By Shweta Raj Kanwar | December 1, 2017
For the first time ever in its history, Meghalaya hosted the 3rd MBAI India National Muaythai & Muay Boran Championship, 2nd India National Pro-Am Muaythai Title Belt Championship, 2017 from November 2 to 5 at Shillong, Meghalaya in an attempt to bring the Muaythai talents from Northeast India into the limelight and to provide them a platform to showcase their skills while giving them an opportunity to represent their respective states as well as the nation at the national as well as the international level. The Tournament brought recognition and commendation to the State and region as a whole, especially when the State in its Golden Jubilee will host the 2022 National Games in Shillong itself.
Speaking to TNT- The Northeast Today, President of Muay Boran Association of India (MBAI), Prasanjit Singha said, “Muaythai may be taking its time in gaining momentum in India but this is a very popular sport in other parts of the world. The Olympics has recently recognized this game and in 2024 this sport will be included as a discipline in Olympics. Youth throughout the world including in Northeast are growing fond of martial arts and Muaythai is an integral part of this domain. Being a president of the National Muaythai Association as well as hailing from Tripura, I believe that such championships must be held in Northeast India as this region has a natural talent in the field of martial arts which needs to be tapped and they should be given a fair chance to represent India in international tournaments”.
Northeast has got a natural talent in martial arts, says Prasanjit while emphasizing on how important it is to seize this opportunity in 2024 Olympics and elevate talents from this part of the world and events such as 3rd MBAI India National Muaythai & Muay Boran Championship, 2nd India National Pro-Am Muaythai Title Belt Championship will motivate them to come forward and nurture their dreams. After the championship, the deserving athletes will be exposed to thorough programmes which includes seminars by renowned trainers and athletes who have made a mark in their respective fields. Another significant point about the mentioned championship is that this event was the pre- qualifier for the 2018 World Championship to be held in the month of May in Mexico as well as in the month of July in Thailand. Here are excerpts from our interview with the President of Muay Boran Association of India (MBAI), Prasanjit Singha.
TNT: Talking about the general scenario of athletes in Northeast India, lack of funds has always been a hindrance to their progress. Why do you think the government is indifferent towards their plight and how do you think initiatives like this tournament can bridge this gap?
Prasanjit Singha: The indifference persists but let us also focus on the bright side. Martial arts is gradually gaining recognition and it has also been introduced as an integral part of curriculum in many schools. Citing cases of increase in rate of crime against women, introduction of martial arts in the curriculum has become all the more important and the government recognizes this. Hence as part of our social responsibility, we hold campaigns in schools and colleges as well as hold programmes to create awareness on self defence tactics.
I agree that it takes time to change things but we as civilians should also be responsible for churning out talents from the grassroot level and proving to the government that ‘yes we are talented’ and give them a reason why they should invest in our players. Hence this is one very important reason why we organised an event of this stature so that we are able to prove to the authorities and give them a reason why they should support local talent and the potential that lies ahead.
TNT: What made you choose Meghalaya as a destination for 3rd MBAI India National Muaythai & Muay Boran Championship?
Prasanjit Singha: Since I am also from the Northeastern part of India, I wanted the local talents to have an opportunity to come and participate in this event. Also, since we know there is a great talent pool in this part of the region, there could be no better way to popularize the game than hosting this championship.
Let me mention that in our time, although we practiced martial arts from our school days, the provisions for us being able to represent the state or the nation at an international level was limited and even equal to none. However, we now want to change the scenario and this championship is just one small step towards a giant leap that we are planning to take. The dream to represent a nation in Olympics is not a child’s play and a full fledged training and support mechanism is needed for the purpose. For now, our prime focus is on the championship that is to be held in the month of May 2018 and to prepare our fighters for that. We want to prove the worth of our fighters through this initiative.
TNT: There is no dearth of talent in the rural parts of Northeast India but due to lack of infrastructure, they do not receive proper training and hence they give up on their dreams. What do you feel about this scenario?
Prasanjit Singha: We are approaching the government to request them to work in tandem with us for this cause and I personally run an NGO- Combat Sports Development Foundation which is working towards creating a link between the rural-urban divide. It is very sad to see our guys full of talent but giving up on their dreams due to lack of opportunities.
TNT- The Northeast Today also spoke to Mr. Lorenzo Warjri, member of the organizing committee of the 3rd MBAI India National Muaythai & Muay Boran and here is what he has to say on the sports scenario with respect to martial arts in Northeast India:
Lorenzo Warjri: Meghalaya has a good track of records in this field as we already have six fighters from state who have brought medals for us. Ebilities Diengdoh is one shining example from the state who has represented Meghalaya in Bangkok. Despite lack of training, infrastructure, Ebilities has shown her potential despite the fact that she lost in the quarter final round, the very fact that she qualified to represent India in Bangkok proves that kind of talent we possess and how important it is for us to tap them. We also spoke to the Chief Minsiter Mukul Sangma about this issue and he has taken cognizance of this issue and assured of his support in this regard.
It may be mentioned that host Defending Champion Ebilities Diengdoh in 60 kgs senior category beat Aditi Dube of West Bengal in the mentioned championship.
Emphasis was laid on the importance of self defence class for girls from Northeast India so as to ensure their own safety in places outside the hometown where incidences of crime against northeast students are at an all time high.
President of India Sports Sangh & Meghalaya State Ward Commissioner, Vikas Gupta ( a member of the organizing committee of the championship) also said, ” The very fact that the National President of Muay Thai is from Northeast India is a matter of pride in itself for all of us. This is not only about Muay Thai Championship, it is more about building a successful career out of it and what better way to do this than holding a national championship in the region itself! This is an opportunity for us to prove to the whole world about the talents in Northeast India.”
Mr Vikas made a very important point regarding the sports scenario of the region where he said that sports preference in the region is far from being even. Sports like Cricket are given so much financial support and despite this, “How many cricketers have we produced from Meghalaya for the National level?”, questions Vikas.
“On the other hand, we have so much raw talent in the field of martial arts but look at how many athletes are backing out of this game due to inability to go abroad and represent India for lack of finance. Another important point to note is the neglected plight of women footballers in state and the region. How supportive is the government as well as people towards women football players?”, he adds.
Another important member of the organizing committee is President of Muay Thai Association of Meghalaya, Angelus Sun, who is also an International Referee and Judge at the World Muayboran Championship held at Bangkok.
It may be mentioned that in the above mentioned championship, Meghalaya emerged as the overall champion of Muay Thai National Championship 2017 and Pro-Am Fight for Title Belt held in Shillong with 79 point. The 2nd best team was Assam with 57 points and the 3rd Position was bagged by Mizoram with 55 points. Enifer Nongkynrih of Meghalaya and Ngursaimawia Sailo of Mizoram were nominated as the Best Fighters of this Championship. Banjoplang Ryndem was the silver medallist of Pro-Am Muaythai Title Belt Championship 2017. The medal winners in this Championship will take part at the IFMA World Muaythai Championship 2018(May) in Mexico as well as FISU University Championship 2018 in Bangkok Thailand.
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Picture courtesy: Lorenzo Pearson Warjri