talent and also maybe find hidden gems among the young players who will hope to make a mark during the event.
Meghalaya has always been a hub for football with clubs from the state fighting it out in the I-League and even Bollywood has a keen interest in Shillong. Actor Ali Faizal who is an avid football fan even mentors a team from the small town. He recently even flew all the young boys from his team to Goa so they could train in better facilities in the state.He also wanted them to experience the warm weather and beaches and take them out of their comfort zones.
Recently, NEUFC owner John Abraham gave an interview with a leading newspaper and expressed his desire to see football in the region become even greater and more popular than what it already is, he plans to do a road show where they will travel all around the 8 states and meet their respective Chief Minister’s and formulate a plan and try to get them to develop more stadiums. He has already met Meghalaya CM Mukul Sangma who seemed to show a lot of interest in his idea.
In the past there have been problems with infrastructure but this has now come to be a thing of the past. Although there is still much room for improvement, the direction that is being taken to promote the sport is definitely the right way.
The Northeast region has the most number of players playing in the I- League and the most recognizable names in the Indian football team from Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Aiborlang Khongjee and Jeje Lalpekhlua are all from the region. With the entry of the Indian Super League into the fray, young footballers everywhere are hoping that their passion, drive, hard work and naturally gifted skill will help them move forward. Indian football is yet to make a mark in the global football scene, but with grassroots initiatives that have been started by so many foundations and clubs, it is only a matter of time before we see some of our youngsters out there on the global scene.
(By Jessica Passah)