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Nagaland

This day, that year: Revisiting the promise of FAITH and HOPE

6119
By EM Bureau Updated: Oct 08, 2017 11:27 pm
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A combined team of players representing armed Naga political groups played a game of football against a team comprising leaders of Naga civil groups and the church on Oct. 9, 2008. The football match was part an attempt to reconcile the warring Naga armed groups. Seen in the picture are the participants after the game 9 years ago.

The highlight of the match was when the additional time of five minutes was announced and all the substitute players from both teams charged into the field, joined the regulars and laughingly played the final minutes like children
EM Bureau

Dimapur, Oct. 8 (EMN): Nine years ago, on October 9, 2008, an indelible piece of history was created in the context of the pursuit of Naga reconciliation – orchestrated, in no small measure, by the Baptist-dominated Naga church organisations.

Soon after the barely believable (at least that’s how it seemed back then) meeting of leaders representing warring armed Naga political groups at Chiangmai in Thailand, the Naga church organisations pulled out yet another piece of alchemy by convincing the bitterly-divided armed Naga groups to turn out as a combined football team.

The long and the short of it is that on October 9, 2008 – still turbulent times in the narrative of Naga inter-factional killings – the bitter rivals agreed to fashion a combined team ready to fight it out on a football field as opposed to the numerous killing fields they were accustomed to.

Naturally, the response to this development was mixed – even as there was quite a vocal section of observers and commentators who were sceptical, and even ridiculed the entire arrangement. Yet, especially in hindsight, there is no arguing the groundbreaking stamp planted by this single game of football.

On that day, a group of players from various armed Naga political groups under the name of Team Hope took on Team Faith, represented by leaders from the Naga civil organisations and the church.

Recent political developments have only served to underscore the importance of achieving this glorious serendipity that was set in motion 9 years ago in a football field at Kohima. In memory of that sense of history, and in the spirit of reconciliation that still runs deep among all Nagas, Eastern Mirror is reproducing the report of that extraordinary game of football played in 2008.

 

Kohima: October 9, 2008

Another chapter in the history of the efforts towards reconciliation of all Naga groups and factions was scripted this afternoon when top leaders from the different Naga underground factions joined forces to play the historic Reconciliation Football Match against leaders of Naga civil societies and the church at the Local Ground, Khuochiezie here.

Today’s unique football match, organised under the banner of the Nagaland Christian Forum (NCF), is the second of its kind after the historic Chiangmai summit earlier this year.

As players from both the teams were led to the ground by children, they were greeted with loud cheers from the galleries filled with people from all walks of life totting white flags and balloons which were released into the air in a symbolic gesture.

The mood turned solemn as Rev. Zhabu Terhuja, President, NCF said the invocation and an 11-year-old delivered a heart-rending message – ‘Give us our future.’ This was followed by a mass prayer, release of balloons and the kick-off.

Throughout the match the crowd cheered and laughed aloud in chorus as the players, with their bulging bellies, fumbled, fell face-first or belly-first, performed involuntary somersaults and displayed playful antics much to the delight of crowd and the thousands who witnessed the unique event appeared to concur that there indeed is a chance of bringing these Naga leaders together.

It was also obvious that the leaders were heartened and awed by the unprecedented turnout of the crowd as people were seen lined up in long, serpentine queues waiting to be frisked before entering the venue even as the galleries were filled up much before the commencement of the programme.

The highlight of the match was when the additional time of five minutes was announced and all the substitute players from both teams charged into the field, joined the regulars and laughingly played the final minutes like children.

The final whistle saw the players patting each other and shaking hands before they formed a circle and held each others’ hands around a huge crucifix as a mass prayer was held.

Team Faith, comprising leaders of civil societies and the church, humbled Team Hope, comprising leaders of the NSCN (IM), NSCN/GPRN, FGN and the Naga Support Group, three goals to one. Most of Team Hope’s players were deputy kilonsers from the various Naga factions.

