New Delhi, August 11 (IANS): Early morning at 5 am, a crowd of villagers gathered around the village ground in Longja in the Chandel district of Manipur - barely a couple of hours from the India-Myanmar border.
A group of boys ranging from ages 8-20 have all formed a huddle around a nimble figure donning the India training kit, as the latter explains the finer details of the game to them.
The people gathering around the ground, that is surrounded by the eastern reaches of the Himalayan mountains, faintly recognise the India international, who had last year scored his maiden goal for India in the World Cup Qualifier against Afghanistan in Dushanbe, Tajikistan - Seiminlen Doungel.
For the 26-year-old winger, this was an opportunity to get back to his roots and connect with people from the Kuki tribe, who still live in the traditional manner.
"Coming here was quite special for me. My family is also from the Kuki tribe. Much like most of the Kuki people, my father also used to get his earnings from the farm. We have sort of moved on from that way of life since I became a professional. But coming here and experiencing the simplicity with which these people lead their lives was simply amazing," Doungel said to the-aiff.com.
Doungel, who is fondly known as Len in the dressing room, went on to stay in that village for two-and-a-half weeks, in order to impart his footballing knowledge to the local kids.
"I felt a real connection to these people. Even when I am in Manipur, I mostly get to speak my language (Thadou Kuki) at home. With these people I could speak that," he said. "The kids there were really simple and did not know much about the world of football."
Len explained that while the kids in the village did not know about the world of football, each one of them was encapsulated by the 'beautiful game.'
"They all know how to play football and like to play it too. But what they do not know is the scope that the sport has in the modern-day. Back in my younger days we did not know much of the scope of pursuing football as a professional. But now football can give you a viable career -- be it as a player or in any field surrounding the game," he explained.