It is football time in Nagaland. Delayed monsoon may have soaked the playgrounds longer than it should have but that’s not stopping footballers from playing their favourite game and fans from cheering for their favourite teams. Rains can play spoilsport, not the human spirit. There is the 20th Naga Students’ Federation Martyrs’ Memorial Trophy in the state’s capital Kohima, MDFA Trophy in Mokokchung, Loyem Memorial Trophy in Tuensang and M Noke Trophy in Mon. These are some of the ongoing football tournaments in the state and there are more in line, including the 25th edition of the Classic Cup that is scheduled to commence next month. The condition of most playgrounds, except the lone artificial turf football ground at Indira Gandhi Stadium in Kohima, in the state deteriorates as tournament progresses and some become like paddy fields if it rains. The prize money of some tournaments may not be even enough to meet the expenses incurred during practice and the course of the event. But that doesn’t stop sportspersons from participating in such sporting events because it’s not entirely for money but for the love of the game. The immense passion for the game among the youths in the state is obvious. But why is it that the state has failed to excel in the sport that people love so much? Why is it that not many footballers from the state have made it big in the game at the national level in recent times?
There is no dearth of talent in the home state of Dr T Ao, captain of Indian football team at the 1948 London Olympics, but something is amiss somewhere which could be stopping our young footballers from making it big in the sport. It is necessary to critically analyse the present scenario and diagnose the issues that could be obstructing young talents from going beyond the state. Finding out the possible reasons for poor performance of sportspersons is just one way of helping them improve; it is also important to catch the talents young and nurture them. Here, the state government should come up with a support system to help footballers realise their dreams. Such a step is necessary in a society like ours where not many seriously take up sports to make a living.
Sportspersons too should be driven by their passion for the game and not get distracted during the pursuit for their goal. There is no substitute for hard work in any profession. Football being a contact sport, players should take physical fitness seriously besides other aspects like technique and game intelligence because professional footballers should have the endurance to make it through the entire 90 minutes and more. Midfielders cover 11 km per match on an average, which only underscores the importance of maintaining physical fitness for professional footballers besides other qualities like discipline, perseverance, self-motivation, mental strength. Nagaland can become a breeding ground for professional sportspersons, not only in football but also in other disciplines, if the government and athletes get their act together. Transformation is not impossible with the amount of passion and love that young people have for sports.