From a hillock in Manipur to the world stage: See how football stars are born
We felt a dedicated club for girls would give them confidence and success, says Laibi Phanjoubam, co-founder of the Andro Mahila Mandal Association.Updated: Oct 28, 2017 19:22 IST
In a lush field nestled among hills, 35 girls divide themselves into groups, kicking a football to their partners and practicing passing and receiving. Their audience is three cows, one coach and one mentor.
After practice, they will assemble in a three-room house with a mud floor on an adjacent hillock. Two rooms are for meeting and resting; in the third, a huge hunk of pork crackles over a fire — a delicious roast for dinner.
This is the Andro Mahila Mandal Association (AMMA) camp, Manipur’s only all-girl football club. Located 40 km from Imphal, in Andro village, it is headed by Bikram Singh Thockchom, who quit as marketing head at a multinational infotech company and moved back home from Delhi to be here.
“There are two reasons I did this,” he says. “I wanted to return to the sights and sounds of my childhood. And, being an amateur footballer who never went pro, I have always wanted to be a coach or mentor.”
AMMA was set up in 1982, as a self-help group meant to promote animal husbandry, weaving and crafts among women.
“Young boys and girls were getting drawn into militancy and drugs. Our village was facing a crisis,” says founder member and chairperson Laibi Phanjoubam, 62. “Local community clubs were trying to distract the youth from the troubles by channeling their energy into sports, drama and cultural activities. Sports emerged as the best way.”
In the ’90s, the club began encouraging young girls to play football in the adjacent ground; in 1999 the club was recognised by the All Manipur Football Association.
“There were already many clubs for boys. We felt a dedicated one for girls would give them confidence and success,” Phanjoubam says.
This little club has produced national- and international-level players like Rina Salam, who currently plays on the Indian women’s team.
“We are now in the process of registering under the All India Football Federation,” says Thockchom. “It is time for our girls to shine in the world.”
First Published: Oct 28, 2017 19:06 IST