Footballer prays, worries, smiles as pilot wife rescues Indians amid COVID-19 pandemic
Flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Commander Pushpanjali Potsangbam has been airlifting Indians stranded in different parts of the world and bringing them back home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the New Delhi-based Air India pilot has not been able to meet her husband, well-known India footballer Gouramangi Singh, for the past four months as she got down to quietly go about her task.
As a Commander with Air India, the Manipuri woman is part of the government’s Vande Bharat mission to rescue stranded Indians from across the world.
The former India central defender, whose foray into organic farming recently created quite a buzz, feels worried and proud at the same time.
“It feels good when one of your own is trying to do something for the country during a time as unprecedented as this. I understand it’s a very difficult and stressful job. Yes, I would be lying if I say it doesn’t worry me,” Gouramangi told PTI.
Pushpanjali has been working with the country’s biggest carrier for the past 11 years, having started out as a first officer.
“Last week she was in Lagos (Africa) for bringing back Indian citizens stuck there. She only operates on the international sectors,” said the 34-year-old.
It is not easy when one has to undergo the COVID-19 test three times for operating a single flight -- before departure for destination, on arrival at base and then another after five days of touching down at one’s base.
“It is very stressful and then there is always that fear of the virus. Hats off to them, my wife and all her colleagues who are on the frontline like doctors and nurses,” a proud husband said.
He has waited long enough and is now set to visit the national capital and reunite with his wife.
“I am coming there in the next few days. Delhi has been my second home for some years now.”Gouramangi is one of the most decorated players in Indian football in recent times -- having won the National Football League, Federation Cup and I-League titles, along with the AIFF Player of the Year award in 2010.
He was also a part of India’s triumphant Nehru Cup campaigns in 2007 and 2009 and the AFC Asian Cup in 2011, where he scored the team’s opener against Bahrain.
He is hoping that the situation normalises and sporting activities resume.
“I understand we all are helpless but we can’t be hopeless. I have heard the AIFF is trying to arrange a competition when things improve a bit and then get the go-ahead to decide the winner of second division league and find a qualifier for the I-league,” he said.
After a successful 14-year career as a professional footballer, Gouramangi signed up as the first team coach for FC Bengaluru United, which plays in the country’s second division league.
Besides, the player with 71 international appearances had sometime ago teamed up with entrepreneur Karan Huidrom to open KaGo Football Training Centre (KFTC) with its own artificial turf for development of grassroots football in Manipur.
It is mainly meant to attract aspiring players, boys and girls, from the age of 6 years and onwards. KFTC also currently has the U-13, U-15 and U-18 teams competing in the AMFA organised Manipur Youth League.
Having made a name for himself through football, it has been his long desire to give back to the sport by helping produce world class footballers from his stable.