There is good news for sports lovers in Nagaland with the recent developments: First was the entry of Nagaland in the Plate division of Ranji trophy in Cricket in which Nagaland outplayed Mizoram in the first ever match held in Dimapur; Secondly, the Advisor of Youth and Sports Resources Er.Zale Neikha announced at the NSF Martyr’s Trophy Final 2018, that the artificial turf for football will be completed in Indira Gandhi stadium in Kohima by December 2018; Thirdly, Nagaland fared pretty well in the recently concluded 1st North-East Olympics held in Manipur; Fourthly, the selection of Kivi Zhimomi for North-East United FC for the India Super League(ISL) is indeed a welcome news for football lovers(though he is yet to play). Moreover, James Kithan (Churchil Brothers) and Neithovilie Chalieu (Shillong Lajong) are also playing in the I-League and they both are first choice goalkeepers in both the teams. Besides them, Visalie Mezhu and Kwethelhi Thopi also featured in the earlier editions of I-League. Visalie hails from the football crazy town of Medziphema. While we can hold our heads high, beneath the euphoric high, there is also the grim reminder of the great strides that other states have taken already.
As mentioned above, in the recently concluded North East Olympics in Imphal, Nagaland won 6 Gold, 9 Silver and 27 Bronze for a total medal of 42 and finished 5th overall. As reported by The Morung Express, Nagaland’s best performance was in the discipline of Athletics with Tsuchoi T winning Gold both 5000 Meters and 10000 Meter race and Seluokuolie Kire taking Gold for Shot Put (Men). The other gold medals were in boxing-60kg (Men), Karate (women) and Weight Lifting-67KG(Men). Notice one thing: none of the gold medals were won in games which would traditionally be categorized as our ‘strong area’ or games which the majority of Nagas play. The most popular sports in our state (with due respect to all other sports) are football, wrestling, volleyball and badminton. These are games which are very much part of our daily life culture and do not need much effort to popularize.
While Nagaland’s performance in the aforementioned Olympics is praise worthy, however; the corresponding medal tally of Manipur with 140 medals including 80 gold, 48 silver and 31 Bronze medals would give us a picture of where we stand as far as sports is concerned. How can a state which continuously face shutdowns and which is much more disturbed state than ours presently fare so well? There are no easy answers, yet few things can be deduced: They have better infrastructure which gives them place to hone their skills amidst the chaos outside. Secondly, they have sports culture, where even apart from professionals, most of the people, including elderly, would engage in various sports activities. Thirdly, they have role models who have shone internationally and they in turn continue to inspire the younger generations. Dingko Singh, Mary Kom, Kiran Khongsai and Reneddy Singh are few examples. Fourthly, they have well organised leagues for many team sports. For example, their Football league is not only well run, the standard of football is quite superior. Today, Neroca Fc is doing pretty well in I-league and they were in fact runners-up in 2017-18 season. These are but few examples from our immediate neighbour and states like Mizoram are also equally good, if not better. There was a time when Indian football was ruled by west Bengal and Goa. However, today it is Manipur and Mizoram that rule the roost. Not only in senior level, in the under-15 and Under-18 level, you will find most of the players from mainland Indian clubs hailing from these two states. How is it possible? The answer is simple. They have a well functioning league with dynamic leaders who look not only of the immediate but have visions for their state.
However in case of Nagaland football still remains the most popular game. Inspite of that, state could not produce quality footballers owing to its poor infrastructure and facilities. How can we produce good footballers when we don’t even have one play ground worth the name! Our neighbouring states have four to five artificial football turfs whereas ours is still under construction-for four years! The Nagaland Premier League that has now stopped urgently needs to be revived if we dream of ever having footballers playing in the elite leagues of the country. It’s a pity that the best footballers in the state, who are no-less compared to Mizo or Manipur players, end their career playing NSF and Classic Cup, and the fortunate ones play Royal Gold Cup which also is notoriously irregular. There was also a time when Mohammedan sporting club of Kolkata, Aizawl FC and other big clubs of the country come and play Royal Gold Cup in kohima. Today, who will come and play in dry Mud! The Government somehow has to make a way to complete the laying of the Artificial Turf ground and take steps to ensure that NFL is revived even if it means playing only in Kohima.
As far as other sports are concerned, the dilapidated conditions in Sports Authority of India(SAI) Dimapur and the ‘Never to be complete’ State Stadium in Dimapur explains best the dire straits we are in. when the Government also is so indifferent, it is difficult to instill confidence in parents to let their wards take up sports. Popular games like Naga Wrestling also should be fine tuned and rules altered abit to suit the rules of the Wrestling played nationally so that our Naga wrestlers also can compete nationally.
Lastly, In spite of all the hurdles, there is still hope for those who really have a clear goal and are willing to pay the price for their dreams. Perhaps, at this point of our history we need Heroes more than anything- Heroes who would beat the odds and excel, Heroes who can show that Dreams can be fulfilled. The younger generation just needs some heroes to pull out the state from its sporting quagmire!
Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thoughtwill delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Tatongkala Pongen, Aniruddha, Meren and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.