Dr T Ao Inter-District Football Championship kicks off in Kohima

Er Zale Neikha and others with the players of the exhibition match between IGS XI and Kohima XI held after the inaugural function of the 21st Inter-District Football Championship 2021 (Dr T Ao Trophy) at Indira Gandhi Stadium, Kohima on April 12. (Morung Photo)
Er Zale Neikha and others with the players of the exhibition match between IGS XI and Kohima XI held after the inaugural function of the 21st Inter-District Football Championship 2021 (Dr T Ao Trophy) at Indira Gandhi Stadium, Kohima on April 12. (Morung Photo)

Nagaland to complete 3 more Astro Turf grounds this year: Advisor Neikha

Our Correspondent
Kohima | April 12

The 21st Inter-District Football Championship 2021 (Dr T Ao Trophy) commenced here today at Indira Gandhi Stadium, Kohima.

The tournament, organized by Nagaland Football Association (NFA) in collaboration with the Department of Youth Resources & Sports (DYRS), Nagaland, will conclude on April 19.

Gracing the inaugural function, Er Zale Neikha, Advisor YRS, maintained that though Nagaland has limited resources, yet the State has managed to furnish an Astro Turf ground at IG Stadium.

He further informed that 3 more Astro Turf grounds would be completed this year, one each in Dimapur and Tuensang under State Plan and one in Mon under Khelo India Scheme. 

Meanwhile, the Advisor opined that while the state has many good sportspersons, there was general lack of dedication. 

 “I have noticed that we don’t devote and dedicate ourselves fully in the field of sports,” he maintained, adding: “We consider sports as secondary and when there is any big tournament, then only we start practicing with full swing and start demanding for every little thing to be provided fully by the Government or Association etc etc.”

To be a winner, one need to improve skills, techniques and devote full time and dedication, Neikha stressed, adding that those qualities do not come from the turf ground or with full equipment, but from hard work and dedication. 

Hard work and dedication crucial for sportsperson
“When we look at Dr T Ao’s sports career, there were practically no facilities or infrastructure available nor there was association or government to help or mold him, yet he did not let anything hinder him for reaching his goals and the love for football, he said. 

Neikha further noted that today a good sportsperson is regarded highly in the state as well as in the country and one can earn livelihood from the field of sports. 

We should take this as an opportunity to earn and also bring laurels to our society, state and nation and should remove the stigma that sports is nothing but something to pass time, he said. 

Calling for following the footprint of Dr T Ao, the Advisor also urged the sportspersons to keep alive the memory of this legendary sportspersons to serve as an inspiration for our future generation.

He also informed the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) government under the leadership of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has decided to create One Sports Battalion under Nagaland Police.

“I feel is a great opportunity for you all and especially for the upcoming young talented Naga youths,” he added. 

Remembering Dr T Ao
Delivering keynote address, DYRS Commissioner And Secretary Alun Hangsing said that the championship started in 1976 until it was rechristened in 2004 as Inter- District Football Championship, Dr T Ao Trophy, under the initiative of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio.

The reason is to give honor and importance to legendary footballer Dr T Ao and to inspire and motivate the youth in general and the young footballers in particular to achieve the goal set by the legend, he said, while sharing brief biography of the legendary player.

Talimeren Ao, popularly known as Dr T Ao was born to Reverend Subongwati and Maongsangla on January 28, 1918 at Changki Village of Mokokchung District, he said.

Stating that Dr T Ao excelled not only in his studies, but also in football and other sports, he added that legendary player was awarded the Best Sportsperson Trophy in Inter-High School Tournament in Jorhat in 1937 and was the individual Champion in Athletic of Cotton College for three consecutive years. He went on to win the individual Championship in Athletics of Calcutta University in 1946 and 1947.

Coming to the field of football, Dr T Ao played for Cotton College and the then reputed Maharana Club of Guwahati till 1942. In 1943, he joined the Mohun Bagan Club of Calcutta and captained it for two years. 

Dr T Ao was chosen to play in the Indian Team as India XI and played against Inter-nation Teams.  He also led the Indian Team to the Far East to play exhibition matches in Hongkong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Decca.

In 1948 London Olympic at Wembley Stadium on July 29, Dr T Ao captained the first free Indian Football Team and was the flag bearer for the Indian contingent.

fter passing MBBS in 1950, he joined Dibrugarh Medical College and was transferred to Kohima as Assistant Surgeon in 1953.

He went on to become the first Naga director of health Services till his retirement in 1978.

He also received the rare honor of being made a member and later elevated to Executive Member of All India Council of Sports.

It was largely due to his untiring efforts that the Nagaland Football Association and the Nagaland Badminton Association has been recognized and affiliated to the National bodies.

Dr T Ao passed away after a brief illness on September 13, 1998, leaving behind a legacy of laudable achievements.

Today, Hangsing said, the Government has started a Football Academy in his name at Seithekema, in Dimapur District to cater to all the aspiring football players and to produce more professional footballers from the state and the region to represent the state and the country and also at international level following the footsteps of the legend.

In this regard, the Government under the Chief Minister and Advisor and the DYRS along with the Nagaland Football Association in giving all out efforts to uplift the standard of football in the state by conducțing football tournaments at  different level and category, he maintained. 

The future of football in Nagaland is not bleak but is a promising one, he added. 

Earlier, NFA president K. Neibou Sekhose delivered welcome address.

Group Matches 
The inaugural function was followed by women football exhibition match between IGS XI and Kohima XI.

The tournament is being conducted on league cum knock out system.

In the league system, there will be four matches daily from April 13 till 15.
Quarter finals will take place on April 16 while semi finals have been scheduled for April 17. The champion will fetch a cash prize of Rs 3 lakh while runner-up will receive Rs 2 lakh. The losing semi finalists will get Rs 50,000 each.