To facilitate today’s reconciliation effort, a 48-hour truce was declared since yesterday which expires this evening.

Today’s programme was also witnessed by a host of top officials of the state government.  

SOUND BYTES

Here are what some of the leaders had say about today’s programme:-

Rev. Dr. Wati Aier, Convenor, FNR:I can confidently tell the Naga people that we are moving in the right direction although it is going to be slow. Every time we have this kind of programme, Nagas are somewhat sceptical but rightfully. After so many years of conflict, people are somewhat pessimistic and sceptical but let us give reconciliation a chance. We are on the right track, we are making progress but this does not necessarily mean that killings will stop. I think we can confidently say that we have walked the long way and we still have a long way to go. We need to do something out there and so the church has started to do it and we hope there is no turning back. Deciding to reconcile is not the end. It is the beginning. It is a process.”

Akato Chophy, Deputy Kilonser, NSCN/GPRN:I feel happy because I heard the voice of the Naga public that they want us to reconcile.  I see the smile on the faces of the people and I feel that 100 percent of the Nagas will be very happy if we are reconciled. I’m very happy that I came to play. I have no regrets. The government of India should listen to the voice of the people and when we start coming together, the whole of the Nagas come under one umbrella organisation, the GoI will have no other option but to listen to us.”

Toshi Wungtung, Spokesman, ENPO:It is definitely a positive step. It is a longing and cry going of the people. I think it is a challenge for the national workers and the political parties.”

Zhabu Terhuja, President, NCF:We had three meetings at Chingmai and in the last summit the civil societies put forward the idea that the church should organize such a programme and we took it very seriously. After our return the NCF had a meeting and agreed to have this programme. We took some time and we even met with tense times but everyone was happy. Sometimes we were doubtful whether this programme would really take off but we are happy and satisfied with the game today. Everybody gave their best and we’re satisfied. We did not play like professionals but coming together is a big sign of unity and we believe that this can be considered as a platform where other programmes can be planned. We appreciate everyone who has done their best for the success of the programme.”

Note:

The highlight of the match was when the additional time of five minutes was announced and all the substitute players from both teams charged into the field, joined the regulars and laughingly played the final minutes like children

EM Bureau

Dimapur, Oct. 8 (EMN): Nine years ago, on October 9, 2008, an indelible piece of history was created in the context of the pursuit of Naga reconciliation – orchestrated, in no small measure, by the Baptist-dominated Naga church organisations.

Soon after the barely believable (at least that’s how it seemed back then) meeting of leaders representing warring armed Naga political groups at Chiangmai in Thailand, the Naga church organisations pulled out yet another piece of alchemy by convincing the bitterly-divided armed Naga groups to turn out as a combined football team.

The long and the short of it is that on October 9, 2008 – still turbulent times in the narrative of Naga inter-factional killings – the bitter rivals agreed to fashion a combined team ready to fight it out on a football field as opposed to the numerous killing fields they were accustomed to.

Naturally, the response to this development was mixed – even as there was quite a vocal section of observers and commentators who were sceptical, and even ridiculed the entire arrangement. Yet, especially in hindsight, there is no arguing the groundbreaking stamp planted by this single game of football.

On that day, a group of players from various armed Naga political groups under the name of Team Hope took on Team Faith, represented by leaders from the Naga civil organisations and the church.

Recent political developments have only served to underscore the importance of achieving this glorious serendipity that was set in motion 9 years ago in a football field at Kohima. In memory of that sense of history, and in the spirit of reconciliation that still runs deep among all Nagas, Eastern Mirror is reproducing the report of that extraordinary game of football played in 2008.

 

Kohima: October 9, 2008

Another chapter in the history of the efforts towards reconciliation of all Naga groups and factions was scripted this afternoon when top leaders from the different Naga underground factions joined forces to play the historic Reconciliation Football Match against leaders of Naga civil societies and the church at the Local Ground, Khuochiezie here.

