Atoto Kire: The new ‘King of the Ring’
DIMAPUR, MARCH 10
Never before have I been so moved at a victory celebration of any Naga sportspersons, till I experienced the recent victory of Atoto Kire, the new ‘King of the Ring’ at Khuochiezie (Kohima Local Ground) on March 4 evening.
It was the nano moment at the 24th Nagaland Wrestling Championship 2014 where Angami wrestler Atoto Kire scripted history by lifting the coveted NWA title.
I was one among the 10,000 spectators (approx) to witness the memorable celebration of Atoto Kire who right away knelt down for a few seconds to give thanks to the Almighty God, after knocking down Chakhesang wrestler Vekuzo Vezüh from Khomi village in the final. The referee Hüvesü Puro only had to wait for him to stand up to make the official victory declaration.
Following the final whistle to declare yet another new king of the wrestling arena, the fully packed Khuochiezie Stadium rose to give the champion a thunderous standing ovation. Indeed, the crowd had been waiting enduringly, for this final moment. A majority of them were seated in the ground throughout the day for almost eight hours from 9.00 in the morning. There is no doubt Naga Wrestling is one of the most popular games in the State, especially for the Tenyimi community. Even an outsider (tourist) having a glimpse of the scene at Khuochiezie on wrestling day would have the conclusion that this indigenous game is so loved and respected by the people.
Winning the title is dream come true for 28-year-old Atoto Kire who considers the victory as one of his biggest moments in life. This victory so far is his biggest achievement since he first started playing Naga wrestling eight years ago. He earlier had never won any big title in the arena, except the fourth position in Southern Angami Sports Association wrestling meet in 2008. This was his second consecutive entry to participate at the Nagaland Wrestling Championship. Earlier in 2012, he had lost to fellow Southern Angami wrestler Kevithusi Kikhi in the pre-quarters, having retired due to arm injury. Prior to this, Atoto had also played in Angami wrestling meet for four consecutive times.
Atoto’s victory at Khuochiezie was not only a celebration time for him alone, but for many wrestling crazy fans who had been watching him play over the years.
Going by the choice and predictions among the spectators on the big day, many were frank enough to say that his name (Atoto) at first was never on their list among top/possible title contenders. Some wrestling aficionados said he has the physic, strength and capability but lacks consistency and temperament.
Leading to the semi finals where he was up against three formidable Chakhesang wrestlers, not many would have expected him to be the ultimate winner. More doubts were raised after the announcement of the semi-final fixture where he had to wrestle against the might of Vevohü Swüro (Chakhesang 2nd position holder) who in the quarters had knocked down 2014 Angami wrestling champ, Megosier Khate. It’s no exaggeration that many Angami wrestling fans left the ground after their champion was knocked out of the tournament, with the consideration that Angami wrestlers will fall short of the title.
But Atoto was destined to prove them wrong with his spirited fight. Regardless of the circumstances and spectators’ predictions, Atoto was determined enough to script his name in the book of history. And it was meant to be his day. To the utter surprise of many spectators, Vevohü Swüro and 1st runner-up Vekuzo Vezüh were no match for him as he overpowered both of them in straight bouts and without much tussle.
Even in the pre-quarter and quarter finals, Atoto had silenced some of his critics by defeating Rovilhoulie Pier and Visevo Zashümo, the third and fourth position holders in Angami Wrestling Meet 2014. Mention be made that Atoto had in the past encountered Visevo Zashümo thrice, but always suffered defeat. It may also be recalled that Atoto also had a very poor campaign in last year’s Nagaland Open Wrestling Championship as he was knocked down in the first round itself by an Angami wrestler Visie Sechü, who was a first timer at the Open championship. And even in ASA wrestling meet 2014, he had lost to Megosier Khate in the pre-quarters.
Standing at 6 feet and 85 kg weight, Atoto is the son of Sizo Kire and late Vidikono Kire. He hails from Kigwema village falling under Southern Angami region. He is the fourth child among the eight siblings in the family. He is married to Keneinguno of Pfüchama village, and blessed with four children.
Apart from being a wrestler, Atoto also likes athletic events, mostly throws. To his credit, he had earned a medal in discuss throw at the inter-district open athletic tournament, and former SASA champ in discuss throw and shotput events for consecutive years.
He is presently attached to the PWD Department (Central Division) as a Grade-III staff. He is also a sericulturist involved with beekeeping and fishery. “This is another source of my livelihood,” he said with gratitude to the Almighty God. He added that honey is one of the important diets to maintain his fitness.
Going by the movie ‘3 idiots’, people only talk about who comes first; and for sure Atoto’s name would be the centre point of discussion among every wrestling fans until 2016 when the next Nagaland Wrestling championship would be held again. 2016 also would be the Silver Jubilee year of the NWA, and we look forward to see some veteran wrestlers in the ring for one last time.
The next Nagaland Open Wrestling Championship falls in 2015, but like many wrestling fans I am inclined to credit the NWA as the more competitive of the two as the qualifications for the latter begins from the village level. A wrestler participating in the NWA championship itself is also accorded more credence from his peers as his journey begins from the khel, village, region and lastly tribe.
On the other hand, the Open Wrestling Championship is open to all and is a one-day affair, but the NWA championship is a clash of the ‘Best of the Best’ from Angami, Chakhesang and Zeliang wrestlers.
Buoyed by the NWA 2014 title, Atoto Kire, the new ‘King of the Ring’, plans to make a comeback to the ring in the coming years. We pray that he keeps physically fit.