When Ngamgouhou Mate from Tengnoupal district, who led the Indian football team as a captain to clinch the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) U-16 Trophy at Thimphu, returned home, his parents had to welcome him at a relief camp in Kangpokpi district as his house in Khongsai Veng, Imphal had been burned in the initial stage of the current crisis that has devastated the state.
However, the young Indian captain, despite “no home to stay”, looks forward to peace in Manipur.
Three young talented footballers from the Kuki community, namely, Ngamgouhou Mate (15), son of Jamkholal Mate of Pallel (Tengnoupal district); Vumlenlal Hangshing (15), son of Kamkhomang Hangshing of Lhungtin village in Saikul Kangpokpi district, and Levis Jangminlun Haokip (15), son of Ngamminthang Haokip from Churachandpur district participated in the 23 strong Indian squad in the 8th edition of the SAFF U-16 championship at Thimphu in Bhutan.
After defending title a few days ago, the Kuki Students Organisation - Sadar Hills, under the aegis of the Kuki Students’ Organization - General Headquarters, organized a reception ceremony for the Blue Colts Captain and other two players at KSO Sadar Hills Administrative Office building on Thursday at 3 pm in the presence of the Kuki Inpi Manipur.
Levis Jangminlun Haokip, however, could not attend the reception ceremony.
Vumlenlal Hangshing, the left-back player, said, “It is like a nightmare for me and my team but we are extremely proud of our coach and the staff who guided us throughout the championship and provided us with good training”.
He said that the players are from different communities including the two warring communities from Manipur but the ethnic diversity was their driving force to clinch the prestigious title.
“We (the Meitei and Kukis) have no issue with each other. We stayed together, ate together, and slept together. We are very much friendly and even joked together. Only football can make this possible”, he added.
He also said that lifting the Champion trophy together with friends from the Meitei community will also pave the way towards peace in Manipur.
The Indian team Captain, Ngamgouhou Mate, and Vumlenlal Hangshing also thanked the former Indian footballer Reneddy Singh from the Meitei community for believing in them and providing the opportunity to participate in the trial/selection.
The duo, both players of Imphal-based Classic Football Academy, also conveyed that it was the concern and faith of Reneddy Singh that they had the opportunity to contribute to Indian football by bringing fame and laurels to the country.
Ngamgouhou Mate thanked God for helping the Indian team clinched the prestigious title in the form of giving all his teammates good health, wisdom to the coach and staff, good coordination among the players and coach and staff, etc.
Mate, who was not willing to talk much about the violence in Manipur, said that it saddened them that Manipur has been gripped by violence. “But I personally look forward to peace in the state,” he added.
Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM) president Ch Ajang Khongsai, in his exhortation speech, conveyed KIM’s appreciation to all three Kuki footballers who brought fame and laurels to the country despite the trying times faced by the community.
He also encouraged them to keep their distance from any kind of intoxicants and other elements that could ruin their career but to emphasize on good moral character, discipline, and healthy habits that can lead them to bring more laurels and fame for the country and the community.
KSO General Headquarters information and publicity secretary, Mimin Haokip also expressed gratitude and appreciation to the trio for their achievement and encouraged them to work hard to shine brighter in their professional careers.
KSO Sadar Hills general secretary, Thangtinlen Haokip said that even as they hosted the reception ceremony, they also expressed their regret that the captain had to meet his parents in a relief camp owing to the ongoing ethnic violence in the state.