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They helped India lift SAFF U16 Cup, but did not have a home to go back to. The story of the Manipur footballers

First Published: 14th September, 2023 19:19 IST

3 Manipur footballers - Ngamgouhou Mate, Vumlenlal Hangshing, and Levis Jangminlun Haokip were part of the winning India team who returned to chaos back home

Ngamgouhou Mate from the strife-torn Manipur’s Tengnoupal District helped India win the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Under-16 football trophy at Thimphu, Bhutan trouncing Bangladesh 2-0 as the captain of the India team. But when he returned home, he had no home to go to. His parents welcomed him in a relief camp in Kangpokpi district as his home in Khongsai Veng Imphal had already been burned down in the initial stage of the ethnic violence in the state.

Though the young player lost his house he is hopeful of peace returning to his state soon.

Three young, talented footballers from the Kuki community, namely, Ngamgouhou Mate (15), son of Jamkholal Mate of Pallel (Tengnoupal District), Vumlenlal Hangshing (15), son of Kamkhomang Hangshing of Lhungtin village in Saikul Kangpokpi District, and Levis Jangminlun Haokip (15), son of Ngamminthang Haokip from Churachandpur District, were part of the 23-member Indian squad who played in the 8th edition of the SAFF U-16 championship.

The team clinched the defending champion title for the fifth time. Out of the 23 players in the Indian squad, 16 hailed from strife-torn Manipur. Of the 16, 11 were Meiteis, 4 Kukis and one Meitei Pangal (Manipuri Muslim).

The Kuki Students Organization Sadar Hills, under the aegis of the Kuki Students’ Organization General Headquarters, organized a reception ceremony for the Blue Colts captain and the other two players at the KSO Sadar Hills Administrative Office building today in the presence of the Kuki Inpi Manipur.

However, Levis Jangminlun Haokip could not attend the reception ceremony.

KIM President Ch. Ajang Khongsai, in his exhortation speech, conveyed KIM’s appreciation to all three Kuki footballers who brought fame and laurels to the country despite the hard times faced by the community.

He also encouraged them to keep their distance from elements that could ruin their future careers and emphasized on maintaining good moral character, discipline, and healthy habits that can lead them to bring more laurels and fame for the country and the community.

KSO General Headquarters Information and Publicity Secretary Mimin Haokip also expressed gratitude and appreciation to the trio for their achievement and encouraged them to work hard to shine brighter in their professional careers.

Vumlenlal Hangshing, the left-back player, said, “It is like a nightmare for me and my team and we are extremely proud of our coach and the staff who guided us throughout the championship and provided us with good training”.

The Indian Team Captain, Ngamgouhou Mate, and Vumlenlal Hangshing also thanked the former Indian footballer Reneddy Singh for believing in them (he and Captain Ngamgouhou) and providing the opportunity to participate in the trial and selection.

The duo, both players of Imphal-based Classic Football Academy, also said that it was the concern and faith of Reneddy Singh that they had the opportunity to contribute to Indian football by bringing fame and laurels to the country.

The Blue Colts captain, Ngamgouhou Mate, thanked God for helping the Indian team clinch the prestigious title in the form of giving all his teammates good health, wisdom to the coach and staff, good coordination among the players and coach and staff, etc.

He said, “It saddened us all that our state, Manipur, has been gripped by violence, but I personally look forward to peace in the state.”

KSO Sadar Hills General Secretary Thangtinlen Haokip said, “As we hosted a reception ceremony for our heroes’ Indian footballers who made a big achievement by bringing fame and laurels to the country, we also express our deep regret that the Blue Colts Captain had to meet his parents in a relief camp owing to the ongoing ethnic violence in the state.”

He then urged the authorities concerned—the Center and the State Government—to look into the grievances of the Indian captain.

The Blue Colts Captain has five siblings (three elder sisters, one younger brother, and one sister).

Also Read: How Kuki and Meitei footballers played together to help India lift the SAFF U16 trophy



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