Meghalaya is much more than just football; it’s time to share the spotlight with Martial Arts!
TNT | OPINIONS | By Jessica Passah
The Northeast has always been synonymous with football and with fans that are absolutely crazy about the sport, it is no wonder that the Northeast now boasts of three teams in the I-League— veterans Shillong Lajong, champions Aizawl FC and the new debutants Neroca FC.
Meghalaya is a rich sporting hub which is full of talent but with focus put mainly on football, there are those that have been largely ignored with martial arts being one of these.
A lesser known fact is that world number 5 kickboxer Hameshaniah Suiam is from Meghalaya. The 21 year old from Shangpung in the Jaintia Hills has brought multiple laurels to the state. Apart from him, there is also another kickboxing champion who has not only won gold at a national level but also internationally.
Pynnehbor Mylliemngap, the athlete from Smit is the WAKO Asian champ in the musical hard form category. Despite bringing in these wins for the state, most of these athletes struggle immensely. With improper training facilities and lack of funds, they take out loans and borrow from friends and neighbours to meet their expenses especially when they have to travel out of state for tournaments.
The martial arts community is growing in the state with many youngsters now finding interest in its different forms, many girls and women are also looking to the sport as a way to learn self-defense with gyms starting to offer classes on the same.
Looking at the martial arts athletes who have won at the country's highest level competitions, most of them come from relatively humble backgrounds with some even working as daily wage earners during their breaks from college. The recently concluded WAKO India Championships which was held in New Delhi saw as many as 8 gold medals from athletes in Meghalaya. Overall there were 46 athletes who represented the state under the banner of Meghalaya State Kickboxing Organization. The team also brought in 5 silver and 11 bronze medals bringing the overall tally to 24.
There has been an overwhelming response to the wins on social media and we are yet to see if martial arts will get its much deserved recognition but as of now, most of these athletes are unsure as to where the sport will lead but their passion and love for martial arts is never waning.
Discipline and hardwork are two major components to succeeding in the sport and this we see is in abundance in these young people. There have been many well wishers and people who have supported the sport and its growth but this is not enough to ensure that martial arts in the state will reach its pinnacle point.
The government has to step up to ensure that talent does not go to waste and these athletes get the much required help—not just in terms of finances but also with infrastructure, training and diet. With martial arts being inducted into many global tournaments, the state should see the potential of these athletes in Meghalaya who could very be well on their way to global recognition.
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