Some fervently ‘fasted’ for their favorite team, others changed bedroom accessories with team’s memorabilia, flags were hoisted everywhere, and a public utility department in Nagaland issued an ardent ‘advisory’ while football diplomacy was played out by those at the helms of affairs.
This, in a nutshell, reflects the passion as the spectacle of the FIFA World Cup 2018, unmatched in global reach, unfolded in football crazy Nagaland. Most fans have fostered lifelong affinities with certain teams and players. Other football events at club levels are equally followed. As the game reached the knockout stage, many ardent fans were heartbroken as some of their favorite teams bit the dust – their emotion stirred to a crescendo.
The heartbreaks, however, are not necessarily confined to one’s favorite team failing to make headway in the tournament, but also being confronted with the desolate status of sports in the state.
For instance, years of administrative apathy and corrupt practices have robbed the players as well as the fans to play or witness sporting events in a decent arena and infrastructure deficiency has subsumed their passion. The absence of even a decent stadium even after five decades of statehood is a gross indictment of the government’s apathy and a grave injustice to all sports lovers in the state.
While Nagaland languishes under numerous apathies, states like Manipur and Mizoram are making tremendous stride at the national arena, is beside the point.
Sports lovers, as a result, scramble in a cloud of dust in dry season while slugging it out on muddy fields on rainy days. Almost all the sporting events in the state undergo similar treatment.
Projects get announced only to remain incomplete, abandoned midway or end up with substandard outcomes. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) reports annually chides “ad-hoc promotion of sports and culture in the state” however, corrective measures are hardly followed.
When the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) assumed office, the chief minister Neiphiu Rio said the promotion of games of sports will be one of the thrust areas of the new government. Its Common Minimum Programme (CMP) had also “outlined to make a special emphasis to develop sports and youth affairs with more modern infrastructure and appropriate administrative measures especially focusing on the districts including provision of artificial turf.”
The “Youth Affairs & Sports” section of the PDA government assured “a new Nagaland State Sports Policy will be announced within 100 days” in power. June 16 marked the completion of the deadline but when updated, it was informed that its drafting is completed, but “awaiting review and approval of the government.”
Thus, apart from a renaming controversy – of Indira Gandhi Stadium, Kohima to T. Ao Stadium – as well as laying down of the foundation for Dr. T. Ao Regional Football Academy on June 8, not much headway has been made. The CM also assured to revive Nagaland Premier League (NPL), started in 2013, but stopped after Season II.
If one could recollect, the DYRS’s ‘Nagaland Sports Policy 2006’ designed primarily to facilitate the multi-dimensional and integrated approach to accelerate sports languished only on paper.
Consequently, most remain skeptical. “Many governments have come, made big promises and gone. Let’s see how it turns out this time,” a state coach recently remarked.
Notwithstanding the missed deadline, one is hopeful that the government will stay true to its commitment. Devoid of such outcome, the passion for the game will stay only in TV screen. Ask any young players slugging it out on the muddy ground in the ongoing Kohima District Inter School Football Tournament.