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Manipur comes together to welcome players who helped India lift SAFF U-16 Championship trophy

First Published: 12th September, 2023 18:40 IST

In the thrilling final match held on September 10 in Bhutan, Team India emerged victorious, trouncing Bangladesh 2-0.

Amidst the recent turmoil in the state, Manipur came together to warmly welcome the young players from the state who helped India win the SAFF Under-16 Championship trophy

In the thrilling final match held on September 10 in Bhutan, Team India emerged victorious, trouncing Bangladesh 2-0.

A heartfelt reception was organized at Imphal International Airport to honour the players. Out of the 16 players from Manipur on the national team, 11 hail from the Meitei community, 4 from the Kuki community, and 1 from the Meitei Muslim community. Eight of these players are from the Classic Football Club.

Hailing from Bishnupur district’s Nambol, Bharat Lairenjam netted the first goal in the 8th minute, while Levis Zangminlun, a resident of Churachandpur fired the second goal in the 74th minute in the final match played in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu.

An elated Bharat said that he was so happy to score the goal since it was his “goal of the championship. Though players belong to different communities in the team, we mingle together happily in good team spirit,” he said.

“My teammate, midfielder Levis told me before the match that I should score to win the match, and his (Levis) second goal was a crucial one for India to grab the championship title. I rushed towards him and gave him a tight hug to celebrate the goal,” he added.

On the current crisis besieging Manipur, Bharat said he would like to see the state returning back to normalcy like the good old days.

The Indian striker dreams to continue playing for the country at the senior level as well by further polishing his skills.

Levis stated he felt nervous when he stepped out in the field for the final match. “However, my confidence came as I scored the second and last crucial goal,” said Levis who plays for Srinidhi Deccan FC, Hyderabad.

Commenting on the ongoing conflict in Manipur, and his teammates belonging to different communities of the state, Levis asserted that “football served as their common passion, uniting and allowing them to set aside their differences.”

Levis joined the Hyderabad academy just last year, a decision that brought pride to him, also his hometown, state and the country.
Levis’s remarkable journey and his heartfelt appeal for peace serve as a testament to the power of sports in transcending boundaries and promoting unity, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

Abbas Shingjamayum, the Meitei Pangal player from Manipur who bagged the “Most Valuable Player” and Top Scorer (with three goals) in the Championship quipped “we didn’t talk even an iota about conflict in Manipur, and instead focused on football and team spirit.”

Lauding the glory of the Indian team, All Manipur Football Association (AMFA) general secretary Lairikyengbam Jyotirmoy Roy said that in games there is no boundary of ethnicity as manifested by the Indian squad of the SAFFU U-16 Championship.

Also Read : Manipuri filmmaker Mayanglambam Romi Meitei wins ‘Best Director Award’ at Kazan International Muslim Film Festival

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