Dr T Ao: His Indomitable Spirit Continues To Inspire

Nongozo Rikha


D r Talimeren Ao, popularly known as Dr. T. Ao was born to Reverend Subongwati Ningdangri and Moasangla Changkilari on 28th January 1918 at Changki village. He received his early education in the American Missionary School at Impur, Mokokchung. Later, T. Ao joined Cotton College, Guwahati for his Intermediate Science. It was during this time, he joined the reputed Maharana Club, Guwahati, from where he started his career as a professional footballer. He also played for the Club as well as represented his college to various tournaments all over India and won several trophies and medals at different levels. The trophies won by the team under the captaincy of T. Ao have been well preserved at Maharana Athletics Club, Guwahati.

Later on, he joined RG KAR Medical College, Kolkata to study medicine from where he completed his MBBS and became the first Naga Physician in 1950. It was while studying in the Medical College, Kolkata, he was made a member of the renowned Mohan Bagan Club. While he was still studying at Kolkata, he captained the Indian Football Team to London Olympics Games in 1948. On 29th July 1948 at Wembly Stadium, London, T. Ao was the flag bearer for the Indian contingent.

Dr. T. Ao was therefore a man who excelled not only in academics but also in Sports and Athletics. He was not only the first Naga Olympian at International level who captained Indian Football Team to London Olympics Games in 1948 but also the first Naga Physician. In commemoration of his 100th Birth Centenary, the Government of Nagaland on 28th January 2018 has officially declared the year ‘2018’ as the yearlong celebrations of Dr. T. Ao by the Governor of Nagaland, P.B Acharya at Raj Bhavan, Kohima. Since then, a series of events were organised across the entire state throughout the year to mark the occasion more eventfully and celebrate the heroic achievements of our legendary footballer in a befitting manner.

Nagaland officials visit to Guwahati & Kolkata:

As part of the yearlong celebrations in honour of Dr. T. Ao, Nagaland officials from the Departments of Youth Resources and Sports, Information & Public Relations & Nagaland Football Association led by Addl. Director, YRS, Rato Pusa toured to Guwahati and Kolkata and interacted with faculty members and Club officials where Dr. T. Ao studied and played. This programme was carried out as part of the yearlong celebrations of Dr. T. Ao100th Birth Centenary with the initiative of Director, Youth Resources and Sports, Akumla Chuba from 8th to 12th November 2018.

The main objective of the programme was to revive the remarkable contributions and achievements of Dr. T.Ao who by virtue of being embedded with ‘never say die spirit’ and ‘sheer determination’ to succeed in life reached the pinnacle of his career at international level when most people of his time were in sweet ignorant slumber. This is also to convey to the people of other parts of the country that the naga people fondly remember and cherish the legacy of Dr. T.Ao for his unprecedented mark in the history of Indian Football. Also to know more about our hero and how people from other parts of the country reminisce Dr. T. Ao as a result of contributions and leadership towards Indian Football team during its nascent stage.

The Nagaland delegates apprised Maharana Club members and Cotton University faculty about the initiatives and programmes undertaken by the Government of Nagaland. The state delegation also invited them to be a part of the Culmination Programme of Dr. T. Ao’s Yearlong Anniversary Celebrations on 28th January 2019 at Kohima.

President, Maharana Athletics Club, Guwahati, Rana Pratap Bordoloi said that it was under the captaincy of Dr.T. Ao that the Club gained popularity in terms of fame and recognition all over the country. He said Dr.T. Ao represented the Club in various tournaments across the country and his team won several trophies and medals at different levels. “The Club still remembers him for his remarkable contributions and his contemporaries for their unprecedented mark in the history of football not only in Assam but also at national level”, he stated.

Vice Chancellor, Cotton University, Professor, BC Goswami while interacting with the delegation highly praised Dr. T. Ao for his immense contributions and leadership provided not only to University but also the country at large. “We are short in stature but endowed with talents”, “if the Chinese and Koreans can do it why can’t we”, he questioned. He opined that extensive training and development of infrastructure should be the areas of focus to improve the capabilities of sports persons in the north east.

Recalling the history of College tournaments, he said they were only two colleges in Assam prior to India’s independence namely MC College, Sylhet, now in Bangladesh and Cotton College, Guwahati. And they used to play football matches every year but Cotton College unfortunately never won any match for 14 years consecutively. However, the scenario changed completely and they started winning the matches soon after T. Ao joined the college and took over as the captain of the College team. “Though he is no longer with us yet his success story will always remain in the history of Cotton University”, he stated.

He further mentioned about the plans for construction of a new state of the art Indoor Stadium to be named “Dr. T. Ao Indoor Stadium”. On which, he urged the Government of Nagaland to come forward and consider their proposal to build the stadium on shared basis.

On 10th November 2018, Nagaland team reached Kolkata and interacted with the media officer of MB Athletics Club, Kolkata, Imran Khan. Khan said the Club was really honoured and delighted to cherish and emulate a legendary footballer like Dr. T. Ao who hailed from a far flung area of the country with no sports’ infrastructure yet his contributions towards Club in particular and the country in general at the most crucial times of Indian Football is commendable. Under whose leadership and contributions, the club has won not only various tournaments but also rose to fame and recognition across the country, he said.

Stressing on the importance of linkage, he strongly urged the people of North Eastern states to develop a sense of cohesion and connectivity with the mainland India so as to promote oneness and live in “unity in diversity”. As of now, the link between the people of North Eastern states to that of other parts of the country is missing when it comes to ‘oneness’, he mentioned.

“Education and Sports” are the two most important factors to build connectivity, unity and understanding between the different regions or states of the country, he said. He also encouraged and urged them to visit places of other states and interact with fellow friends in order to develop oneness irrespective of caste or race. For which, he suggested to make a joint venture with the Club and organize exchange programmes at the Club or state level. He also mentioned about the proposal to naming one of their buildings in honour of Dr. T. Ao but then further discussion is needed on the proposal, he stated.

Principal, RG KAR Medical College, Professor, Dr. S. Batabyal while interacting with the officials from Nagaland said that the College is very fortunate to have a legendary footballer like Dr. T. Ao from Mohan Bagan Club who captained Indian Football Team to London Olympics Games in 1948. At the same time, he also expressed his happiness that the first Naga Physician happened to be a product of KAR Medical College. The KAR Medical College has started football tournament every year in honour of Dr. T. Ao since 2017, he added.