Neroca’s qualification for I-League fulfils long overdue Manipur dream: Renedy Singh | football | Hindustan Times
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Neroca’s qualification for I-League fulfils long overdue Manipur dream: Renedy Singh

Neroca FC is the first football club from Manipur to qualify for the I-League.

football Updated: Jun 06, 2017 12:32 IST
Neroca FC won the second division league to get promoted to I-League this year.
Neroca FC won the second division league to get promoted to I-League this year.(AIFF)

As a stripling cadet from the Tata Football Academy, Renedy Singh signed for Mohun Bagan in 1996. Should it have happened now, he may not have moved out of Manipur.

That, to the former India midfielder with 56 international caps between 1998 to 2011, is the biggest plus in Neroca FC qualifying for the I-League this term by emerging champions of the I-League second division, said Singh here on Sunday.

READ | Manipur’s Neroca FC revel in 2nd Division League success, aim big for I-League

Speaking at a media conference at the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club here, Singh, 37, said players would move out to Kolkata and Goa because there was no club in the top tier back then.

“In 1996, that is why I joined Mohun Bagan. I was following a trend set by Kiron Khongsai, Gunabir Singh and the rest. Now, we finally have a team in the I-League. Given the number of players, Manipur has given to football in India, I think it is long overdue,” said Singh who has led both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal and played 223 clubs games in a career spanning 19 years.

Neroca will be the first team from Manipur in a competition that was won by Aizawl FC this term and also has Shillong Lajong representing the North-east which has been the cradle of Indian footballers over the past two decades. Neroca won the I-League second division gleaning 23 points from the final round, seven more than second-placed Southern Samity of Kolkata.

READ | Indian Super League expansion should not harm I-League: Bhaichung Bhutia

And Singh is sure the team getting support won’t be an issue. “In the match against Southern Samity, there were 15,000 people braving incessant rain at the stadium. It also helps that we have a bigger stadium than Aizawl FC,” said Singh who is now the president of the Football Players’ Association of India.

Having been an assistant-coach at Indian Super League (ISL) franchise FC Pune City for the past two seasons, Singh said he would be taking his AFC A license coaching badge this year.

“I would like to start coaching a second division team this year,” he said. Singh said he is also in the process of setting up football schools in Manipur and Nagaland.