Cuttack, May 25 (IBNS): The beauty of the country stays its vastness. Different states, different terrains, different cultures, different language, different food habits; and weather too. And we still have spoken about the distance between them.
A Train journey from Manipur’s capital City Imphal to Tamil Nadu’s Capital City Chennai will take you almost three days. First of all, there are no direct trains. From Imphal, one needs to travel to Guwahati by Road and from there to Kolkata and then to Chennai. And if you travel by air, it will take you over 7 hours.
Surely, the vastness of the country also stays a pain.
For a state which has been the nursery of Indian football for the last decade, Manipur, who are still to have an I-League Club from the State look up to the Santosh Trophy to make a mark.
“When you look around, you will see footballers all over – on the streets, on the fields, on the grounds. The Ball stays an inseparable part of our lives,” Premakanta Singh, Manipur’s Assistant Coach, a former Senior Women’s National Team Coach says in one breath.
“To break into an I-League Club, you need the exposure. Santosh Trophy stays the platform for us,” he quips.
Kiron Khongshai, Gunabir Singh, Rennedy Singh, Tomba Singh, Gourmangi Singh – the list of Manipur players stay endless. It seems to be in the blood not only of the Manipuris but of the entire North-East region. After all, the first National Team Captain of Independent India Dr. T Aao also hails from the region, Nagaland.
“We know they will be nippy and come hard at us,” Former India International, Syed Sabir Pasha, presently the Tamil Nadu Coach, maintains. “The average age of our side stays 24 and for 85 percent of our boys, this is their first major Championship,” he informs.
“It’s futile to expect a boy to stick to state team when they have offers from I-League teams. Sadly, we don’t have any I-League team from our state. So the Santosh Trophy stays of utter importance to us,” Pasha, who also works as the assistant Coach to Colm Joseph Toal, adds.
Speak to Pasha and his eyes lit up about his association with the Santosh Trophy as a Player. “During our days (in the 90s), it was different. Santosh trophy was all about glamour. West Bengal were the toughest to beat. They had almost the entire India XI line-up playing for them,” he goes nostalgic. “Nowadays, the concept is different as the tournament is all about development and for us; it stays our I-League.”
“None of the four semifinalists in the tournament boast of an I-League club (Chirag Kerala have already been relegated). This proves there is talent all over. Give them the platform and they will entertain you,” he ponders.
The kick-off is at 6.30pm (May 26, 2012).
FROM THE HISTORY BOOK:
Manipur’s best performance: Champion in 2001/02
Tamil Nadu’s best performance: Runners-up in 1972/73