UDSA pioneer member A Zingkhai recalls football legacy
Ukhrul, Oct 23 : Tangkhuls as a people started playing football from 1901, particularly with the advent of western education, after the arrival of Reverend William Pettigrew, said Amateur Zingkhai.
A Zingkhai is a pioneer member of Ukhrul District Sports Association (UDSA).
Interacting with this correspondent at his residence at Wino Bazar, Ukhrul, A Zingkhai said that Rev William Pettigrew introduced football at Ukhrul in 1901, as a curricular activity for students.
William Pettigrew came to Ukhrul in 1895, after which he began his missionary work from 1896 by establishing a mission school at Awontang, Ukhrul with the objective of spreading Christianity to all Tangkhul areas.
Pettigrew then recruited 20 youths including the Headman of Hunphun/ Ukhrul, Raihao among his first batch of students.
The students were also given football coaching simultaneously as a part of his project for expansion of his missionary works.
In 1901, the first batch students played a football match at AB Mission ground Alungtang, Ukhrul.
The football team compromised of Shaiza Kanrei, Angom Porom, Rungsung Reichumhao, S Chara, Kaping Ngashangshi, R Khokham, Wokkha Kazingmei, Tariya Raising, Lungthuk and S Haitong.
The same team represented the 66th unit Tangkhul football team from 22nd Manipur Labour Corps at Blargies France in 1917 during first world War.
Later, he organized a football coaching camp, batch wise, in 1903, 1906 and 1909 at Ukhrul to encourage more youth in sports activities.
‘Correcting’ the Tangkhul football centenary celebration A Zingkhai said that it should actually be ‘post centenary’ celebration as Ukhrul had started playing football 117 years ago, in 1901.
There should be no error in history, he said and explained that the 66th Labour Corp football team were the same footballers trained by Rev William Pettigrew in 1901, who played at Blargies France in 1917 during first world war.
Tangkhul community was once well known in the State for producing excellent footballers, he said adding that Tangkhul Sports Association (TSA) were the champions/winners of the CC Meet in 1952 while majority of the State players were Tangkhul footballers,
Unfortunately TSA were banned from participating at the CC meet for many years. This discouraged many footballers and the sport declined due to it.
He went on to mention that that the 2nd oldest football tournament of the State, Shirui Lily Tournament was first organized in 1972, when L Lokendra Singh donated the winner’s trophy and was played at Ukhrul high school ground.
Shirui Football Tournament was later upgraded to National Invitation Shirui Lily Cup in 2015.
He further mentioned that the incumbent CM of Manipur, N Biren Singh played many times in the Shirui Lily Cup representing NEROCA.
Despite the sound contribution of Ukhrul to football, nothing much has been done to improve sports infrastructure in the district, said Zingkhai.