When the state government introduced astroturf football pitch at Indira Gandhi Stadium in Kohima last month, many welcomed the change while some launched a veiled attack on the authorities for the delay in bringing the facility to the state. It’s a shame that the state didn’t have a single football ground with state-of-the-art pitch even five decades after gaining its statehood. It’s a pity that football players and lovers had to wait this long to see a world-class green pitch in their backyard. It’s all because of the apathy of the leaders who represented the people in the legislative assembly government officials over the last 55 years. They had failed the citizens of the state big time and the public have every reason to be disappointed. However, throwing all the bricks meant for all the corrupt politicians of the past and present at those who make concerted effort to bring some change can be counterproductive and unfair. There is a place for criticism and dissent in a democracy, which also means one should appreciate progressive policies and activities. To bring any change, someone has to start somewhere. This time, it is the NDPP-led PDA government that started it. This welcome move needs to be appreciated.
Now, football players from the state, especially those from Kohima and participants in major tournaments held in the city don’t have to study where the ball will move after hitting a pebble or an uneven pitch. And no more playing in a shin-high muddy field. People have until now blamed lack of facility for not producing many popular footballers in the recent times. Kivi Zhimomi is the lone Naga footballer whole plays in the Indian Super League (ISL), while 49 players from Northeast (Manipur – 20, Mizoram – 16, Sikkim – 6, Meghalaya – 4, Assam – 3) played in the ISL 2017-18 edition. If lack of quality football grounds is the reason for not producing players who can in the national and international level, the renovated IGS stadium should help end the draught. However, the real change can take place only if such facilities are brought to all the districts of the state as proposed by chief minister Neiphiu Rio. The government should seriously look into this and give the critics no room for excuse for not excelling in the game.
It should also be noted that world-class facility alone cannot produce successful athletes. There is no substitute for hard work, and the classic example is the performance of African countries in the Olympics. Besides good infrastructure, it takes several qualities like perseverance, consistent hard work, discipline, resilience, willingness to take criticism and humility to succeed in sports. Sadly, bad habits cut short the career of most sportspersons from the state. This has to end. Nagaland, which is home to Indian football legend Dr. T Ao, should produce more legends in the game.