Today’s unique football match, organised under the banner of the Nagaland Christian Forum (NCF), is the second of its kind after the historic Chiangmai summit earlier this year.

As players from both the teams were led to the ground by children, they were greeted with loud cheers from the galleries filled with people from all walks of life totting white flags and balloons which were released into the air in a symbolic gesture.

The mood turned solemn as Rev. Zhabu Terhuja, President, NCF said the invocation and an 11-year-old delivered a heart-rending message – ‘Give us our future.’ This was followed by a mass prayer, release of balloons and the kick-off.

Throughout the match the crowd cheered and laughed aloud in chorus as the players, with their bulging bellies, fumbled, fell face-first or belly-first, performed involuntary somersaults and displayed playful antics much to the delight of crowd and the thousands who witnessed the unique event appeared to concur that there indeed is a chance of bringing these Naga leaders together.

It was also obvious that the leaders were heartened and awed by the unprecedented turnout of the crowd as people were seen lined up in long, serpentine queues waiting to be frisked before entering the venue even as the galleries were filled up much before the commencement of the programme.

The highlight of the match was when the additional time of five minutes was announced and all the substitute players from both teams charged into the field, joined the regulars and laughingly played the final minutes like children.

The final whistle saw the players patting each other and shaking hands before they formed a circle and held each others’ hands around a huge crucifix as a mass prayer was held.

Team Faith, comprising leaders of civil societies and the church, humbled Team Hope, comprising leaders of the NSCN (IM), NSCN/GPRN, FGN and the Naga Support Group, three goals to one. Most of Team Hope’s players were deputy kilonsers from the various Naga factions.

To facilitate today’s reconciliation effort, a 48-hour truce was declared since yesterday which expires this evening.

Today’s programme was also witnessed by a host of top officials of the state government.  

SOUND BYTES

Here are what some of the leaders had say about today’s programme:-

Rev. Dr. Wati Aier, Convenor, FNR:I can confidently tell the Naga people that we are moving in the right direction although it is going to be slow. Every time we have this kind of programme, Nagas are somewhat sceptical but rightfully. After so many years of conflict, people are somewhat pessimistic and sceptical but let us give reconciliation a chance. We are on the right track, we are making progress but this does not necessarily mean that killings will stop. I think we can confidently say that we have walked the long way and we still have a long way to go. We need to do something out there and so the church has started to do it and we hope there is no turning back. Deciding to reconcile is not the end. It is the beginning. It is a process.”

Akato Chophy, Deputy Kilonser, NSCN/GPRN:I feel happy because I heard the voice of the Naga public that they want us to reconcile.  I see the smile on the faces of the people and I feel that 100 percent of the Nagas will be very happy if we are reconciled. I’m very happy that I came to play. I have no regrets. The government of India should listen to the voice of the people and when we start coming together, the whole of the Nagas come under one umbrella organisation, the GoI will have no other option but to listen to us.”

Toshi Wungtung, Spokesman, ENPO:It is definitely a positive step. It is a longing and cry going of the people. I think it is a challenge for the national workers and the political parties.”

Zhabu Terhuja, President, NCF:We had three meetings at Chingmai and in the last summit the civil societies put forward the idea that the church should organize such a programme and we took it very seriously. After our return the NCF had a meeting and agreed to have this programme. We took some time and we even met with tense times but everyone was happy. Sometimes we were doubtful whether this programme would really take off but we are happy and satisfied with the game today. Everybody gave their best and we’re satisfied. We did not play like professionals but coming together is a big sign of unity and we believe that this can be considered as a platform where other programmes can be planned. We appreciate everyone who has done their best for the success of the programme.”

Note: Some of those persons quoted in the report have been relieved of their respective position in their respective organisation in the years that have followed.

6119
By EM Bureau Updated: Oct 08, 2017 11:27:42 pm