In the district of Ukhrul in Manipur, football is a way of life
How a small village in Manipur is fast becoming a hot-bed for Indian footballers
In the silent, hilly district of Ukhrul in Manipur, there is a football revolution brewing. With clubs such as Ukhrul FC and Yarkhok United FC impressing in the state football league, upcoming players now have a platform to pursue their dreams of becoming a professional footballer.
Ukhrul isn’t new in the football map. Former Churchill Brothers’ captain Somatai Shaiza hails from the district. As does Reisangmi Vashum, a former East Bengal winger, who plays for TRAU in the I-League. But the excitement in Ukhrul is around their young ones. The advent of the Baby Leagues (two to three month long tournaments targeting children under 11) in the region has further helped refine the process of identifying talented footballers.
Ukhrul’s Wungngayam Muirang plays with Durand Cup winners Gokulam Kerala while Yami Longvah and Hormipan Ruivah play with former I-League winners Punjab FC and the Indian U-19 team. With two teams – TRAU FC and NEROCA FC – plying their trade in I-League this season, the demand for footballers from the state will be on the rise in the upcoming seasons.
Organisations such as Ukhrul Basic Soccer Foundation have been at the forefront of this new football revolution in the district in North Manipur. But lack of proper infrastructure and funds continue to haunt the organisers, who often invest their hard-earned money for the betterment of the sport.
But with Minister of State Youth Affairs & Sports, Kiren Rijiju, taking special interest in the All Indian Football Federation’s grassroots initiatives, and Indian clubs tying up with established foreign teams to improve scouting network, there is certainly hope that better investment will flow into Ukhrul and their football.
All photos courtesy Worngachan A Shatsang (Media manager, Ukhrul Basic Soccer Foundation)
Listen to him speak about the challenges faced by organisers and other stakeholders of football in Ukhrul