IMPHAL : It is no mean achievement for Manipur that out of 21 footballers selected for the FIFA U-17 World Cup beginning from October 6 eight players are from the tiny northeastern state. All these players have a common denominator -- in the form of unspeakable poverty.
They could not get standard coaching as they could not afford the exorbitant fees. Most of them do not have balanced and nourishing diet and had to depend on the scratch meals provided by their daily wage earning parents.
Most of the parents broke down while talking about the hardships in footing the bills. In normal circumstances the parents should have been upbeat since their sons will be playing in the World Cup championship.
K. Mina uncontrollably wept while talking about her son, K. Ningthoinganba who is now undergoing training in Germany. She said, "It will be better if he does not come back since I have no money to provide him balanced diet."
She does not have money even for train fare to go and watch her son play in the tournament. However, some big hearted persons have contributed the money, and a smiling Mina said, "I will be in a position to watch my son play."
The family comprising Mina, Ningthoinganba and two sisters are staying in a tin-roofed shack which was originally a cow shed. Mina said, "We shared the shed with cows. However, later we stopped keeping the cows."
Mina, a widow, sells fermented fish in the market earning a small income daily with which she runs the family.
The parents of the other players too could hardly afford the sports shoes and balanced diet since they are earning a meagre amount as daily wage earners.
Chief Minister N. Biren Singh says that in recognition of the talent of the sportspersons the Centre is setting up a sports university in Manipur. However, the sportspersons and their parents are disillusioned since no Minister has helped them.
Many players who had brought laurels from international events could not take part in competitions as they could not buy tickets.