Upon witnessing the talent on display that the state produces in the ongoing U-17 FIFA World Cup, football craze among young kids here has reached a zenith.
Most children are insisting that their parents buy them footballs, while some others have already begun playing the game frantically.
As midfielder Thounaojam Jeakson Singh and goalkeeper Moirangthem Dheeraj have become household names in the state for their superb performances, some parents, who desire to groom their children in sporting activities, are categorically sweaering they will make them great footballers. Including captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam, eight players from the tiny state of Manipur are among the 21-member Indian football squad in the ongoing World Cup. Not only that, Jeakson scripted history after netting the first goal for the nation in a World Cup. Also, the first rate performance of goalkeeper Moirangthem Dheeraj Singh has caught eyes everywhere.
"Having being fascinated by dazzling shows from our state's players, my fiveyear-old son has started pressing me to buy a football and send him to a playground. I'm really touched by his deep zeal in soccer. Now I've decided to groom him in the game," said Romesh Singh, an Imphal East resident.
W Binoy, echoing Romesh, said he has already consulted local football coaches so that his son can be moulded into a great footballer one day. Sports analysts say Manipur's dominance in Indian football at this U-17 World Cup will strengthen the game's popularity in the state.
Known as the mini-powerhouse of sports in India, Manipur has produced hordes of world class athletes in all sports. Former Indian women's team football captain Oinam Bembem recently bagged the Arjuna Award for her outstanding contribution to the game.
Sports minster Letpao Haokip, who has already announced giving Rs 5 lakh each to the eight state footballers, told this reporter on Thursday that the process is on to hand over the amount after their participation. "As a policy of the government, the monetary incentives are normally given to players after their participation in the games," the minister said, while wishing the eight player the best in the future.
The minister, considering the financially poor backgrounds the players have come from, had already given Rs 10,000 each to the eight players on his own.
On Wednesday, chief minister N Biren Singh, giving a boost to young players, said his government will soon develop three football grounds, one each in Imphal West, Imphal East and Thoubal districts, with laying artificial turfs to ensure football can be played throughout the year.
A former BSF footballer himself, Biren also urged the different sports associations of the state to step forward and co-ordinate with the state government.
Biren, who still has great passion for football, said the Khuman Lampak main stadium in Imphal is being developed into a football field of international standards with natural grass turf fields and will be completed before the commencement of I-league next month.
By: K Sarojkumar Sharma | Source: TOI-TheTimesOfIndia (TNN)