Women's Football: Manipur

Ibotombi S. Longjam

at the rate Hotmail dot Com

 "No state has dominated women's football as Manipur over the years" writes Sabanayakan of Sportstar. Five National crowns in seven Championships justify his statement. For years, people have seen players from this tiny state -as small as a district in Uttar Pradesh or Karnataka- displaying their skill, stamina and speed. By and large, the players from Sana Leibak -Golden Land as gracefully called by her inhabitants have been able to book a place in any kind of national sporting events. This was clear from the 6th National Games held at Imphal in the beginning of 1999. It was a pride moment for all the Manipuris when they were declared the Overall Team Champion, ahead of the states like Kerala -giant of water sports- in the South and Punjab -spearheads in athletics- in the North. Many famous players and coaches from different parts of the country had to go back with their heads hung in a low profile.

 All kinds of sports events, which are played all over the world, are also being played in Manipur. The people of this state are literally obsessed with sports. It is not exaggerating to say that people have been frequently getting work-leaves just to see the finales of any game hosted by the state. Another point worth to mention is that a couple of years ago led by the former Governor, Sri. Srivastava, the sports loving people of this Sana Leibak showcased a football stadium in the heart of the City, the finance being supported from the entire income earners from street vendor to secretaries.

 For years the state has been representing the Indian Flag in Commonwealth, Asian, and Olympics Games and brought laurels for the state and country. Needless to say, in any national standard event it has ALWAYS been seeded at least in the top 5 ranks. Of late, winning habit is much more prominent in many of the popular games except CRICKET, of course. Women's football is one where the state has been dominating for the last decade. Bengal is the only state, which has come closed to it and a bit of challenging in the finals. As mentioned earlier, since 1991, Manipur had bagged the National Championship for five times out of seven meeting with Bengal in the Final as shown in the following table.
Year Venue Winner Runner-up
1991-92 Imphal Bengal Manipur
1992-93 Daltonganj Manipur Bengal
1993-94 Not Conducted xxxx xxxx 
1994-95 Haldia Manipur Bengal
1995-96 Johrat Manipur Bengal
1996-97 Haldia Bengal Manipur
1997-98 Barasat Manipur Bengal
1998-99 Shillong Manipur Bengal
Source: Sportstar, June 19, 1999


From this table, one can clearly see the two teams viz. Manipur and Bengal have completely dominated the Indian Women's Football since the starting of the game in the country. No other team has so far come closed to them. In the last championship held at Shillong, in 1999, 15 teams participated and Manipur again was the winner through the golden goal, scored by Tababi. However, it is ultimately Manipur that has gone ahead in the rivalry. The best word to describe the spirited Manipuri players is triple S: Skill, Speed and Stamina, as mentioned in the Sports Magazine. Many a times, hat tricks were ways to convey their satisfaction in their own game. It is this SSS, that the state ultimately push the Bengalis down to their knees in today's fast game.

  "One of the reasons that Manipur is enjoying such a high status is that the state created its own Women's Federation when All India Women's Football Federation was also born", writes Megha in The Poknapham -a local daily. In 1976, at Pologround, Imphal, Manipur held her First State Level Women's Football League Tournament. ESU (Eastern Sporting Union) was the Winner, while TRAU (Tiddim Road Athletic Union) bagged the Runners up. That was the opening of the chapter in women's football in Manipur. After that there was no look-back with several clubs mushrooming up. Despite all this, it is not easy to maintain and keep up a professional skill in Today's World where a lot of money is involved in any kind of sports, especially for an economically backward state like Manipur. It is the sheer skill, determination of the players, and of course, the encouragement of coaches and local guardians that we are able to enjoy such a status in the women's football. I am very pleased to put up the names of the women players from Manipur who have participated in any international tournament.

 1st Jayalalitha International Invitation Football Tournament, Madras, 1994

 10 players:-

 10th Asian Women's Football Championship, Kaula Lampur, 1995

 9 players:-

German Tour, 1997

 9 players:-

11th Asian Women's Football Championship, Beijing, 1997

8 players:-

13th Asian Games, Bangkok, 1998

8 players

11th Asian Women's Football Championship, Beijing, 1995

8 players

 Source: AMFA (All Manipur Football Association) as mentioned in Megha, Poknapham Jun 23rd1999

Thus, the Manipuri players have been contributing as a major share for the Indian team over the years. However, it is unfortunate to look at the economic conditions of the players, the State and Game itself. In this age of advanced technology, and high quality products, we are far behind. These players do not get any sponsorship of standard Indian brands of shoes and clothings, let alone the international reputes Adidas, Nike, Raebok, etc. These players have long been longing for good sports wears, which make the players fit, comforting and MOTIVATING. But in the reality side, they are struggling to get even a daily regular diet. Despite all these hurdles of being born in a poor state, their efforts to keep the opponents at their toes, have to be appreciated and long cherished for. In these regards, I would like to draw the attention of two agents in the foremost: the State Government and AMFA have to recognise our dear players with due respect and money.