‘I want to show that sports can be a good career’
Kohima, Feb. 21 (EMN): With the likes of footballers from Nagaland Kivi Zhimomi and James Kithan debuting in the Indian League 2017-18, another has joined the brood: Temjenwati Longkumer.
The 18-year-old defender is currently playing for Shillong Lajong FC after being selected to play in the senior team in 2017 for the Shillong League. “I feel like I’m part of the big boys club now. I met a lot of star players and professionals and playing alongside them made it feel like I have achieved one of my dreams,” the teenager, who can also play at strike or midfield, said.
Longkumer told the Eastern Mirror that “Nagas are crazy for football and it runs in our blood.” But, he observed, “I think we are hypocritical when it comes to choosing sports as a career.”
“We organise countless local tournaments but when it comes to leagues, we fall behind. Leagues can be very encouraging for players.”
He hails from Changki village in Mokokchung district, and a resident of Chumukedima town in Dimapur district. He played for North East-11 then coached by Alison Kharsyntiew. Kharsyntiew is currently the assistant coach of Shillong Lajong. ‘He took me under his wing and that’s how I joined Shillong Lajong,’ the young footballer said.
Coming from a family of football lovers, Longkumer said that his father played football representing the state as was his brother.
“Naturally, football runs in my blood. As a Naga, football will always be a favourite sport. I played football ever since I was very young with friends and so did in school. I officially started playing for Gauhati Town Club in 2015. So far, I’ve played for Gauhati Town Club, North East 11 (U-17) and currently, Shillong Lajong (U-18),” he said.
But his football career was not always certain. The young footballer spoke about his family’s concern at his choice of career—they wanted him to concentrate more on academic studies rather than sports as he was still in high school and he had started playing for clubs. He credits his uncle for encouraging him to pursue football as a career—he took the nephew to a football trail in Kohima in 2015. He was then selected to play defense for Gauhati Town Club. Thereafter his family joined in with their support.
For Longkumer, inspiration is from his father. “I grew up watching him play as a child and it has affected me more than any other factor in my choice to pursue football as a career.” He has since then making inroads into trophies. He was best defender in the Forlic cup and the highest scorer in a local tournament.
Speaking about sports in Nagaland, Longkumer observed that Naga lack dedication and fitness. “We ignore our physical fitness and even though Nagas are blessed with potential in sports, we lack dedication to our talents and adreams.” He observed that there was a need for proper facilities and exposure. ‘We lack programmes for young players and I think we fail to provide the right training. We have a lot of good players who can make it to national arenas but lack direction and support,’ he said.
Encouraging youngsters to take up sports as a profession, Temjen said, ‘Indian parents lack the broad mentality; we force our children to either be a doctor or an engineer. I think it’s high time we as a whole society accept each field as an ideal career choice depending on what the individual wants for himself.’
On the other hand, he added, ‘I want to be able to show Nagas that football can be a career choice setting my own example.”
Temjen Longkumer will also be part of the NEC U-21 Invitational Prize Money Gold Cup Football Tournament representing Nagaland as part of the celebration of the birth centenary of Dr. T Ao which will be held at Guwahati from Feb. 22 till the 28th. In the first match (Group A), Nagaland will play against Manipur on Feb. 23 at 5pm at SAI regional centre football ground in Guwahati.