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Nagaland football administration’s own-goal streak continues

By EMN Updated: Sep 13, 2019 12:07 am

Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, Sep. 12: An old familiar ghost has come to haunt Nagaland football, once again. It was in February 2016 that three household names in Nagaland football had refused to participate in the year’s edition of Santosh Trophy.

The players: Kivi Zhimimi, Sakutemjen and Tingnyek Konyak had refused to participate in the tournament citing that a team assembled only a few days prior to the event could not compete with other teams. “This leaves us grossly underprepared. So we decided that it was better not to go,” they had said back then.

This year, on September 10, the Nagaland Football Association (NFA) had released the names of players selected for ‘trial selection camp’ for the Santosh Trophy zonal qualifying round, which will be held at Agartala in Tripura.

In the NFA press release, the players were directed to report to the coach on September 12, with the warning that ‘action will be taken against any player who fails to report to the camp.’

This, unsurprisingly, has put some of the players on the spot. For instance, at least five to six players named in the list are currently playing in the Dimapur Football League (DFL), which begun in September 3 and is expected to run for a month.

And then the old ghost: Nagaland’s first fixture is against the perennial powerhouse Manipur on September 23. On the sidelines of the ongoing DFL on Thursday, the players raised the question of preparation, or rather the lack of it.

According to them, the NFA will be sending them to the tournament after a four-day training camp. In contrast, Manipur and Mizoram have been preparing for the tournament for almost a month, they said.

Since 2016, when three senior players had refused, Nagaland has failed to send any team to Santosh Trophy. According to a reliable source, if an association fails to participate in Santosh Trophy for three consecutive years, the All India Football Federation norms require the defaulting state to renew its affiliation—which costs money.

“Of course, we want to represent our state. That is our dream, has always been our dream. But how can we compete with other states after four days of preparation? We want to play but not like this,” said one of the players.

An official said that Mizoram had even prevented its Santosh Trophy players from participating in the Mizoram Premier League, and instead, sent them to a month-long preparation camp.

“Santosh Trophy is the platform from which players are selected for the Indian Super League and even the national team. That’s why it’s given so much importance. And for us, as players, to be given four days of training and sent to the tournament is humiliating,” said another player.

Coincidentally, Kivi Zhimomi—currently Nagaland football’s most famous export, playing for Northeast United in the ISL—is also playing in the DFL.

Asked to comment on the issue, he was blunt: “This is embarrassing. At the same time, it’s painful to see. For me, I have been lucky enough to see how things are done in other states or clubs. They give so much focus on preparing the players; the pre-season is just as important.”

He hoped that the NFA would do better. “At least for those who come after us, I hope they are treated better in their pursuit of their football dream.”

By EMN Updated: Sep 13, 2019 12:07:03 am