Despite the years of turmoil, Manipur has consistently churned out quality footballers. But the almost daily dose of bomb blasts, killings and protests seem to have taken a toll on the sport and its disciples.
A case in point is that of Rajani English School, the under-17 team, who crashed out of the Subroto Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday.
It’s been a little over three months since the Imphal school shut down following a strike call.
“A few locals got killed in an encounter and that angered a group resulting in the strike. I hate going back to the same situation,” said goalkeeper Nongthag Yumnan.
The bunch wore a weary look and looked short on motivation. “We are not fit and not allowed to practice. Sometimes, we practice quietly in a locked stadium so that nobody gets to know,” said Bidyasar, a central defender.
Asked if they expected the situation to get better, the boys said a ‘no’ in unison. “The guy behind the strike threatened us with dire consequences if we came to Delhi for the tournament. We were very scared, but all of us wanted to play here,” said Raj Chauhan, who plays centre-half.
“Hardships have become a part of our lives. We were to catch a train in Dimapur on October 3, but given the situation in Imphal, we reached Dimapur on September 31 and stayed put for the next two days.
The situation is nipping budding careers,” said coach TS Hemantha Singh. Gourmangi Singh, India centre back, sympathized with his statemates. “Football is dying a silent death and nobody can do anything,” he lamented.