The Manipur team left Bhopal after their league match in the Senior National Hockey Championship on June 16. It will reach Imphal sometime on June 21.
But if things remain as they are at the national level, players from Manipur will soon not take this much effort for hockey, says Olympian Thoiba Singh, the left-out who was known as “Maradona of Hockey” for his short stature and lightening fast runs down the flank.
“We take so much trouble to come for tournaments because youngsters see an opportunity to get out of the North-East where there are no job opportunities. But hockey in Manipur is dying because of lack of tournaments at national level,” Thoiba told Hindustan Times on Saturday.
“There was a time in the ‘80s when four of the 11 players in the Indian team were from Manipur. Now there very few of them at the national level,” says Thoiba. The team’s visit to Bhopal and other tournaments was funded by Thoiba himself or some well-wishers as there is proper administrative system in Manipur.
Thoiba was one of the best players to emerge from Manipur and along with Tikken Singh, Neelkamal Singh and Kuldeep Mitai were picked as juniors and made it to the National team.
Women players from Manipur are doing well but Thoiba is worried for the boys who are thirsting for opportunities in the absence of tournaments at junior level.
Thoiba says hockey has no future in Manipur because there are no tournaments at under-16 and 18 level. “Hockey India should start age-group tournaments or we will lose lot of talent from the North-East,” said Thoiba, the pain of a lost generation visible in his eyes.