Photos: In cricket crazed India, Nagaland runs hot for football
Jun 30, 2018 22:32 IST
People watch the Group F World Cup soccer match between South Korea and Germany in Kohima, Nagaland. Electricity is erratic here, but an order sent by state officials earlier this month made clear this was no ordinary time for Nagaland’s power authority. Staff was “directed to remain vigilant in their respective duties” and extra arrangements made. Why? “For smooth maintenance of power supply during the World Cup matches,” the order read. (Yirmiyan Arthur / AP)
Naga women walk past houses decked with flags of various FIFA World Cup participating nations, in Kohima. In this part of India, there’s no messing about when it comes to football. In towns and villages, the flags of Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain fly above concrete homes. Banners proclaiming “Welcome to Russia” welcome visitors. Entire houses go to bed without dinner, upset after team losses. (Yirmiyan Arthur / AP)
Football paraphernalia hangs at a makeshift shop in Kohima. The fervour for football is felt mostly deeply in Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram, four of the seven northeastern states. Elsewhere in India, only cricket matters. There’s cricket on TV, cricket on the radio and tens of thousands of matches played every day in alleys, streets and dirt fields. It is one of the few things that knit together India’s 1.3 billion. (Yirmiyan Arthur / AP)
Kheto Rhosu, 21, washes his football boots after a game with friends in Kigwema. “Soccer was the first game we were introduced to,” says the 34-year-old Longrangty Longchar. “The World Cup is more like an important religious event.” Another Kohima resident, Sophy Lasuh Kesiezie, loves how she can tell when someone scores by the screams and shouts that rattle through town. (Yirmiyan Arthur / AP)
Women vendors display their wares, in front of a car painted in the colours of Spain’s flag, in Kohima. What explains this love of football? No one is sure. Maybe it came from the Christian missionaries who arrived in the 19th century. Some inspiration probably came from the British. For Nagaland, Talimeren Ao, a small-town doctor and captain of India’s 1948 Olympic team, played inspiration to generations of players. (Yirmiyan Arthur / AP)
about the galleryFootball fervor is felt mostly deeply in Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram, four of the seven states that dangle off India's northeast. The region is, in many ways, a stepchild, a place where most people trace their ethnic roots to Myanmar or China, and where a thicket of separatist militias have waged decades-long fights for independence. And while elsewhere in the country, cricket is a religion with cricketers worshipped as gods, in places like Nagaland the love for football, its origins muddled, trumps all.