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Nagaland

The wonderful world of football returns to the hills of Kohima

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By EMN Updated: Sep 09, 2013 1:05 am
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Neidilhoutuo Sechü
DIMAPUR, SEPTEMBER 8

IS the love for football and sports returning full circle? If the crowd at the Classic Cup Finals at the Local ground in Kohima are an indicator the answer would be an emphatic ‘yes’.
The Classic Cup finals match on September 5, ended on a classic high note and saw the ground ‘packed’ to capacity, the sight for football fans was one of déjà vu.
An elderly man who has grown up watching football matches at this ground remarked that “for quite a while now, football fans in the State capital have been missing a big crowd as was seen in this year’s Classic Cup final and semi-final matches.” He recalled that there used to be a very good turn-out in Khuochiezie for all the local tournaments during the years when football started picking up in the State, he said referring to late nineties and early 2000’s.
“There used to be times where availing a seat during important matches of NSF Trophy and Classic Cup was difficult if you were late. And it used to be more difficult for every Royal Cup matches,” he added.
This avid elderly football fan for once thought that the popularity of football among the Nagas was dying out, but this year’s response has made him change his mind
“There is no dearth of talent among the Nagas in this profession. I am hopeful that the upcoming footballers will bring laurels to the Nagas someday, and very soon,” he said adding that the introduction of Nagaland Premier League (NPL) has opened up the platform to recognize footballers towards professionalism.
Since the days of Dr T Ao, the first Naga Olympian captained the Indian football team in 1948, the popularity of the game has captured the fantasy of the Nagas.
But in the past few decades this love for the game appeared to exist only amongst aspiring footballers and the number of fans fell by the wayside.
But the crowd turn out at the Classic Cup semis and finals has given hope amongst organizers that a change is in the offing.
A member of the 442 management, the chief organiser of NPL said quality players and standard football are key to attracting fans to the stadiums in the near future.
This was a comment on the disappointing crowd response last year in the 1st season of NPL. The response on the grounds on September 5 have raised hopes for a positive change during second season of NPL scheduled to begin in the latter part of the month.
NPL teams have also according to a football aficionado created fan loyalty towards the their clubs.And there are several NPL teams such as Kohima Komets, Lifesports FC, New Market FC and Barak Flamingoz. When these teams participate their fans never fail to show up.
It will be premature to compare teams leave alone the world and the country, but even those in the neighbouring states such as Manipur and Meghalaya who are far ahead.
But it’s a case of better late than never. The first step towards bridging this gap seem to be in the introduction of ‘Our League’.
The choice for football fans to choose their teams has just got wider. Two more teams have just been added to the second edition of NPL 2014, bringing the total teams to ten.
The ball as the saying goes is now in the ‘court of the fans’and how they play will determine if the stadium will ring out with cheer or tears.

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By EMN Updated: Sep 09, 2013 1:05:58 am