Imphal, March 21: Manipur must be muttering as the state, one of India’s biggest supply lines for football finally gets to host an international tournament in the state from Wednesday.
Kicking off the tri-nation tourney, also involving Kyrgyzstan, will be India and Myanmar at the Khuman Lampak Stadium.
Fresh from guiding Bengaluru FC to the final of the Indian Super League, Sunil Chhetri will be back to spearhead the Indian challenge against a side that has lost nine out of their last 11 games.
Keeping in the mind the 2023 Asian Cup, India’s head coach Igor Stimac will not want his team to take anything for granted and will expect the youngsters named in the squad to grab the opportunity with both hands and put themselves in the reckoning for the bigger battles ahead.
After Myanmar, the home team will next take on Kyrgyzstan on March 28 at the same venue.
Manipur has probably never been as ready as it is today.
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Of course, several Blue Tigers players have regularly played in a domestic tournament in the state that has provided so many top footballers to the national team over the years.
But, as far as international tournaments are concerned, it’s a first for the football-crazy state.
“Welcome to my home, lads,” said Chinglensana Konsham.
“I’ve been receiving a lot of calls and messages from people back home, ever since it was announced that Imphal will host the tri-nation,” added the India defender.
Football is a sport that is close to the hearts of the people of Manipur. However, midfielder Suresh Wangjam pointed out that his home state’s interests in sports go beyond football.
“It’s not just football. People in Manipur love playing a wide variety of sports like boxing, badminton, hockey, weightlifting, and many others,” said the 22-year-old from the land of the Mary Koms and the Mirabai Chanus.
Chinglensana believes that it is because of top players like Renedy Singh or Gouramangi Singh, who became role models at the national level that the current crop of players from the state has come this far.
It’s not just the local players that are excited at the prospect of playing at the Khuman Lampak Stadium.