India’s football ‘factory’ Manipur thrilled at its first date with Blue Tigers

New Delhi A tiny state of Manipur in the Northeast India, better known as the ‘football factory’ of the country, is anxiously waiting to host the senior national team.

On Monday, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh announced that the state for the first time willl host the senior India team when the Blue Tigers compete in a Tri-Nation Friendly Football Tournament in Imphal from March 22-26.

Kyrgyz Republic and Myanmar are the other teams in fray.

As the news trickled in, the state, which has been the supply line for India by producing quality players, is thrilled at the opportunity.

“I was thrilled, happy that at last Manipur is getting something it deserved,” said former India footballer Kiren Khongsai, the first player from the state to don India colours way back in 1989.

Since then, Manipur has contributed over 50 players to the Indian men and women senior national teams.

“I was lucky to play for India when I did… It is an honour and I am glad that I share this honour with many more Manipur players,” said Khongsai who has scored one goal in six appearances for India.

Oinam Bembem Devi, one of the game’s greatest female players, believes that hosting an international at the Khuman Lampak will inspire more young players to keep their heads down and work hard to earn their stripes.

“I can tell you from personal experience that hosting these sort of prestigious events goes a long way to providing motivation for players. When the Women’s Nationals was hosted in Imphal in 1991-92, I was very young, and I remember watching the games, seeing such big players and hoping to emulate them.

“Watching Sunil Chhetri and others in the flesh will be a massive morale booster for today’s youngsters who have heard of them, seen them on TV but never otherwise,” she added.

The decision is part of the All India Football Federation’s Vision 2047 programme to spread the game far and wide.

AIFF executive member, and former India women international Thongam Tababi Devi was keen to add that while the men had the honour of passing through Imphal first, it also sowed hope for the women.

“Many girls in the Women’s team are from Manipur and many in the past also have been from the state,” she said.

“It’s good that they are bringing the Men’s team here in March. Hopefully after this the women will also get to turn out in front of their home fans, friends and family.”


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