It was an emotional moment in the state’s footballing history when India U-17 team captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam and his seven colleagues hailing from the state touched the feet of Chief Minister and pioneer Manipuri footballer N Biren Singh during a reception hosted at the CM’s office for the eight World Cup players.
Biren hugged each of the eight players and handed over cheques of Rs 5 lakh each to the historymakers in recognition of their hard work and performances.
Biren, who made history of sorts in the footballing arena on his own when he came out of the land-locked hill state to play for BSF way back in 1979 as an 18-year-old, also handed over bouquets and shawls to the eight players. Biren said, ‘It does not matter who wins or loses, all that matters is the performance and spirit. The entire people of Manipur, from both hill and valley, feel so proud of the eight players who represented the country in the prestigious FIFA World Cup. Despite some on-field mistakes, the overall performance of the team was satisfactory.’ Stating that the cash rewards do not imply that the state government is financially sound, the CM said the cheques were just a token of appreciation and love to the players on behalf of the 28 lakh people of the State.
Star goalkeeper Moirangthem Dheeraj Singh arrived home on Sunday, while the other seven — team captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam, defender Boris Thangjam and midfielders Jeakson Thounoujam, Md Shah Jahan, Nongdamba Naorem, Suresh Wangjam and Ningthoinganba Meitei — landed in Imphal the previous day.
Though India lost to USA, Colombia and Ghana, Jeakson scripted history by scoring the nation’s first ever World Cup goal at any level and Dheeraj’s goalkeeping prowess won hearts all around.